The weanling trade will end 2023 on a high note, with a lift in prices being seen in all marts over the last seven to 10 days.

Factories are still very active for forward stores and factory-fit cattle.

Numbers of prime cattle coming to factories remain tight and this has forced many agents to marts to see what they can hoover up for next-day killing.

All marts will finish up trading this week, with the last sales in Martbids marts taking place this Thursday.

Many are leaving it until the weekend of 6 January to resume trading, with some extending the break to 12/13 January.

Speaking to mart managers across the country, they are expecting January to be a little slower in terms of numbers than other years given the big numbers of cattle being shown in marts over the last number of weeks.

In the Martbids price analysis table, it’s almost all green arrows in the bull weanling rings this week, with top-end 300kg to 400kg weanling bulls up 16c/kg this week.

Heavier bulls also had a positive week, with average 400kg to 450kg bulls up 14c/kg to €2.93/kg this week.

Live exporters are still very active sourcing bull weanlings for a shipment to the Middle East in January 2024.

In the weanling heifer rings, it was a similar story, with top-end heifers in the 300kg to 400kg weight bracket coming in at €3.15/kg this week - an increase of 14c/kg on the previous week.

Average-quality weanling heifers, along with poorer-quality dairy-crosses, also took a rise this week, with all heifers in the 300kg to 400kg weight bracket up in price.

Moving to the bullock and heifer rings, the trade could be described as steady, with no blips in the run-up to Christmas.

Top-end bullocks weighing over 600kg came in at €3.00/kg this week, with average bullocks in the same weight category back at €2.71/kg.

In the heifer rings, top-end heavy heifers weighing over 600kg came in at €3.03/kg, while average heifers in the same weight category came in at €2.73/kg.

Live exports

Live exports are currently running 14% ahead of the same period in 2022, with 318,799 cattle exported in 2023.

Weanling exports have performed well in 2023, with steady demand for younger cattle in key European markets where contracting cattle herds have increased demand for imported cattle.

There has also been growing interest from north Africa in recent months, in particular Algeria where there is strong interest in cattle for both beef and dairy production.

While all eyes will be on calf exports in 2024, the outlook for Irish cattle live exports remains positive for the first half of 2024, with good demand and general sentiment towards Irish cattle very good in live export markets.

Two shipments of cattle are due to depart Irish shores this week.

A load of forward store bulls will leave Foynes Port, while another load of dairy heifers will depart for the Middle East at the end of this week.