The latest bovine movement figures available from the Department of Agriculture show the number of farm-to-farm movements recorded for the first four months of the year falling by over 40,000 head on 2023 levels.

Some 646,310 bovines moved farm during this period, a reduction of 43,543 head on the corresponding period from January to April 2023.

As detailed in Table 1, the greatest numerical reduction occurred in Munster, with movements falling by 28,354 head, or 7.9%, while movements in Leinster fell by 5.6%.

There are a number of factors reported as contributing to fall-off in movements during this period.

A challenging start to the year, weather-wise, witnessed delayed sales of cattle for summer-grazing systems, while the trade of dairy cows was also stifled by weather and reduced optimism.

It is possible that when trading figures are released for May that normal movements for the month could be significantly higher.

Mart movements

Mart movements in contrast have held largely steady, with 725,516 head traded and equating to a reduction of 2,710 head.

This was partly due to an increase of 4,450 head in the number of cattle returning home unsold from mart sales.

This is not surprising given sales were hampered by weather, with prices coming under pressure in April when normally sale returns would have been on an upward trajectory.

As can be seen in Table 2, marts in Munster handled almost 52% of stock traded. This is marginally higher than the average for the time of year.

Marts in Leinster accounted for shy of 22% of sales, followed by over 16% in Connacht and almost 10% in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan.

Throughput in marts in Connacht and Ulster has been curtailed slightly by a continued reduction in the national suckler cow herd, with numbers standing over 45,000 head lower year on year on 1 April at just over 800,000 head.

A factor that has helped marts compensate to a point is an increase in cull cow throughput, with more producers taking advantage of the live trade to market cows.