Earlier this month, we featured the many records smashed for pedigree cattle in 2020. This week, we take an in-depth look at each of the breed’s premier autumn sales and how they compared with other years.

Despite a low factory price for cattle throughout the year, mart trade for commercial cattle remained incredibly high. The prices weanlings achieved in early autumn helped to boost bull buyer confidence in the lead-up to the pedigree sales.

This, in addition to fewer bulls traded in the spring, plus a strong demand for senior cull bulls at the mart and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit driving many northern buyers south to secure stock, meant that the 2020 autumn sales proved one of the strongest in a number of years for most breeds.

Highest averages

The Irish Angus Cattle Society hosted its elite sale in the middle of December and recorded their highest averages in nearly five years.

The male average rose by nearly €400 on the year and is up by nearly €700 on the 2018 sale.

On the female front, the average price rose by over €400 to come back in line with the high average of 2018. Both of these increased averages were met with higher clearance rates also.

The Charolais breed had an incredible autumn, with a record average and clearance for the female sale and the highest average in five years for the males. While the Christmas cracker clearance rate is down, it is worth noting that more bulls actually sold on the year, but the society took the choice to increase the number of bulls catalogued.

Both the Charolais sales also set new record top prices for breed sales in Tullamore and Elphin.

All pedigree cattle people will remember the Simmental premier, as a new record price of €52,000 was set. This incredible price drove the male average price at the sale to a record high of over €5,000.

The females also met a lively trade, achieving the highest average witnessed for some time, surpassing the 2019 sale which included a record female top price. The 2020 Simmental premier also boasted the highest combined clearance in over seven years.

The Irish Limousin Cattle Society premier sale was the only breed to go fully online.

This hampered clearance rates, but with a few standout prices, average for both males and females increased.

The Hereford Breed Society had one of the toughest sales of the autumn. Average price for both males and females dropped on the previous year and stood at the lowest seen for nearly 10 years. This was in addition to only half of stock present finding new homes.

With a large proportion of the Hereford bull market coming from the dairy herd, the early sale date in October has proven not to work for the last number of years.

In recent times, it turned into a sale where a small number of bulls for pedigree use are sold.

The Shorthorn premier sale was described by most breeders present as their best sale to date. Along with a new record male price of €4,800, female average was the highest in four years.

It must be noted that this year’s female average was for a yard mostly made up of weanling heifers, with demand incredibly high, resulting in an 83% clearance rate. Bull trade again proved tough to move big numbers, but the small number sold was met with a good trade.

New record

Also setting a new record was the Aubrac breed. The sale topper sold for €4,350, which helped to boost male average price to a record high of €2,730, despite no ringside bidders. The female average also increased by €250 on the year and stands as the highest since 2017. It was matched with a 93% clearance rate.

In summary

As previously mentioned, a number of factors helped in making this autumn’s sales so successful. Having good sales is often seen by societies as a time to increase numbers offered for the coming year. This shouldn’t be the case. As a way of maintaining these high prices societies should do all they can to ensure that quality is maintained rather than quantity increased.

This may, in fact, mean having fewer animals forward at the 2021 autumn sales.

Demand outweighing supply at a premier sale can only be a good thing. Prices received at societies’ premier autumn sales set the benchmark for the following spring sales when the bulk of bulls are sold. That’s why it is key to set this benchmark as high as possible so that all breeders benefit.

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