The cattle trade has improved in the last few days in marts across the country. It’s been a textbook autumn in terms of grass growth and grind conditions.

The extra burst of growth over the last few weeks has meant farmers are in no rush to offload cattle.

This has meant marts haven’t seen the usual September surge and, with numbers pretty steady across marts for the last four weeks, the likelihood of any glut in cattle supplies to marts is getting slimmer.

Some marts in the northern half of the country have actually delayed some of their special weanling sale for two or three weeks in light of the current conditions.

Speaking to mart managers around the country, the trade remains in a positive position, with northern customers still driving demand at the ringside.

Some of these buyers are buying 100% online, while more are preferring the in-person bidding option.

These buyers are particularly anxious for good-quality cull cows, especially cows under 48 months of age.

Southern agents and wholesalers are pushing hard as well, with one midlands-based wholesaler very active for cows in the last two weeks.

Numbers moving north are up over 10,000 head for the year to date, with over 50,000 cattle exported north so far this year.

Cull cows

Looking at prices cull cows are up between €200 and €250/head compared with 2020 prices and farmers would need to think long and hard before choosing the option of finishing them.

Good-quality fleshed cows made as high as €2.42/kg on Monday night in Elphin, with cull cows ranging in price from €1.90/kg to €2.42/kg on the night.

Looking at the MartBids Database this week, we see bullocks in the top third in the 500kg to 600kg bracket hitting €2.60/kg. While back a little on last week, there seems to be a lot of appetite for these forward store animals around mart rings in the last few weeks.

Massive gap

A massive gap has opened up between the top-quality bullocks and the lesser-quality bullocks.

There is 60c/kg in the difference between the top and bottom third this week in the 500kg to 600kg bracket. That equates to €330/head on a 550kg bullock.

This gap is likely to be narrowed a little when the factory feedlots get into gear to buy in the next month. Many of these will concentrate on plainer dairy-cross Aberdeen Angus and Hereford stock for their premium lines.

On the weanling side of things, prices might be back a little, but changes have been very small and weanlings have gotten off to a super trade in marts.

Bull weanlings in the 300kg to 400kg bracket continue to top the trade, with the top third in this weight bracket coming in at €3.05/kg this week, a super price.

Weanling heifers aren’t too far behind, with the top third in the 300kg to 400kg bracket hitting €2.98/kg this week. A number of special weanling sales continue to take place in marts as numbers increase over the next few weeks.