The mart trade remains in a pretty stable position this week, with no big shifts in any category

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Clare Marts general manager Martin McNamara said: “Forward store cattle continue to be a real solid trade and I’d say they will continue to be for the next few months.

“There are plenty of customers for anything over 600kg, with the majority of these cattle heading for sheds for a June finish.

“These cattle are worth too much to chance it on to the back end with them, so they are going in for a short, sharp finish.

“The lighter dairy-cross animal is under a small bit of pressure. These are long-keep cattle and there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what next winter will bring for finishers. A burst in grass growth would give these cattle a lift.”

Meal price

Smaller finishers are currently getting squeezed with increased meal costs and already sales reps are talking about meal at €450/t for May.

It’s not hitting the bigger lads yet, with many of these having forward-bought straights to see them out until the need of May.

Some of these larger finishers would have also locked into meal prices through purchasing groups, so are currently insulated from the higher costs. There is only a few weeks left of this though.

After a few big sales up and down the country, numbers could be starting to ease a little and the biggest sales are likely over at this stage.

Similar story in Elphin

Elphin Mart manager Kevin Caslin had a similar story, with cows being the highlight of the trade at last Monday night’s sale.

“We had a few Charolais cows on Monday night weighing over 900kg hitting between €2,500 and €2,700. That trade is being driven by factories and wholesalers who are very anxious for heavy finished cows.

“The northern trade has probably eased off a little in the last few weeks. It’s just a matter of the northern customer not being able to compete with factory agents for forward store cattle.”

If we look at this week’s MartBids analysis, we see no big movement of price for the last week’s trading.

There is an ever-widening gap between the top-quality suckler-bred forward store short-keep cattle and the lighter poorer-quality dairy-cross grass animal. There’s a 65c/kg gap opened up between the top third of heifers between 350kg and 400kg and the bottom third of heifers between 350kg and 400kg.

Weanling heifers appear to be under the most pressure in the last week, with the top third back 10c/kg across all weight categories.

The biggest drop was for the poorer-quality dairy-cross heifers in the 400kg to 450kg bracket – your typical grass cattle.

Weanling bulls on the other hand had a very positive week’s trading, with all categories showing improvement, with three out of the top third weight categories still trading across €3/kg.

Marts have seen a few farmers cashing in on the market selling autumn-born weanlings a little earlier than other years. A number of large feeders are driving the 450kg-plus bull trade. These bulls are heading for intensive finishing for a summer finish.