With the news earlier this week that Level 5 restrictions are to continue for another six weeks, mart managers and sellers will be happy to know that prices remain strong and throughput has remained pretty much unchanged from pre-COVID-19 times.
Data released by the Department of Agriculture shows that mart throughput for the first six weeks of the year is standing at 95.5% of the same time in 2020 for cattle and 95.8% for sheep.
From 1 January to 15 February 2021, 131,000 cattle and 99,400 sheep have been sold through online sales under Level 5 restrictions.
This high throughput is being met with a continued spell of strong prices.
While back slightly in February compared with the very strong start to the year, prices remain up substantially on 2020 levels across most sections.
Analysis of the Martbids data shows fed heifers are up 8c/kg on the same week in 2020.
Heifers of 600kg-plus saw the average price rise to €2.14/kg this week, while better-quality lots rose to €2.38/kg. These figures are up 2c/kg and 5c/kg on the week.
This increase isn’t seen on the steer front, with prices generally dropping for more forward stock.
Averages for both heifers and steers of 500kg to 600kg saw minimal changes on the week
Average price for bullocks north of 600kg settled at €2.07/kg, back 10c on the week. However, it must be noted that this average price is, similar to the heifers, up 8c/kg on the same week of 2020.
Seeing the biggest increases on the year was short-keep cattle, with prices up 17c/kg for heifers and 19c/kg for steers.
Averages for both heifers and steers of 500kg to 600kg saw minimal changes on the week, settling at €2.15/kg. Better-quality lots of this weight saw the average price rise to over the €2.40/kg mark.
Comparing figures on the year, we see lighter stores are up 5c to 10c/kg for heifers and 15c to 20c/kg for bullocks
Younger store cattle across males and females mostly saw a positive shift on the week, rising by up to 22c/kg for better-quality light steers.
Females continue to stand at 20c/kg higher than steers for cattle under the 400kg mark.
Comparing figures on the year, we see lighter stores are up 5c to 10c/kg for heifers and 15c to 20c/kg for bullocks.
While weanling trade is pretty much on par with 2020 levels, we are starting to see small increases on the week. This is a very positive trend as more weanlings come on stream. Over the coming months, we will soon start to see an influx of early autumn weanlings suitable for summer grazing.
Seeing the biggest increases were light heifers, with averages settling at an extraordinary €2.60-plus for stock under 400kg.
These averages increase to over €3/kg for the upper end of lots. These increases are up nearly 30c/kg on the week in some places.
Cull cows continue to be a solid trade in the factory
Bull weanlings of the same weight are generally 25c/kg behind their heifer comrades across these lighter weight divisions. As the weights increase, the gaps close to nearly par, with averages between €2.20/kg and €2.30/kg.
Cull cows continue to be a solid trade in the factory, so demand remains high in the ring. Average price heads back up to €1.50/kg average, a 7c/kg increase on the same week of 2020.
Strong northern trade continues to drive the real top lots, with over €2/kg readily available for the right type of younger continental cow.
As highlighted last week, cows in milk are on fire, with average price just shy of €1,700 this week. This average is up a massive €350 on the same period last year.