Mart prices for steers and heifers continued to strengthen almost across the board this week, as demand for factory-fit and short-keep cattle remains extremely firm.
Bullocks over 600kg averaged €2.24/kg this week, 24c/kg or €144/head ahead of the same week last year on a 600kg animal.
The average price of bullocks weighing 500kg to 600kg rose 6c/kg this week to €2.33/kg, while those in the top third were up by 9c/kg to an average price of €2.63/kg.
However, it was the 400kg to 500kg weight bracket that saw the biggest increase week on week, with average prices up 11c/kg to €2.31/kg.
The only blot on the copybook was for lighter bullocks from 350kg to 400kg, with prices for these types down 3c/kg on average to €2.13/kg.
Speaking to mart managers across the country, the consensus is that once you go under the 400kg to 420kg mark, prices tend to be that bit easier, with many finishers currently concentrating on animals that can be turned over before the end of this year.
The hunger for short-keep stock really becomes apparent when you compare the price differential between the top third and bottom third of cattle across the weight ranges.
For bullocks from 350kg to 400kg and 400kg to 500kg, the price difference from top to bottom averages 84c/kg.
However, at heavier weights, this difference reduces to just 24c/kg. When we compare this with the MartBids Database for the same week last year, there was an average price differential of 74c/kg between the top and bottom third of bullocks in the lighter weight brackets and a difference of 53c/kg between those at heavier weights.
Heifer prices took a sizeable jump this week across all weight brackets. While lighter bullocks tend to be that bit easier, the same rules do not apply to the heifer market, with perhaps more farmer buyers active for stock in these weight categories.
As a result, there is a 21c/kg difference between the average price paid for heifers and bullocks in the 350kg to 400kg weight bracket, which translates to a price differential of between €74/head and €84/head in favour of heifers.
However, as weights increase, this price difference becomes less apparent. Across all the weight categories, heifer prices are up over 10c/kg this week, with the biggest price increases coming for the top-quality lots, up on average 17c/kg on the week.
Heifers over 600kg were up 27c/kg on the week. However, numbers in this category are small, so individual prices can have a major effect on the overall average price.
The story for weanlings is not quite as positive this week, with a lot of movement in prices across all weights and qualities.
The weanling market is perhaps in a state of flux between the end of the autumn weanling sales and waiting for the spring-born weanling sales to really kick off.
Prices for autumn-born weanlings have been firm over the last number of weeks.
However, as we come to the tail end of the season for these types, mart managers are reporting more variation in quality forward for sale, which is reflected in the prices.