As highlighted in last week’s edition of the Irish Farmers Journal, weanling prices across the board saw a lift on 2020 levels.

On average, a 350kg weanling is up €50 on the previous year, with an even larger difference for better-quality lots.

If we look through the data more in depth, we can see that the majority of weanlings through marts in 2021 came from the Limousin and Charolais breeds.

In total, these two breeds account for 75% of all weanlings sold at auction. Leading the way at 38% is the Limousin breed, with Charolais just 1% of the market share behind this.

While these two continental breeds may have been the most numerous in 2021, the biggest winners on price increase were traditional breeds.

Breeds such as Angus and Hereford saw significant upward change in 2021, particularly evident in the heavier weight animals. This is very much replicated in store and fed cattle, with increased factory demand for this type of stock.

If we look at weanling heifers weighing 400kg-plus, we see the price for Hereford increase by a massive 35c/kg on the year.

Angus rose by 31c/kg on the year, but working off an average in 2020 that was 21c higher than the Hereford. Similarly in bulls of the same weight, we saw the biggest price increase across the breeds at 25c/kg each.

However, it is worth noting that both breeds are working off a much lower average price in 2020 compared with their continental comrades.

This can be largely attributed to much of the Angus and Hereford stock coming to auction being first-cross beef from the dairy herd, while the majority of continental lots are coming from the national suckler herd.

That said, the continental breeds saw significant change also. Belgian Blue heifers of 400kg-plus saw a significant lift of 30c/kg. However, numbers for this type of stock would be light on the ground.

Charolais and Limousin of the same weight saw prices increase by 15c/kg to 20c/kg.

Common bracket

The most common weight bracket is again 300kg to 400kg lots. For heifers in this weight, Hereford led the way, seeing a 24c/kg lift on the year.

The difference between other breeds this time wasn’t as great, with all major breeds lifting by 15c to 20c/kg. Leading the way on prices was the Belgian Blue breed with an average sale price of €2.72/kg.

For weanling bulls of the same weight, Angus led the way, rising by 16c/kg on the year. The Charolais breed was next in line, seeing an increase of 15c/kg on 2020 levels. This meant the Charolais price had the highest average in the sales ring of €2.67/kg. This makes the average selling price for a 350kg Charolais bull an impressive €935.

Lighter heifers sub-300kg saw the Limousin breed with the biggest increase on the year, up 19c/kg. That said, it was the traditional breed that again performed best when we look at prices over a longer period.

Looking at the Angus breed, weanling heifers sub-300kg were up 33c/kg on 2018 levels, with weanling bulls of the same weight up 35c/kg on 2018 levels.