The annual Irish Charolais Cattle Society Christmas Cracker bull sale took place in Elphin last Saturday. The sale is the pinnacle of the year in the Charolais world, with big competition to get into the sale, for the rosettes and, more importantly, the money that’s spent around the ring. It’s also a good barometer for the commercial trade in terms of buyer confidence. The 2023 Cracker didn’t disappoint, with a record average of €5,581 for 70 bulls sold on the day, resulting in an 85% clearance. This was up a massive €587/head on the 2022 sale average. Four of the bulls in the sale sold for over €10,000, with a further 20 bulls selling for over €6,000.

Intermediate champion Sagesse Timothy sold for €12,100, pictured with Aine Nerney and breeder Niall Canning. \ Alfie Shaw

Top call on the day went to the fourth youngest bull in the yard, from Mayo breeder Padraig Egan. His November 2022-born bull Cloonglasna11 Tarzan stood second and was clapped out reserve junior champion in the pre-sale show, by judge Iain Millar from the Lochend Charolais herd in Scotland. The Neptune son was out of a Cloverfield Excellent dam and came to Elphin on the back of some big wins on the summer 2023 show circuit, including the reserve senior male calf championship in Tullamore .

Senior champion Derryolam Toby ET sold for €9,400, pictured with breeder Niall McNally. \ Alfie Shaw

After a marathon bidding spree between an English buyer and a Donegal breeder, he was eventually knocked down by auctioneer Rodney Windrum on his maiden cracker voyage in Elphin to the English buyer, at €16,200. He carried a five-star terminal index of €182, one of highest indexes in the sale, coupled with a calving figure of 5%.

The intermediate champion was the next highest price in the sale. Sagesse Timothy, who is from well-known father-and-son team, Brendan and Niall Canning, from Co Sligo, took home €12,100. The September 2022-born Balmyle Vagabond son also had a big showing career behind him, having being crowned overall Charolais champion at the 2023 National Livestock Show in Tullamore last August. He is also out of the former National Livestock show champion Sagesse Martha. He carried a three-star terminal index of €126, along with a calving figure of 7.6%.

Ballydownan The Rock ET sold for €10,300, pictured with breeder Peter Spollen. \ Alfie Shaw

Making up the top three prices was Offaly man Peter Spollen, with his bull Ballydownan The Rock ET. The September 2022-born son of Doonally New went back to Texan Gie cow and was knocked down at €10,300 to a local Elphin suckler-to-weanling producer. He carried a four-star terminal index of €136, along with a calving figure of 6.8%.

The final bull to hit the €10,000 mark was Dhuish Thunder, from Cavan man Gerard McIntyre. The October 2022-born son of Lapon went back to a Crossmolina Jupiter cow. Thunder also picked up a red rosette in the pre-sale show. He carried a five-star terminal index of €174, along with a calving figure of 4.9%.

The big money kept on coming though, with NI-based pedigree breeders and commercial suckler farmers driving much of the high prices on the day.

Junior champion Goldstar Treasure ET sold for €9,100, pictured with breeder Martin Ryan. \ Alfie Shaw

Twenty-one bulls were exported to Northern Ireland from the sale, with two also travelling to England and one to Wales.

The next highest price went to the Clare father-and-son team, Michael and Barry Quinn. Their November 2022-born Clenagh Topper had stacks of breeding, being sired by Goldstar Echo, going back to a Domino-bred cow, who also had Pirate breeding in her. He was knocked down at €9,800.

The day’s senior championship was awarded to Monaghan man Niall McNally for his August 2022-born son of Texan Gie. He went back to a Doonally New-bred cow and was knocked down at €9,400.

Next up was the Martin Ryans junior championship winner, Goldstar Treasure ET. The November 2022-born son of Goldstar Echo was out of last year’s National Livestock show champion Goldstar Pepite, an imported cow from France.

Coming in at €8,500 was Cavan man, David Magee’s October 2022-born Corney Toby. Toby claimed first prize in one of the junior classes in the pre-sale show and came to Elphin having been crowned male champion at the National Calf Show in Elphin in September this year. Sired by Goldstar Hugo, going back to a Texan Gie cow with Goldstar breeding, he makes his way across the border to NI.

Well-known Donegal man Pat McClean had the next highest price for his June 2022-born Roughan Thomas, a son of Roughan Justbeau. He carried a terminal index of €167, along with a calving figure of 4.8%, and was knocked down at €8,400.

Dhuish Thunder, first prize winner, sold for €10,000 for Gerard McIntyre. \ Alfie Shaw

Another June 2022-born bull also crossed the €8,000 barrier, with Dalehill Teddy from the father-and-daughter duo of Basil and Victoria Kells, also selling for €8,400. Teddy was by Clenagh Jasper, going back to a Major cow.

The final bull to hit €8,000 was Dreamteam Ted ET from Donegal woman Kate Norris. The August 2022-born son of Dingel Hofmeister son goes back to a Meillard cow with Doonally New breeding, also in the lineage. Teddy had the highest terminal index in the sale at €197 and makes his way all the way to Kerry to a pedigree breeder. Taking home €7,500 was Donegal man Michael Grant for his September 2022-born Maghermore Tyson ET. He was sired by Enfield Plexus and went back to a CF52 cow.

Corney Toby, first prize winner, sold for €8,500, pictured with breeder David Magee. \ Alfie Shaw