Starting in early February, calves will be assembled at two export zones. The first is Bandon, Skibbereen and Macroom on Wednesday.
The other assembly will take place at Corrin and Dungarvan on Fridays. This will tie in with a rearranged sale time in Cahir to facilitate buyers and exporters.
Cork Marts CEO Sean O’Sullivan described the process: “At the intake point, the farmer will drop off their calves. We will have a staff member there, grading and pricing the calves as they come in. Grading will be based on breed, age and via a combination of the ICBF dairy-beef index and visual assessment.
The prices will be based on a pricing grid using market prices from mart sales in the previous 48 to 72 hours
“Calves will be batched in groups according to price and grade.
“Buyers won’t be present at grading at the intake. The prices will be based on a pricing grid using market prices from mart sales in the previous 48 to 72 hours. Unlike the sales ring, it won’t be a bidding process.
“Those are the terms on which buyers will come in to buy calves. There won’t be an auction permitted. Our challenge will be to satisfy the needs and expectations of both buyers and sellers using the assembly service. An efficient service to farmers at peak calving season will be very important.
“Depending on the numbers available, we’ll work with two or three buyers. Our feedback from exporters is that there will be good demand for the right type of calf.”
This is new for us this year and we have worked closely with [the] ICBF on the grading options and pricing model
When asked how long the assembly will operate, Sean responded: “Primarily, the export assembly is targeted for the peak season. We don’t envisage this once peak has passed. We have engaged with the calf exporters and [the] ICBF on this initiative. This is new for us this year and we have worked closely with [the] ICBF on the grading options and pricing model.”
During the first lockdown last spring, Cork Marts worked off the dairy calf to beef index for assembly of beef calves using the ICBF infrastructure.
This saw calves weighed, graded and priced accordingly. The difference this time is that this method is aimed primarily at a different type of calf.
The changes will reduce the workload on sale day for both farmer and mart. Once graded, calves can be put in their designated batch and there is no need of movements to and from the sales ring or back to a buyer’s pen.
Sellers will be able to put a tick alongside the calves they want to sell and the app ensures that they meet the correct criteria
Farmers will be given a time slot to drop their calves following input on the Stock €xpress option on the ICBF app. This option is available under the services tab on the app.
Calves can be entered on the app on phone or tablet ahead of the sale. Sellers will be able to put a tick alongside the calves they want to sell and the app ensures that they meet the correct criteria.
This will highlight any ineligible calves, for example those that are too young for sale in marts, and it will also ensure that the calf is of the breed required. Primarily, this export option is directed at Friesian bull calves, but Angus and Hereford calves will also be accepted.
O’Sullivan said: “Unless we can sell the calf on the day, we won’t take it. Calves from a Jersey sire or calves from a dam with more than 25 % Jersey will not be eligible. The reality is the exporter cannot sell them.”
While the export assembly is a new venture, it’s important to stress that there will be continuing sales in the ring service.
Bandon Mart manager Tom McCarthy said: “We’re going to match export type calves with exporters. Having big numbers on sales day is lovely, but this service should help ease the time pressures on farmers.
“I think this will be a great initiative. It’s a very open, transparent way of doing business. People will know the price of the calves before they go away that day.
“Farmers will also know if a boat is cancelled; anyone with calves booked in will be informed and they can hold off for a day or so. All that will be a help to everyone.”
The assembly should also help keep a solid floor under calf prices. There have been a few occasions in recent years where bad weather has resulted in sailings cancelled at peak calf season.
This upsets the market and can take a number of weeks to level out again. The export assembly, alongside the possibility of more sailings directly to the continent as a result of Brexit, has the potential to maintain prices this spring.
The most noticeable change takes place in Cahir Mart. The sale there is moving from Wednesday to a Friday evening at 6.30pm
In another effort to ease some of the burden on dairy farms at a busy time of the year, Cork Marts is rearranging its calf sale schedule. This results in changes to the timetables at some of the six marts that form part of the co-operative.
The most noticeable change takes place in Cahir Mart. The sale there is moving from Wednesday to a Friday evening at 6.30pm. This is to help facilitate both part-time farmer buyers and exporters who traditionally would have been shipping on a Saturday.
The sale in Corrin moves from a Tuesday to a Wednesday with a later time for the calf intake and sale. Dungarvan’s weekly calf sale moves from Wednesday to Thursday and also has a later intake and sale. The dates remain unchanged for Bandon, Macroom and Skibbereen.