Special sales of suckler calves are off to a flying start with buying demand outstripping supply.
Ballymena Mart held its first weanling sale on Saturday with a strong trade from start to finish. An entry of 313 heifers sold to an average of 339kg at 275p/kg, or £935, while 391 bull calves averaged 347kg at 272p/kg, or £945.
Show type heifers were highly sought after with a top price of £3,000 paid for a Limousin animal. Bull calves topped out at £1,600 for a Charolais.
Kilrea Mart held its first weanling sale last Friday with buyers pushing the trade beyond 300p/kg for top quality weanlings, and 270p/kg to 280p/kg covering the main run of cattle. Charolais and Limousin types around 380kg to 400kg were generally making £1,050 to £1,150.
Camlough Mart held its first weanling on Monday evening with just over 100 head on offer. Prices peaked at £1,260 for a 450kg January born Limousin bull. Buyers were particularly active for stronger calves around 370kg to 400kg, paying up to 300p/kg.
In general, mart managers indicate that numbers forwarded in the opening sales are lower than in previous years as farmers still have grass in fields, while others offloaded earlier so as not to miss out on high prices.
Finished cattle prices are again unchanged this week with prime steers and heifers moving from 400p to 404p/kg, well short of the 420p to 430p/kg paid on U grading animals in Britain.
However, there are signs that NI cattle prices may be set to rise in the coming weeks as local processors begin sourcing additional animals for the Christmas market.
In addition, reports suggest that processors and wholesalers are less active in sourcing cattle from south of the Irish border as the price differential has eroded in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, demand for fat lambs in marts continues to strengthen, driven by buyers for Irish factories.
Mart prices were returning a deadweight equivalent of 520p to 530p/kg earlier this week.
However, NI factories continue to keep base quotes on 490p/kg, with 500p/kg paid at the top of the market.
There have been reports that some farmers have been offered deals to 22kg as an alternative to higher deadweight prices.