Exceptional demand for calves over the last number of weeks meant the Thrive programme farmers were almost priced out of the market, with it being difficult to see a positive margin at the end of the system due to high calf prices.

That being said, there is a balancing point between calf price and calf birthdate - striking that balance is proving very difficult so far this year.

Many of the farms in the programme are operating a 19- to 20-month system that sees animals slaughtered off grass at the end of the second grazing season.

To have a chance of getting out of the system in this time frame, the farms need to be working with a February or first half of March-born calf.

Late calves not suited

Late March- and April-born calves are not suited to this system, as they will not have sufficient weight to hit slaughter targets at the end of the second grazing season.

These later-born calves will need to be rehoused for a finishing period, which can add significant costs to the system.

It is important that farmers purchasing these later-born calves take this fact into account when doing their budgets pre-purchase.

Average prices

Currently, the programme is averaging €180 for early-maturing heifers and €220 for early-maturing bull calves at between two and three weeks old.

This is €20/head to €30/head more than this time last year.

Continental calf numbers remain quite small on the ground, so prices remain quite high for these calves.

For this reason, there have been very few purchased to date.

It is hoped that over the next 10 days or so, the remainder of calves can be sourced for the programme farmers.

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