Last year, cattle throughput at marts was well up for the months of June and July, given the closure of marts at the peak period of April and May due to the first COVID-19 lockdown.
However, this is generally the quietest time of the year for most marts and in the past week, we have seen numbers starting to decrease in line with this.
While some weekly sales are up in numbers, this is largely down to speciality sales, such as those for weanlings, being stopped until autumn and so any lots that would have been aimed at these are joining the general cattle sale.
Joining the general cattle sale has taken its toll on weanling prices, with most weight categories seeing a drop on the week.
That said, it needs to be remembered that numbers for weanlings across the country are quite low, so a small entry of poor-quality lots at a mart can affect averages significantly.
Seeing one of the biggest decreases on the week were heavy bulls in excess of 450kg, which dropped by 17c/kg.
This type of animal is in a tricky weight category, as to be able to bring forward for under-16-month bull beef, it means housing for the summer months, which isn’t an option for a lot of farmers who don’t specialise in the practise.
The other largely affected category is the real light weanling bull under 300kg, which saw the average fall by 20c/kg on the week.
As the weeks move on, many of the better types have utilised the early spring grass and surpassed this 300kg mark and a lesser standard on offer could likely be the cause of the drop.
That said, farmer buyers are still very active ringside for the real fancy, heavy muscled light store, but numbers are small.
The biggest numbers of weanlings on offer were bulls between 300kg and 400kg. These held fairly well on the week, only dropping by 5c/kg on average.
Better-quality lots in this weight category saw an increase of 1c/kg.
Heifers were more variable in price across weight categories and quality, but, again, part of this can be attributed to reduced numbers.
Factory agents continue their high demand for heavy stock, which continues to keep fit cattle moving in the right direction.
Numbers of forward cattle are very small in marts, but prices rose by up to 4c/kg on the week. Steers of 600kg-plus sold for an average of €2.21/kg this week, with heifers of the same weight 10c/kg up on this at €2.31/kg.
Short-keep lots are also getting scarce ringside, with good-quality bullocks in high demand, as factory agents and specialised finishers start to build up stock for the coming six weeks.
Numbers heading for killing also usually drop around this time of year, as farmers look to finish cattle from summer grass.
Lighter store stock did see a bit of a pinch over the week, but the uncertain weather and wet grazing conditions up until the weekend played a big part on this.
Given the change and record high temperatures, land continues to dry out and those not at full capacity will again look to replenish numbers for grazing.