A case of taking things as you find them  

In recent years, the October Bank Holiday Monday has become the traditional host date for the Dublin SFC Final. It’s an occasion this corner always strives to be at where possible. For this season’s incarnation, not even the windy, wet weather could dissuade embarkation on the voyage.

Wheelchair facilities in Parnell Park rank highly among the better venues, while in terms of stewarding, the Dublin venue also emerges with utmost credit. Even a certain Government minister was momentarily put on the back foot as grounds staff assisted in attaining comfortable passage to the viewing area.

Anyway, the reason that warranted mention was, whilst in transit to the fixture, the beef protest at Kepak was encountered. Had climatic conditions been more favourable, there’s a distinct possibility these wheels would have been in situ hence for a while also. A scenario made more likely by the fact that another farmer was also part of the entourage.

Given a few weeks reflection, there can be no doubting the action has had some impact. Specification restrictions being amended obviously leaves matters more workable at farm level. The price gap between here and Britain (somewhere in the region of €400/hd) will most likely always be a contentious issue. It’s hard to decipher what benefit exists in pondering what’s going on elsewhere, though, especially when things appear to be experiencing at least more positive vibes closer to home.

Is too much store placed the price gap though? Statistics show prices have risen 43% since August. Indeed, if a stance of taking things as you find them were to be adopted, in terms of marts, in the region of €200 more would appear to be available for steers of certain weights than was the case twelve months ago.

For all that, a real judgement on factory prices probably won’t or can’t be passed until if and/or when a maiden encounter (in a generation) has occurred with those entities. To that end, I suppose there’s equal excitement and trepidation at such a prospect. Sometimes, it (hopefully) pays to give the ‘Try anything once’ mantra a go.

Excitement emanates essentially from the unknown. What was, for some quarters, once a highly unlikely venture onto the heifer side had its first manifestations some months back and has taken a more firm hold in recent times. As with everything new, there’s an element of risk involved. However, buying at the back end of the year and housing stock straight away minimises risk – in the short term at least. Other ditches can be jumped when encountered!

While finishing cattle on a big scale may never be possible for some operators, the avenue is at least worth exploring. Not only regarding finishing heifers, but also in view of the fact that store bullocks in some places are liable to be very near to ideal slaughter weight coming towards grazing season next spring.

To return to the mart scene, in recent times, there appears to have been an inexorable gravitation towards the better value being at the lighter end of the weight scale. Thus leaving weanling prices well ahead of this time last year. Which presents conundrums on a few fronts.

Those replacing stores or finished cattle face a more expensive task in so doing than was the case a year ago. On the other hand, those with lighter weanlings currently housed could find themselves in line for a decent slice of profit after the turn of the year as finishers restock. Even more so when the vast volumes of stock slaughtered last autumn and this current winter is taken into account.

The importance of not placing all eggs in one basket must always be remembered. Hence the diversion down the finishing route with heifers and possibly stores as well. Moreover, a realisation that weanling prices may surge early in the new year might end up vindicating decisions taken around this time last year or shortly thereafter.

Buying calves was very much an experiment in the early part of the year now ending. With plenty of ups and downs along the way. They have now, however, mostly, matured into a promising bunch of weanling bulls. At various stages during the year the inclination was to sell them on.

Now, however, wintering them and giving them a couple of months at grass before moving them out mightn’t look like such a bad idea. As with many things in farming, it’s experimentation, whether it pays off or not, only time will tell!

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