Buyers may not have been physically in attendance at Martin O’Connor’s annual in-calf heifer sale last Friday night, but they most certainly made their virtual presence felt.
Elphin Mart is always jammed packed-to-the-rafters for the hotly anticipated annual event in the calendar, but there was a very different sight at this year’s sale.
Unlike previous years, all buyers conducted business remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions, with pre-sale viewing periods allocated.
Despite circumstances, the Roscommon-based suckler farmer held his most successful sale to date, with the average price up approximately €500/head on last year.
And adding another string to bow was a Charolais-cross, which sold for what is believed to be a new price record for a commercial in-calf heifer at auction.
Leading the charge at an extraordinary €9,000 was a “powerful” Charolais-cross-Simmental heifer. The 33-month-old, weighing 975kgs, is by Glen Leon. She is in-calf to Simmental AI bull, Popes Grandlam 15 (sexed semen used) and is due on November 23rd, 2020 (9 months gestation).
“Over the last five or six years, possibly one-third of attendees have been unable to get into the ring. But, last Friday night, it was a completely different scenario.”
“Sitting on the rostrum looking into a lonely sales ring was something you thought could never happen, but it did.”
“Last year, when the heifer sold for €5,000, we thought we couldn’t surpass this, as it was an exceptional sale, in general, but we did. When the heifer made that price last year, the roof nearly lifted off the mart building.”
High repeat customer rate
“This year, when the hammer fell at €9,000 for a heifer, €7,000 for another, €6,210 for another one and €5,000, there was dead silence. In saying that, restrictions did not impact prices in any way, shape or form.”
This year’s sale saw a high repeat customer rate. Heifers are destined for all corners of the country and the north. Fifty heifers met an extraordinary trade, levelling at €3,020, with a 100% clearance.
“There is no doubt in my mind that there is a strong demand for top-quality commercial breeding females. The people that are in the market for those types want to breed top-quality calves.”
“Over the last number of years, I have purchased daughters off breeding females that I have sold. Calves are being sold off some of last year’s heifers for €1,700-€1,800. When you see that happening, you know you are doing something right.”
“The heifer at €7,000, I sold her mother at my sale in 2016. I receive phone calls from people who wish to supply me with stock.”
Quality breeds quality
Martin is always trying to improve the quality of heifers offered for sale. He believes that breeding females “can never be good enough” with a preference for a U grade animal with strong maternal traits.
“In an ideal world, heifers would have milk and muscle, but in so many cases, they either have one or the other.”
“When you go for too much muscle, you can lose shape, and when you go for too much milk, you can lose muscle. I try to have a blend of each in my heifers to get the best of both worlds.”
Outlook for suckler farming
“We must remain positive. Suckler farming in Ireland is so important to local rural communities and livestock marts. While dairying is very important too, I feel the suckler cow is more important to the rural marts. This is why suckler cows need to be supported.”
“Suckler farming is the backbone of the agricultural industry in Ireland. I feel there has been a renewed interest in the suckler industry in the last two years.”
“Firstly, I would like to extend a word of thanks to That’s Farming for publicity and Tricia Kennedy, photographer and videographer, who offered a tremendous and professional service as always.”
“Also, I would like to thank all buyers and underbidders – Without you, this sale would not be possible. I hope the animals are extremely lucky for them, and I wish them every success.”
“After that, I would like to thank all of my own family, with a special word of thanks to Katie, Kirsten, Jack and Joshua, who turned the heifers out to perfection.”
“Lastly, Elphin Mart, manager, Gerry Connellan, and staff, they couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive.”
Martin contributed €500 from sale proceeds to Mayo-Roscommon Hospice Foundation, which provides palliative care services to people with life-limiting illnesses and their families in Mayo and Roscommon.
Martin is already planning next year’s sale, and suckler farmers will fix all eyes on Elphin Mart in November 2021.