Business Farming

Sunday 21 September 2014

Beef trade is tighter than presidential election race

Joe Healy

Published 07/11/2012 | 06:00

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I doubt if even the Obama and Romney teams will be watching the votes as closely as the beef factories are watching each other this week.

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Cattle supplies are continuing to tighten and the processors are, against their will, being forced to increase quotes and prices.

Last week's estimated kill was short of 30,000hd. Strong competition and higher prices from plants in the North are building pressure on the factories in the Republic to get off the fence.

Good Friesian bulls grading R have travelled northwards with free travel at €4/kg, while O grade Friesian bulls have made €3.90/kg. Down here, the best price I have heard of was €4/kg for a mix of R and U grade continental bulls.

In general however, quotes are 395-400c/kg for U grades, with 402c/kg available in the northwest region. R grades are at 385-390c/kg and O grade bulls are 370-380c/kg.

Steer quotes have risen by 5c/kg at a minimum and, despite quotes of 385-390c/kg, many finishers are bargaining for a base of 390c/kg.

In-spec R grades are making up to 402c/kg in the northwest while heifers are at 408c/kg. Base quotes elsewhere for heifers are 395-400c/kg. Some farmers selling in-spec heifers in the northeast have secured a base of up to 405c/kg.

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said there was much more bite to the trade this week and welcomed the badly needed increase in quotes and prices.

He advised farmers to shop around and bargain hard to maximise the value of their stock, particularly given the increased costs involved in producing finished cattle for slaughter.

The top price paid for U grade cull cows was 380c/kg, but quotes are closer to 350-370c/kg. R grade quotes are 340-360c/kg but 370c/kg was offered by a factory agent for a good number of cows to travel a fair distance to slaughter.

While O grade quotes are at 320-346c/kg, good mixes of O and R grade cows have made 460-463c/kg. P+ cows are making 300-334c/kg.

Cattle supplies to date this year are running around 14pc or 177,300hd behind last year's levels.

The UK trade, according to Bord Bia, was reported as reasonable with prices including VAT equivalent to 468c/kg in the past week.

On the continent, trade across most of the key markets was mixed, with prices reflecting this pattern.

On some markets, demand for some fifth quarter cuts has recovered from recent trading. Some lift in demand for hindquarter cuts such as fillets are expected to improve as consumers continue to stock up in advance of Christmas.

In France, Irish steer hinds are making up to €5.57/kg. R3 young bulls remained unchanged in Germany at €4.26/kg, with O3 cow prices also unchanged at €3.27/kg.

Meanwhile, the Chefs' Irish Beef Club reached another significant milestone recently with the launch of a new chapter of the club in Switzerland.

Switzerland has always been a prime destination for our higher value steak cuts on account of high disposable income levels and a vibrant foodservice sector that is boosted by a year-round tourism industry.

In 2011, Irish beef exports into Switzerland were valued at €18.6m, an increase of 23pc on the previous year.

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