Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Beef trade: Prices edge ahead as kill numbers remain high

Martin Coughlan

Published 30/11/2016 | 14:00

A herd of Blue-gray crossbred steers.
A herd of Blue-gray crossbred steers.

PRICES may not be perfect but cattlemen showed signs of optimism last weekend that figures are going in the “right direction” as kill numbers remain high.

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These prudent assertions are indeed correct as reports show that paid prices for bullocks ranged yesterday from €3.70-3.75/kg with heifers on €3.80-3.85/kg - this on the back of kill figures that have yet to fall below 30,000 in the month of November.

The actual figure for the week ending Nov 19 was 34,682 which is 2,500hd above the figure for the same week last year according to Bord Bia. However, it is interesting to note that the increase is due to rises in the numbers of cows, heifers and bulls slaughtered and not in the number of steers, as their numbers for that week were down by 1,289 on the same week last year.

The other factor is the time of year and the evolving of the traditional Christmas dinner which, in the UK in particular, sees the beef roast now challenging turkey as the main event.

This means that factories with contracts to fill prior to Christmas have in essence got the next two weeks to find enough stock to fill them, this is a serious time and they will fill their numbers requirement on a rising price if necessary.

This then will leave them enough time to hang the beef prior to shipping for the Christmas rush. The other argument is that the price is no good for men with cattle to come out of sheds and even if it does rise, a lot of stock will have gone to the knife at a low price.

The reality is, as of yesterday morning, the price has risen 5c/kg a week over the last three weeks and now sits at between €370-3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.80-385/kg for heifers.

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The story on bulls is that last week’s top price of 3.85/ kg for U’s is now being freely got with €3.90 for U’s in the system. This then leaves R’s on €3.75 and O’s at €3.65/kg with one source suggesting that it “may be easier to get that €3.90 for U’s than €3.70 for the O”.

Turning to the trade for cows, prices if anything were maybe tending a little easier yesterday morning with not quite the same firmness as before as the kill rose 1,726 for the week ending the 19.

The overall kill figures for cows show a very significant increase year on year to that date with their numbers up 10pc. Looking to future prospects, numbers will decide where the price goes between now and January 2017.

However, a feeder in the west summed up the realities of finishing cattle out of sheds on low base prices in one sentence.

“If you have big numbers or maybe you got a contract maybe you get 10c/kg more but we’re coming off to low a base and it’s not worth a curse when you got serious bills,” he said.

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