Little change hurts hope of hitting target
I was hoping that this week's beef quotes and prices would be as positive as the fortunes of our four rugby provinces over the weekend. Alas, no such luck, with little or no movement -- thereby ensuring that we remain a hell of a distance from the 320c/kg that was mentioned as a target price in the short term at the beef grid meeting in Tullamore, Co Offaly a month ago.
OK, the kill has remained strong, with last week's estimated kill somewhere short of 30,000 head. This is about 5,000 animals more than the same week last year. Some farmers will argue that it is a fear of the grid, with finishers selling sooner in case their cattle would go into the 4+ or wrong fat score, that is keeping the kill so high. Another farmer contacted me and said that he was selling over-age cattle on the grid at a base of 291c/kg. He added that, under the old system, he would probably be selling at 280c/kg for all his O grades and 291c/kg for his Rs. On the grid he is on the 291c/kg for his R= and R-, but he will be on 279c/kg for his O+, 273c/kg for his O= and as low as 263c/kg for his O-4+ animals. He didn't think he had any R+ cattle but, if he had, he said he would prefer the old system as he felt he had more control and was less confused.
Donegal continues to lead the way on prices with its 311c/kg and 322c/kg for quality assured underage R- and U-grade steers and heifers. It paid 302c/kg for R-grade young bulls and 322c/kg for the Us. Kepak Clonee paid similar for the R bulls but was a bit better, at 325c/kg, for the U grades. Overage R-grade steers sold for a flat price of 302c/kg in the east late last week, and there were reports of 305c/kg paid further south for similar type R grades.
Elsewhere, the base price ranges between 291-294c/kg for the bullocks and 297-300c/kg for the heifers. Most of the AIBP, Dawn and Kepak plants, and Slaney, Liffey, Kildare, Dunbia and Moyvalley are included at those figures. The 6c/kg quality-assurance bonus is paid on top of those prices.
ICSA's Sean Scully advised farmers to hold back from selling at the current low prices, and urged the processors and retailers to treat farmers fairly and pass back realistic returns.
The cull sow trade has improved. Top prices of 280c/kg for heavy U grades are available in the northeast, where the Rs are making up to 266c/kg and Os 252c/kg. Moyvalley is quoting a top of 252c/kg, with the Os in a 241-252c/kg range.
The cattle trade resumed to more normal levels last week, according to Bord Bia, as improved road conditions led to a pick-up in activity. Overall, there was little change to report in the trade levels.
Quotes for R-grade steers under the new quality payment system continue to make a base reference price of 291-297c/kg, while heifers are still making 297-302c/kg. These prices exclude the six cent on in-spec, quality-assured stock. The trade for cows remains unchanged, with O-grade animals making 235-246c/kg.