What do current Irish cattle prices have in common with Leeds United? Answer, they are both on the way up. After 16 years away from the top table of English soccer, Elland Road will once again host top flight matches next season.
Here at home the story on the factory price front is also of upward movement, with both bullock and heifer prices hardening last week by another 5c/kg to leave in-spec bullocks on a general base of €3.70/kg, with heifers on €3.75/kg.
While I agree with IFA's livestock chairman Brendan Golden that extra was paid last week to "lift in-spec stock", - with €3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.80/kg rumoured - the feeling I get from the coalface is that factories, while anxious for stock, are not just yet ready yet to push on. And this is despite the kill to July 8 dropping by 1,366 on the previous week,
Their plan appears to be to kill what they have left on their books from last week and then access the situation.
So despite recent improvements on price, there is a bit to go if, like Leeds, the majority of cattlemen are to reach the Promised Land of Premier League-level returns, i.e. €4/kg. However, several factory agents I spoke with recently have argued that when you add the 20c/kg quality assurance bonus plus grid bonuses to the base price of better conformation stock, those cattle falling into higher grades are already well there.
Turning to cull cows and young bulls, their prices also appear to be 'idling'.
Quotes for R grade cows continue in the €3.20-3.30/kg range, with better O grades at €3.10 and better P+s €3.00/kg. As I mentioned last week, specialist feeders with numbers of well finished cows are getting more; 5-10c/kg on those Os and Ps.
On the bull side U grades continue on €3.65-3.70/kg, with R grades at €3.60-3.65 and O grades on €3.40-3.50/kg. Allowing for everything, the ball does still appear to be at the farmer's feet, buoyed largely by strong consumer demand in Britain.
On the supply front, Bord Bia figures show a decline of 31,815 cattle slaughtered up to July 11 as compared to the same period for 2019. On the prices front Bord Bia report the average price paid for R3 steers for the week to July 11, excluding VAT but including breed bonuses, was €3.66/kg, with heifers on €3.69/kg.
The equivalent bullock north of the border averaged €4.09/kg, while British steers averaged €4.08/kg. Across Europe the average price of your R3 grade bull was €3.49/kg.
These figures once again underline the importance of our nearest neighbour when it comes to how prices here perform.
Most European beef on sale in supermarkets across the continent comes from intensively grain fed stock, meaning the fat is white in colour. However, the fat from cattle coming off of a diet of primarily grass is generally yellowy-orange.
I mention this because with Bord Bia advocating a new grass fed standard it may be necessary to have the difference in colour explained to continental consumers. It's food for thought.