Base quotes static but €4.25/kg can still be pocketed

Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Photo: O'Gorman Photography

Joe Healy

Beef farmers don't often see themselves in the same bracket as public sector workers, but I'm sure they share the civil servants' desire for a 2pc pay-rise. Unfortunately, the base price hasn't moved much, with €4.20/kg being the common offer for steers. At most, €4.25/kg has been secured.

There are still a few plants especially in the South sticking hard to a base quote of €4.15/kg. Farmers in this region need to hold tough or threaten to travel as €4.20 is pretty freely available as you move up the country.

The general quote for heifers is at €4.25-4.30/kg and while the €4.30/kg is buying a significant amount of the heifers, a number of plants have paid a base of €4.35/kg to secure deals. The bottom line is to put in a bit of work, price a few factories and do a bit of bargaining before you agree on a deal.

A few plants have paid a flat price of €4.25/kg for mixes of young U and R grade bulls. Individually, the Us are being quoted for and paid at €4.20-4.30/kg with the Rs at €4.20/kg in the main. Some O grades are making €4.05/kg, with others being bought at €4/kg. A few plants might be quoting less but very few underage O grades are bought below the €4/kg mark.

A slight improvement from some of the plants for the quotes for the lesser grade cows might be taken as a positive sign. Demand for cows remains strong with the top lots making up to €4/kg. R grades are selling between €3.80-3.90/kg. Prices for the Os range from €3.60-3.70/kg in general, while the P grades are making from €3.55-3.65/kg. One factory man did mention to me that a sizeable number of under-fleshed cows are being offered for slaughter and warned against this practise.

Fat Score

He didn't think that there is any fear of prices collapsing in the short term and was anxious to advise farmers to hold onto their cows and feed adequately to get them to a proper fat score before killing them.

The IFA's Henry Burns said that both farmers and factories know that supplies are tight and prices should increase over the next few months.

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"Department prices show the average steer price across the country is at €4.27/kg, while the top steer prices at were €4.38/4.40 in mid-April. On heifers some factories were paying a base of €4.35/kg and the Department figures were showing the average price at €4.40/kg and top prices of €4.49/4.51/kg. This shows that most factories are paying substantially above the quoted prices to buy cattle," he said.

Meanwhile, Bord Bia's Aidan Cotter told the IFA council last week that there was no resistance to 36 month-old beef from a market point-of-view.

Bord Bia reported that there was further tightening in supplies, but that trade was mixed across our key export markets. Cumulative supplies for the year to date are down around 13,500hd on last year, and currently stand at around 490,000hd.

In Britain, cattle prices of €5.13/kg were reported for R4s. Trade was best for steak cuts, with trade for fillets and manufacturing beef slow.

Little change was reported from France, but the R3 young bull was price was down 1c to €3.87/kg, while the O3 cow price was up 2c to €3.34/kg. In Italy, the trade was slow, but the R3 young bull price up 1c at €4.13/kg and the O3 cow price up 2c to €2.93/kg.


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