I met a beef farmer at Athenry Mart last Thursday and his first words to me were that if prices for finished cattle didn't improve quickly, not even the Fenix 2 capsule that successfully brought the Chilean miners up to safety would be capable of saving beef farmers this year.
Unfortunately, this week, apart from maybe his advance of the SFP, beef quotes are not going to do much to ease his financial concerns. Sterling and another big kill of just short of 34,000hd for the past week are not helping matters either.
A few weeks ago I met another farmer who told me that he sold a 17-year-old O4+ cow at 252c/kg and, on the same day, he sold an underage heifer grading O5 at 258c/kg. He finds it difficult to have faith or hope for a system where this happens.
Some plants continue to quote two different base figures for the under and overage animals, with a gap of 4-10c/kg evident in places.
Generally, the base for the steers remains unchanged at 294-296c/kg, even though certain plants are offering as high as 300c/kg for the young stock and as low as 290c/kg for the older animals.
I'm also aware of flat prices being paid in the northeast for a mix of R and U grades. Those prices ranged from 298c/kg to one farmer, 302c/kg to another and 305c/kg to a third -- proof of the need to be a tough seller. Quality assured in-spec R and U-grade cattle going into Donegal Meats are priced at 316c/kg and 325c/kg respectively.
Base quotes for the heifers run from a low of 295c/kg for overage types to 305c/kg for the young females. Eurofarm Duleek and Kepak Clonee appear to be towards the top payers for the heifers. Most of the other plants are quoting 300c/kg.
Plants mentioned at the above quotes for both steers and heifers include AIBP, Dawn, Kepak, Liffey, Moyvalley, Slaney, Kildare, Dunbia and the aforementioned Duleek.
Commenting on the trade, IFA's Michael Doran said that, while it is steady, some plants were having to pay up to 10c/kg more than their quoted figure to get stock, with some agents fearing a tightening of supplies as the week progresses.
U-grade young bulls are making 308-314c/kg and the Rs are at at 302-308c/kg. O grades range between 286-291c/kg.
For the most part, quotes for the cull cows are in the 235-252c/kg bracket. Good R and U grades are commanding prices of up to 266c/kg while cows that were getting this price in the northwest were transported across the country, where they made 280c/kg.
The trade remained steady in Britain with market demand also steady. Steaks have begun to gradually ease as the seasonal switch to forequarter product becomes apparent. Overall, the market is reported as well balanced, with reported prices of 326c/kg including VAT being paid for the R4L steers.
On the continent, there was little change to report, with promotional activity still evident in a number of markets. However, the French trade union strikes affected Irish beef supplies entering the market. In most markets, the seasonal switch to forequarter cuts is becoming more pronounced.
In France, Irish steer hindquarters are making 431-441c/kg including VAT. R3 young bull prices increased by two cent to 383c/kg in Italy, with O3 cow prices remaining unchanged at 264c/kg. In Germany, R3 young bull prices were making 327c/kg, with O3 cow prices making 235c/kg.