Beef boom delivers some festive cheer
Tightening cattle numbers and soaring demand see prices harden
Beef farmers secured a pre-Christmas bonus this week as tighter cattle numbers and stronger demand for stock drove prices.
The past two weeks have seen a dramatic turnaround in the cattle trade, with prices soaring as factories scrambled for scarce supplies of finished heifers, bulls and steers.
Prices have increased sharply with returns for heifers and bulls up by more than €75/hd over the past month, while steers made an additional €60-70/hd.
The battle to source numbers has also left the quality payment system (QPS) reeling, with more factories being forced to buy off the grid as farmers have taken full advantage of the stock shortage. Stronger demand on the British market, where Tesco is running a half-price promotion on round cuts of beef, and a sharp fall-off in supplies have been the main drivers of the recovery.
Tesco's aggressive sales pitch has left suppliers of the British multiple hunting for stock to fill orders. In addition, Northern factory buyers have been more active across the South over the past few days.
Good quality heifers were generally making 336-342c/kg this week. However, some finishers have been paid close to 350c/kg for quality-assured animals. This is an increase of more than €75/hd on just three weeks ago.
Prices for young bulls and steers have also taken a serious bounce. Farmers report far stronger demand for bulls, with returns tracking those on offer for heifers.
Base quotes for steers range from 314c/kg to 320c/kg, but with plants struggling to get numbers, much more is actually being paid.