Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Beef bull production back in profit

Bull beef production is back in profit
Bull beef production is back in profit

Martin Ryan

Bull beef production has roared back to profitability as the supplies of uncastrated males goes through the floor. The factory price difference between young bull and steer beef has reduced by up to 80pc, following a halving of the supply of young bulls in 2015.

The marketing difficulties and price pressure during spring 2014 turned many off finishing bulls forever.

Year to date supplies show a reduction of 30,000 in the number of young bulls processed. Conversely, steer numbers were up by over 26,000 in the same period.

In mid April, the price difference between a 360kg young bull and a steer of similar weight and grade was €32 compared to €160 in 2014, according to the official figures compiled by the Department of Agriculture. That's a difference of €6,400 over a group of 50 bulls - before any account is taken of the general price increase for beef over the past year.

The price difference between O3 grade young bulls and steers of 45c/kg for the week ending April 19, 2014 has dropped to 9c/kg for the same week this year. The R3 young bull price is trailing the similar steer grade by 10c/kg, compared to 27c/kg last year, and the U3 price difference has changed from 30c/kg to 13c/kg this year.

On the supply side, year-to-date intake of young bulls stands at 57,422 compared to 87,136 for the same period last year. The steer supply has increased from 152,420 last year to 178,715 this year.

Bulls' superior food conversion rates and performance led to a major increase in production over the last two decades.

In 1998, beef finishers supplied an average of 430 young bulls per week. That had increased nine-fold by 2012, when the supply reached a weekly average of 4,000. Current weekly supply is running at just over 2,000 head, with reports from farmers that the specifications required by the processors have significantly relaxed.

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