Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Beef prices barely holding with 5c cut

Joe Healy

Like the Waterford defence during the second half of Sunday's clash with Cork, the beef sector appears to be under pressure, even if it is holding out so far. Word is the processors are trying to clip another 5c/kg off the base price and I suppose they had more or less achieved this aim with the heifers last week.

The gap between the heifers and steers is almost closed, with base quotes and tops paid almost identical. The slight difference is probably in the general prices paid with a bigger percentage of the heifers making the 395c/kg base, while the majority of the steers are moving at 390c/kg.

Most farmers are being quoted 390c/kg as the base, but some plants are offering as low as 385c/kg. I heard of farmers in the south, south-east and the midlands securing a base of 395c/kg. Overage steers seem to be ranging from 370-380c/kg. Heifer quotes vary between 390-395c/kg.

The higher amount, while proving a tad tougher to get, is being got with many finishers refusing to sell at any less. As with the steers, the out-of-spec females are running at 10c/kg less. The IFA's Henry Burns accused the factories of using negative propaganda to exert downward pressure on prices. Last week's estimated kill from Department of Agriculture figures showed a kill of 32,824hd.

Bulls under 16 months are securing 380c/kg on the grid. Otherwise, the U grades up to two years are making from 360-375c/kg, with the Rs in a range from 350-360c/kg. Prices for the Os vary from 300-330c/kg. Some plants have cut the cull cow prices by 10c/kg, but farmers are still negotiating from 350-370c/kg for the U grades and from 340-350c/kg for the Rs. The O grades are generally making from 300-310c/kg, with the Ps at 290-300c/kg.

An Bord Bia reported that the beef trade remained steady during the past week, with prices remaining similar to previous weeks on the back of steady demand.


Prices quoted by export meat plants for steers were, on average, between €3.90-3.95/kg on the Quality Payment System. Heifers continued to trade at a base price of between €3.95-4.00/kg.

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These prices exclude the €0.12/kg bonus, which is payable on in-spec QA animals. Prices paid for O grade cull cows were generally ranging between €3.00-3.15/kg.

Cumulative supplies for the year to date are running at around 72,000 head or almost 13pc above the figures for the corresponding period last year.

Cumulative supply of heifers continues to be up around 17pc on the corresponding period last year, with steers and young bulls up by over 10pc.

In Britain, reported cattle prices from the AHDB have slipped, with GB R4L grade steers averaging 350.2p/kg deadweight (dw), or 454c/kg including VAT. Trade continues to remain slow and demand unchanged, with rump cuts and ribs performing the best.

In France, few changes from the previous week have been reported, with the trade remaining steady. The R3 young bull was unchanged at €4.00/kg including VAT, whole the O3 cow was up 3c to €3.64/kg. In Italy, the trade was back compared with previous weeks with demand slow, particularly for forequarter cuts. The R3 young bull was down 6c to €4.01/kg and the O3 cow was down 5c to €2.92/kg.

Live exports of cattle have increased so far this year and are currently standing at around 127,000 head.


This highlights an increase of 18pc compared to the corresponding period last year. Latest figures show cattle exports of 4,118 head were recorded for the week ending May 10, according to the Department of Agriculture's AIM system.

Year to date figures show a decline in the live export of weanlings by around 1,000 head. However, this has been offset by a 31pc and 61pc rise in stores and finished cattle respectively. Live exports of calves are up 12pc so far this year and make up 65pc of total live exports.

The principal destination for Irish calves continues to be continental Europe with the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain driving these exports. Exports to the Netherlands for the year to date show a 22pc rise on last year's levels.

Belgium is showing a 3pc increase in exports so far this year, with Spain showing a 41pc increase in live exports. Exports to Spain have been driven by a rise in live exports of calves of 40pc on year previous levels with a preference for stronger calves which are reared for bull beef. The number of cattle moved North so far this year increased by 12pc on last year's results to almost 16,000 head, in spite of a decrease in demand for Irish-born cattle by British beef processors.

Similarly, exports to Britain have risen by 62pc to 5,500 head, with finished cattle driving these exports. The number of animals exported to Italy has increased by 35pc, to reach over 10,000 head, with stores and weanlings driving the trade there.

Focusing on international markets over 9,000 head of cattle has been exported to date this year, an 18pc increase on last year. North Africa is the main destination internationally with Libya continuing to drive trade with numbers up 57pc compared to 2013.

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