Farm Ireland

Thursday 23 November 2017

Beef quotes under pressure

Joe Healy

I HAD hoped that beef quotes would have followed a similar pattern to the points required for the science and computing courses in the universities and third level institutions around the country.

However, while those have increased by anything from 30 to 60 points and in extremes up to 200, beef quotes appear to be struggling at the moment to even hold their own. There seemed to be a surge in the numbers of cattle being offered for slaughter throughout the second half of last week and this put the ball back into the processors' court and they are not renowned for looking a gift horse in the mouth. Quotes immediately came under pressure and more than a few farmers panicked a little and decided to sell. Provisional figures estimate that approximately 29,000 cattle were slaughtered last week.

The base quotes for steers around the country yesterday ranged from 305-310c/kg generally, with the heifers at 312-319c/kg. Thankfully, a number of the plants are willing to pay a little more especially for the heifers with one factory in the east paying as high as 330c/kg flat for a mix of R and U grade heifers late last week. Quite a lot of the other plants were freely agreeing to pay 318-320c/kg for young heifers. Factories mentioned at the above quotes include AIBP and Kepak plants as well as Liffey, Kildare, Moyvalley, Slaney, Dunbia and Duleek.

I know of one farmer who was quoted 314c/kg base but ended up, after a lot of hard bargaining, getting a flat price of 320c/kg and he was under no illusions that his overall grade of heifer was much more suited to a flat price than the QPS. Farmers are also refusing to sell their steers at the 305/306c/kg level with many demanding and securing a minimum of 308c/kg plus the QA bonus.

Donegal is paying 333c/kg for the in-spec U grades, 325c/kg for the Rs and 308c/kg and 300c/kg for the O+ and O grades respectively. The out of spec stock are 11c/kg back on those figures. For the young bulls they are offering 314c/kg for the Rs and 322c/kg for the Us. Elsewhere, the R grade young bulls vary from 308-314c/kg with the Us at 314-319c/kg. Cull cows generally range from 246-263c/kg with good R grades making anything from 269-280c/kg. Some top prices of 286-294c/kg have been paid for top quality heavy cows over 400kg carcase weight.

The beef trade showed further improvement over the past week according to Bord Bia, as finished cattle supplies continue to remain scarce. This combined with beef demand reportedly more buoyant across key Continental markets has helped lift trade, coupled with good demand in Britain. Quotes for R grade steers under the QPS increased on the previous week, with the base reference price now between 308-315c/kg. Heifer prices also showed a small lift and are generally 314-322c/kg. These prices exclude the 6c on in-spec quality assured stock. Prices for O grade cows also improved, with quotes now from 255-269c/kg.

In Britain, trade is reportedly unchanged. Cattle prices from the AHDB increased slightly with GB R4L grade steers averaging at Stg 268.4 pence/kg dw (equivalent to 343.2cent/kg dw including VAT) for the week ended August 14. On the Continent, the beef trade remained steady. In France, Irish steer hindquarters are making 463-473kg including VAT.

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