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Beef kill up at 2015 level but prices lag behind

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This lot of cattle weighed 720kg and made €1,700 each at Tullow Mart last week. Photo: Roger Jones

This lot of cattle weighed 720kg and made €1,700 each at Tullow Mart last week. Photo: Roger Jones

This lot of cattle weighed 720kg and made €1,700 each at Tullow Mart last week. Photo: Roger Jones

Factory numbers have almost returned to where they were 12 months ago, but prices are lagging slightly behind.

A year ago, prices stayed stuck at €3.90/kg for bullocks and heifers didn’t really move away €4.00/kg.

In fact, despite the kill being almost exactly a thousand less in the week ending Jan 21, as opposed to the same week last year, and a total 4,244 less cumulatively for the month, prices for bullocks edged slightly south towards the end of last week.

After plateauing at €3.85/kg throughout the month, bullock prices appear to have started this week at 5c/kg less.

As of yesterday morning, prices appeared to be in the €3.75-3.80/kg range for bullocks as opposed to last week’s general run of €3.75-3.85/kg. Perhaps all that has happened is that prices have firmed up at €3.75 to €3.80/kg.

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However, the story with heifers is different with prices unchanged at €3.90-3.95 week on week, and higher prices somewhat dependent on spec and numbers. Angus Woods, IFA beef chairman, remained upbeat on the trade as a whole, especially in relation to heifers.

“Factories don’t want to be seen to be breaking the €4.00/ kg barrier so they are trying to keep the price at €3.95/kg but are throwing in free haulage and not charging for clipping.”

Despite all the national and international drama surrounding Brexit, Mr Woods said sterling has remained “fairly stable” in recent weeks.

It stood at 85p/€ yesterday morning, his point being that factory contracts would be largely unaffected.

Also unaffected is the price of cows, which, if anything, continue to edge upwards for the third straight week. One agent quoted highs of €3.15/kg yesterday for P3s — up 15c/kg in those three weeks.

Quotes therefore stand as follows: Rs €3.40-3.50, Os €3.15-3.25 and those P pluses €3.10-3.15/kg with lesser Ps in and around €3.05-2.85/kg.

Young bulls continue to plough a steady furrow at prices from €3.90/kg for Us back to €3.70 for Os with Rs on €3.80/ kg. Quotes of 5c/kg less across all grades for bulls were also reported, however, this factory might just have been winding up a contract. Returning to bullock prices, Angus Woods also confirmed that Friesian bullocks are still on occasion being flat priced by some factories at €3.70/kg.

Once flat pricing enters the equation, it’s a fairly good indicator of the strength of the factories’ contract position. As stated last week, the most important part of the whole set up is that factories continue to hold their share of those contracts.

One of the biggest allies we may yet have in our fight to retain UK market share should US beef arrive may well be US fastfood giants like McDonald’s.

McDonald’s have invested hugely in their public image as being a company in tune with natural first principle food production, an investment and image they will fight to protect.

Online Editors