Beef prices continue to strengthen

Cattle grazing at Ballyloughan Castle in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Cattle grazing at Ballyloughan Castle in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Factory prices continue to improve on the back of tightening numbers and strong overseas demand.

Department of Agriculture figures for the week ending April 9 show that the national average base price range for your R= to R- bullock was €4.04-4.11/kg. The base for heifers spanned €4.14-4.22/kg.

These averages reflect the fact that a majority of stock are now being killed are coming from bigger feed lots on contracts that offer anything from 10-16c/kg of a bonus above quoted base prices. This week sees those base prices (without bonuses) improve further, with the price for bullocks now firmly set at €4/ kg, while there are reports of €4.05-4.10 being paid in places.

In relation to that €4.05/kg, some agents are prepared to quote it more freely for Friesian- type stock than their better conformation cousins. The reason is simple, on the grid your Friesian bullock will probably grade O= to O- at which point he’s at €3.87-3.81/kg.

Should he make an O+ he’s still below the line at €3.92/kg. If he happens to fall into a better P grade, that’s 30c/kg less at €3.75/kg than the apparently attractive base of €4.05 you took. From the factories’ point of view the Friesian is a source of cheaper beef, with no compromise on eating quality.

This is no consolation to the shed men with the better continental bullock who had higher purchasing costs and probably now has a significantly bigger meal bill as well. As for the heifer, while her price hasn’t quite got “out of hand”, as one man put it to me, she is still moving up very nicely with this week’s base set €4.10/ kg but with €4.15 achievable.

I had one report yesterday of Angus heifers making €4.25/ kg when their bonus was added in. Again that’s a case of a specialised feeder. The bull job sees prices move up by 5c/kg to a flat €4.05/kg for U and Rs, with O grades in the €3.90-3.95 bracket for over 16-month stock. Those under 16 months are now working off a general grid base of €4/kg.

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Cow numbers Cow numbers have been strong since the abolition of the milk quotas and the freedom this brought to the dairy sector can be seen in a 14.6pc increase in cows going for slaughter.

And with the abolition of the compulsory brucellosis test, the factories now have very serious competition at this time of year from the mart trade and specialised cow finishers.

Prices this week remain steady, with O and better P grades being flat priced at €3.40/kg or 5c/kg up or down, while Rs continue in the €3.55- 3.70/kg bracket.

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