Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Beef Prices: Pendulum swings back as kill down by 4,000hd

Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Photo: O'Gorman Photography
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Three weeks ago the number of cattle killed in Irish meat export plants was 36,100, two weeks ago it was over 37,000 and last week it was 33,085.

Cattle numbers are the great barometer of the trade they decide everything from what price factories feel is the minimum the market may accept to the decision by producers to either sell or hold.

The influence on the trade of numbers is so great that there was almost an audible national sigh of disappointment among farmers and the farm organisations when the kill figures recovered two weeks ago. But with a fall of 4,000 last week now confirmed, the pendulum has begun to swing back.

It was said to me more than once over the last month that despite continuing strong numbers, factories still weren’t confident enough in supplies to attempt to rein in prices further.

It was almost as if factory bosses were afraid to squeeze too hard for fear it would provoke an organised backlash at a time where constant uninterrupted supplies were possibly worth more than the risk of having them interrupted for the sake of a few cents here or there.

It all helps explain why bullock base quotes continue to range from  €3.75-3.80/kg.

There are also reports of €3.85/kg being given but only in very select deals.

It’s no different for heifers which are generally trading in the €3.85-3.90/kg range.

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What is noticeable is that price variations over the last couple of weeks have become less regionalised as those constant supplies smooth out variations.

Some agents have noted the tendency of farmers in the south to sell their stock more regimentally under the 30-month limit than the more traditional finishers in the midlands.

Some of the latter prefer to let their stock “lie on”. The thinking is that extra weight makes up for possible loss of quality bonuses, or as a late uncle of mine used to say: “The money stops when the weight stops, whatever the money is”.

It makes plenty of sense coming off of a grass-based system with its lower cost base, but I’d be talking to my factory about a contract before I’d start down that road if I was coming out of a shed.

Quotes for both cows and bulls also continue to remain stable.

While numbers of cows going through the system have increased week on week their price, while adjusted downwards about three weeks ago, has remained fairly stable since, R grades are on €3.50-3.40/kg with Os on €3.30-3.20 and Ps back at €2.90-3.10/kg.

Bulls continue to sell off a base of €3.80/kg for under 16 months stock with sixteen to 24 months stable at €4.00-390/kg for Us with Rs at €3.80 while Os are on €3.70-3.65/kg.

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