Farm Ireland

Thursday 14 December 2017

Beef Prices: Processors bid to rein in prices by 10c-20c/kg

A stronger demand for cattle stock has seen prices rise
A stronger demand for cattle stock has seen prices rise
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

 WORKING out what goes on in the minds of factory bosses is not simple.

One well placed agent was able to quote €4.15/kg for bull­ocks and €4.25/kg for heifers with another 5c/kg possible but not likely. The next couple of men could not go any further than €4.10/kg for bullocks and €4.20/kg for heifers.

The reality is anything killed early this week will have been bought at those higher prices last week. This means that later this week the first of this week’s purchas­es will start to go through the system.

The question is will those factories that were quoting those lower prices have enough stock to keep the wheels turning come Thursday? They probably will, but will they have made those lower prices stick?

What appears to be going on is that those factories that specialise in killing cows are using increasing cow numbers to ease off on having to buy anything else, which creates a ripple of general uncertainty in relation to all prices.

Adding to this uncertainty were reports yesterday morn­ing that those same factories were quoting 10-20c/kg less for those cows with the intention of putting a lid on all prices across the board.

The reality is that while all these things “may” happen, as I write this I don’t know of an­yone who has taken those lower prices so the quotes I have been paid out for the early part of the week for cows run from €3.60/ kg for Rs, with Os on €3.40 and your better P+ cow €3.30, with lesser Ps back to between €3.00-3.10/kg.

The price of bulls remains largely unchanged as their numbers continue broadly in line with last year. Under 16-months are on a general base of €4.15/kg while those up to 20-months continue to be flat priced at €4.20/kg for Us with Rs on €4.15/kg, while Os vary a bit but are generally in the €4.05/kg bracket.

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As always, the entire trade is numbers dependant but if the weather picks up or the num­bers of cows dry up, then the factories are into Theresa May territory and they’ll do what is necessary to get the numbers.

At the marts there contin­ues to be serious competition among factory agents and fin­ishers for fit and forward heav­ier stock.

The ringside report for this week quotes a price of €2.38/ kg as the average for the better 600kg+ bullock which trans­lates into €1,428/hd.

Something that isn’t easily read from those figures, howev­er, is the number of forward but under finished cattle that are beginning to be shown at mart sales. Several mart managers I spoke to last week commented on the growing trend of farmers choosing to show heavier but under finished stock at marts rather than going down either the feeding or factory roads.

If you’re under pressure for grass or money then mart re­turns are attractive at present, and if the price does not match expectations, you can bring your animal home.

There is also another ben­efit; the mart environment helps farmers overcome their natural reluctance to discuss their business. A farmer with cattle to sell at a mart will meet other farmers, conversations happen, and the activities of factory and feedlot buyers can be scrutinised very carefully.

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