Farm Ireland

Monday 22 January 2018

Beef Prices: Processors taking a one day at a time approach

Photo Roger Jones.
Photo Roger Jones.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

WHILE there is no proven relationship between a weekend’s sporting results and the cattle trade, the match between Waterford and Kilkenny on Saturday does lend itself in that direction.

There were times over the regulation 70 minutes that it appeared Waterford were cruising, only for the black and amber juggernaut to come back at them.

It’s a bit like the factories, who over the last four to five weeks clawed back control of prices from a position where bullocks had been priced at €4.20/kg and heifers were on €4.30/kg.

Prices have tumbled to €4.05/kg and €4.15 respectively.

Yet this year, as with the Waterford hurlers, is different. Markets are strong and supplies while plentiful have not yet succeeded in tipping the balance decisively in any side’s favour.

My information is that the prices game is nip and tuck with last week’s €4.05 and €4.15/kg still the benchmark. However, it’s not quite going the factories’ way despite their fightback.

On the surface they appear to be holding firm, with some agents quoting €4.00/kg on occasion, before having to give more where sellers are not under pressure but have the quality and weight the factory men require.

A bit like the swan — all serenity and poise above the waterline while paddling like mad just to stay going below it.

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Yes, the numbers keep coming, but with the good weather continuing, there is a creeping belief among cattlemen that those numbers if managed properly could see prices maintained at that €4.05-4.15/kg for bullocks and heifers for the foreseeable future.

As one man I know put it, “the factories are operating a one-day-at-a-time policy” — on any given day more might be possible depending on how badly a factory needs stock and who makes that first phone call.

With bulls, the figures show a sharp fall-off in numbers from the same week in 2016, with 3,776 going through the system as opposed to 4,650.

Prices appear unchanged from last week, however, with Rs on €4.05/kg, Us on €4.10 with Os back at €3.90/kg.

Cow prices

The price of cows also remains unchanged this week with prices ranging from around the €3.70/kg mark for Us all the way back to €3.10/kg for some of the more average P grades with Rs between €3.50-3.60/kg and Os on €3.45-3.30/kg. The better P can still command €3.30-3.35/kg depending on the deal.

The question is therefore, when this particular match goes into extra-time at the end of August and on into the autumn, will the game gradually slip away from the men with the cattle, as the weather, shorter days and numbers conspire to rob them of options?

For now, though like the Waterford and Roscommon legions, cattle farmers can choose to believe that anything is possible between now and early September.

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