Farm Ireland

Friday 19 January 2018

Beef Prices: Slight boost for heifers but price pressure continues

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Factories and feeders continue to test each other’s resolve on prices.

While prices hold at €3.75- 3.80/kg for bullocks, the possibility of reaching €3.85/kg remains tentatively possible in the background. On the other side of the spectrum, some factory agents are starting their bidding at €3.70/kg.

However, reports in the farmer’s favour are emerging on the heifer front with some factories flat pricing batches of Hereford and Angus at €3.90 plus bonuses, rather than giving €3.95/kg on the grid followed by top bonuses.

Sellers with good continental type heifers are getting this return as factories opt for more meat yield and the associated lesser costs per kilo.

While trade for heifers is improving slightly, factories are trying to open a wider price gap for bullocks at €3.70-3.80/kg, in the hope of hitting a middle ground at €3.75/kg, or below it if they detect a weakness.

However, it’s difficult to anticipate any major upturn in farmers’ fortunes as numbers continue to present very strongly, with 34.588 animals slaughtered for the week ending February 12.

Angus Woods, IFA beef chairman, said that: “UK prices continue strong with prices for R3 steers at £3.60/kg for the week ending February 5, which is equivalent to €4.34/ kg.

“This confirms the strong view that there is real potential for Irish factories to lift prices to winter finishers based on solid demand and UK market returns.”

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Underpinning the market as always is the cow whose price remained unchanged last week.

This includes €3.40-3.45/kg for R grade cows, with O grades on €3.30- 3.20, better P+3 is on €3.10 in some plants, while P grades are generally making €3.05- 2.90/kg. Bulls remain stable with those under 24 months on €3.90/kg for U grades, Rs at €3.80 and O grades on €3.70/ kg, with under-16 months stable on a base of €3.80-3.75/kg.

Another notable development in recent days comes from the ICMSA who are continuing their crusade to make the mechanical grading system used by a majority of slaughter houses more understandable through a very sensible suggestion on making carcase images available to farmers.

Michael Guinan, ICMSA livestock committee chairman said: “ICMSA is proposing that the individual carcase image should be available to the beef producer along with a comparable carcase for that grade so that the farmer can see how their animal’s grade was achieved and make a comparison.”

Another issue, but one that perhaps dairy organisations might be reluctant to champion, is that of increasing numbers of Aberdeen Angus and Hereford stock being presented at marts that come directly from the dairy herd.

Reports have also emerged of farmers and feeders complaining that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be confident when buying in either of these breeds, as the dairy influence of the mother can become more prevalent as the animal ages.

One suggestion that has been put forward to stem the problem is to put the breed of the dam up on the board at marts as an aid to buyers.

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