Slowdown in feedlot demand adding to beef price pressures

Picture; Gerry Mooney
Picture; Gerry Mooney

Declan O'Brien and Martin Coughlan

Processor-controlled feedlots have not been as active as usual in the marts this autumn and their absence has robbed livestock sales of crucial buyers.

Feedlots controlled by the factories generally restock at this time of the year and are important buyers of cattle.

However, mart managers from right around the country confirmed to the Farming Independent that agents for these units have not been purchasing the usual volumes of stock so far this year.

One mart manager in the northwest said the feedlot buyers were expected to start buying by now but their purchases were limited to small numbers of cattle to date.

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"They're buying cattle in twos and threes and four and fives, but they're not taking the big numbers you'd usually associate with them," he said.

It was a similar story in the south of the country.

A mart manager in southeast said the feedlots would "invariably make an appearance at ringside around now" but they had not done so this Autumn.

"They haven't been active since July," he explained.

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"The feedlots would generally take one or two doubles out of here each week, but there's been no sign of them so far," said another southern mart manager.

He said the feedlots generally took around 10-15pc of the entry on any given day, particularly Angus-cross heifers and bullocks.

Despite factory buyers inactivity, the mart manager maintained that cattle prices have generally held.

He said this was due to stronger shipper buying of Angus heifers for breeding, as well as lively competition between farmers and independent feeders.

However, the store trade has generally been weaker this year, with Ringside averages back €55-70/hd last week.

While the weaker trade cannot be attributed solely to the absence of factory feedlot buyers, one mart manager commented that "every buyer was needed at the moment".

"Farmers are also asking why the processors are standing back," he added. "There's a confidence element to it. They'd be happier if Larry and Dawn were buying as well."

The continuing Brexit uncertainty, as well as the current backlog of stock in the wake of the recent protests have been cited as possible reasons.

Slowing demand in Britain may also be a factor. Beef imports to Britain are running more than 10pc back on last year. However, factory prices in Britain are €80/hd stronger than in Ireland.

Indo Farming

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