Beef quotes leave finishers with a lot to ponder

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Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Quotes for bullocks yesterday morning ranged from €3.70-3.75/kg for bullocks and €3.80-3.85/kg for heifers with some factory agents predicting "€3.70-3.80 could happen by the end of the week".

Others in the business maintain those lower prices are already in the system as factory buyers take advantage of the grass finisher in a tight spot with too many cattle and not enough dry ground or the option of a shed.

If you're a grass beef finisher looking out the kitchen window at the minute there are probably several different questions going through your mind.

Firstly, can your land continue to support heavy stock with comfort? Secondly, if you have grass do you have enough and should you be feeding the odd round bale along with meals? Whatever plan you had for the autumn may have gone out that kitchen window due to the weather and the big question now is will keeping those bullocks or heifers on hand actually pay? These are the hard choices.

The choices are not made any easier by prices being driven down by ever increasing weekly kill numbers - 37,452 for the week ending September 30.

The advice from factory agents is that if you have fit cattle on grass give yourself breathing room "and we'll do the best we can for you".

Are we seeing the effect on the market of that predicted 80,000-100,000 extra cattle we were told were in the system at the start of the year? With the national kill to the end of September running 5.6pc ahead of last year at 1,278,078 versus 1,210,712 for the same nine months of 2016 the answer in some ways is yes.

Yet, factory buyers remain keen and the market seems capable of absorbing these extra numbers. So is it more a question of the weather having fouled up orderly disposals rather than retailers not returning good prices to the processing sector?

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