Beef Trade: It’s a cattle crush as buyers vie for stock

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

THOSE with either factory fit, heifers, bullocks or bulls to sell can take heart from reports that factory buyers continue to knock each other out in their pursuit of cull cows and out of spec bullocks at marts.

This is leading to a belief that prices for better beef should remain at stable to firm in the short term.

Reports such as those from Ballinakill mart last week show cull cows sold to a top of €2.15/kg off a €1.40/kg base as factory agents bought for a continuing strong manufac­turing beef market.

In Ballymahon out of spec 2014 and 2015 heavy bullocks were fit to make anything from €2.00-2.40/kg.

Meanwhile, the number of cows going through the facto­ries continues to climb as they always do at this time of year, up 210 at 7,756 for the week ending July 15 compared to 7,546 for the same week in 2016. Prices are running any­where from 40-50c/kg ahead of last year.

Back then your R grade cow was on €3.15-3.20/kg back to €2.90-2.80/kg for the better P grade.

Yesterday quotes for cows remained stable at €3.60- 3.65/kg for R grades with Os on €3.40-3.45/kg. The better P+ type was on €3.30/kg with the scale then gradually sliding back to around €3.00/ kg for other Ps.

Moving to the bullocks and heifers it’s largely as you were with quotes for bullocks staying in the €4.00-4.05/kg bracket while heifer quotes continue to run at between €4.10-4.15/kg.

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However, a feeling seems to have crept into the market place that while the factories are very keen on buying both cows and heavy out of spec bullocks at the marts to feed their need for manufacturing beef, they are less inclined to go over the line on price where prime stock are con­cerned.

One factory agent told me: “We want everything, but at a price”. While the factories give clear indications that they want beef “at a price” and are concentrating in the very public arena of the marts and kicking up a great deal of dust in the process, I still think the underlying strength of the market has remained largely unchanged.

Order book

What is really going on is that a lot of factories are operating on a short-term order book.

They are paying more when they have to or when the numbers warrant it but numbers are not breaking down the door.

On the issue of numbers the young bull kill for the year is running at 6.9pc below the 2016 figure, which is doing no harm to their prices.

In general, prices for the heavier over 16-month bull are running at €4.10-415/kg for Us with Rs on €4.05/kg with Os on €3.95/kg. Under 16 months the R grade base price is €4.05/kg with bo­nuses above this plus quality assurance also to be added.

Next weekend is the August bank holiday which means a four-day factory week. Some cattlemen I know were targeting to shift a load or two ahead of that break from a long way out. I can see some of these boys heading to the Galway races armed with a factory cheque.

All these factors may qui­eten cattle supplies in early August.

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