Farm Ireland

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Beef Trade: Trade steady apart from a 10c/kg dip for cull cows

Photo Roger Jones.
Photo Roger Jones.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

AS we turn into the second half of the year the trend of the cattle trade at factories appears to be “steady as we go”. With the exception of the cull cow, all other sections remained largely unchanged yesterday morning.

That said the bullock ap­pears to be edging up towards a €4.20/base price although the general run is still in and around €4.15/kg.

The heifer is being generally quoted at €4.25/kg, but those with numbers and a tougher disposition are securing €4.30/ kg. Among the bulls, those under 16 months are coming in on a base of between €4.10- 4.15/kg with those up to 22 months seeing flat prices this week of €4.15/kg for Rs with Us on €4.20 and any “good Os” that are about floating from €4.05-4.10/kg.

With the cull cow, there is what I would describe at this point as wheel spin in relation to her price. While the figures show cow numbers as being up by 13pc year on year, the trade for cull cows has been a dinger for the last few months as de­spite those increased numbers factory demand kept well on top of supply.

However, we are now seeing the first of the serious numbers of cows coming off of grass. This has led to cows being quoted possibly 10c/kg less this week at prices from €3.60/kg for Rs back to €3.20-3.25/kg for ordinary Ps while in between O grades are on €3.40/kg with the better P+s at €3.30/kg.

The reality is that numbers of bullocks and heifers coming off of will also start to gradually increase from now on.

Finishers are not in a bad place relative to this time last year as prices for bullocks and heifers are anything from 5c-15c/kg ahead of the price this time last year. However that 5c-15c/kg has been built on the backs of the shed men — men whose businesses “eat money” when it comes to feed, main­tenance, and general running expenses.

The man with the animal on grass has far lower bills when it comes to these items. Don’t get me wrong you don’t run a grass farm for nothing either, but it’s all relative.

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The question is should the factories decide to pull the price on the basis that some of these “grass men” might be softer sellers because they can afford to take less and not because the retail market has gotten difficult.

US beef

Retail demand is still strong and factories will only succeed in reducing prices at this time if they actually get stock softly.

Donald Trump could never be accused of being ‘soft’ and his regime appears to have a knack for getting things done. Three weeks ago the US Department of Agriculture announced the re-opening of US beef exports to China.

US beef exports were worth in the region of $3 billion dol­lars at the time of a global ban on US beef exports when it was confirmed the US had con­tracted BSE in December 2003. What Trump and his boys have done is allow Chinese chicken to enter the US in exchange for China lifting its ban on US beef.

China is the world’s second biggest buyer of beef after the US and is also the last to lift that particular BSE ban. Trump is due to visit England in October of this year and US beef could very well be eyeing a spot on the menu.

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