Beef Prices: Cow kills tilting scales in favour of the factories


Farmers at the ring at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
Farmers at the ring at Headford mart cattle and sheep sale. Photo: Ray Ryan.
Bullocks are back 4.3pc
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Last week’s kill of 36,667 was 839 ahead of the previous week and 3,407 ahead of the equivalent week last year. Factory prices yesterday morning saw no negative effect, with the base prices of steers and heifers remaining at €3.75 and €3.85/kg respectively.

There were reports of attempts to pull bullocks by 5c/kg but they appeared as of yesterday lunch time to have come to nought.

Prices for cull cows remain much as they have for the last month with your better P grade floating around €2.60/kg and O grades on €2.70-2.80/kg. R grades in general are €3.00/kg but I’m told some plants are giving a shake more if the numbers and conformation are good enough.

The bull trade continues to be the whipping boy of the cattle job and although I have reports of €3.80/kg given for U grades and €3.70/kg for Rs, other sources had Rs as low as €3.50/kg with €3.65/kg possible.

When I asked why the big variation I was told “it’s complicated”.

When you see the throughput figures, the trade isn’t “complicated” at all, there are just too many cattle going through the system.

Bord Bia figures for the first half of January show the cow kill is up 11pc to 12,244 on the same period last year, while bulls are up 4.3pc to 11,298.

Bullocks and heifers are back 4.3pc and 2.2pc respectively but it’s not enough. It’s those cow numbers that are keeping the scales tipped in the factories’ favour.

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Embattled beef men may be interested to note the comments of Thomas Vilsack, a former US secretary for agriculture, on the importance of farmers.

Printed below is an extract from a reply he gave to a question asked at a Senate committee hearing about the importance of farmers to society. I include it today because right now cattle farmers need to be reminded about how important their role in society is.

Particularly after last week, when a combination of poorly judged comments from the Taoiseach along with IFA’s proclamation of “Armageddon” for the future of Irish beef combined with the toxic soup of excitable media commentary on Brexit and veganism left me wondering when will all the negativity stop?

For those of you in the beef job at your wits end I offer you this, the edited version of Thomas Vilsack's answer to the question, why have farmers.

“Everyone of us who is not a farmer, is not a farmer because we have farmers. We delegate the responsibility of feeding our families to a relatively small percentage of this country,” he said, explaining that farmers’ productivity allows 99.9pc of Americans to work at whatever jobs they want.

“I don’t have to grow food for my family ... I go to a grocery store and get it...

“If you look at 85pc of what’s grown in this country its raised by two to three hundred thousand people. That’s less than one tenth of one percent of America. But that other 99pc of us can be lawyers and doctors, and peace core volunteers and economists and people who work for government and all of the other occupations because we never actually think “Well jez do I have to grow the food for my family?

"No. I go to the grocery store and get it. So I’m free to do what I ever I want to do with my life. That is an incredible freedom that we take for granted in this country. It is not true in most other countries in this world.

“Rather than being criticised and demonised at times, we ought to be celebrating these people.”

Indo Farming

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