Farm Ireland

Saturday 19 January 2019

Beef prices edge upwards onto firmer ground


Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Manchester City secured their third premier league title in seven seasons on Sunday with five games still to play.

Still this wasn't an unexpected feat.

On the farming side a parallel could be drawn on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed's announcement of the re-opening of the Chinese market to Irish beef, a move that was largely expected to occur this year.

From speaking to farmers and farm representatives it's clear that the majority have a positive outlook on Ireland's newly announced beef deal with China, but they want this positivity to be reflected in factory prices sooner rather than later.

IFA president Joe Healy welcomed the announcement and said that "the opening of the Chinese market, after a lot of hard work, presents the beef sector with an opportunity to build on the progress the Irish dairy and pig meat sectors have made in China in recent years". However, he stressed it must deliver for farmers.

ICSA's national beef chair Edmond Graham was more cautious as he remarked: "We have been listening to optimism about China for five years but it is no use to us if it does not result in a price rise."

On the immediate price front the news appears to be getting a bit more positive as prices yesterday morning for heifers and bullocks appeared to be edging upwards onto firmer ground.

Projected bullock base prices among my sources yesterday ranged from €4.00 to €4.10/kg, while the spread on heifers was from €4.10-4.20/kg.

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Bulls under 24 months see U grades being paid up to €4.15/kg, while the price for Rs ranged yesterday from €4.00-4.10/kg, with O grades on €3.90-3.95/kg.

In relation to under 16-month stock, factories are at present very reluctant to let the R grade base price move above a range of €4.00-4.05/kg.

The reason behind this reluctance is simple - a top conformation younger bull can click up to 24c/kg above the base, thus putting them in the region of potentially €4.29/kg or a full 14-19c/kg above the flat price being offered for U grades under 24-months.

On the other hand I see the effort and expense of those who are in the younger bull game requiring at least this level of payment to make it some way viable.

Steady prices

Cull cow prices continue to be steady yet rewarding.

R grade cows are being paid up to €3.80/kg by those factories who specialise in the manufacturing beef side of the business, while some others with only a passing interest cannot seem to get past the €3.60/kg mark.

Good O grades are making from €3.60-3.40/kg while your better P can match the bottom of the O grade price range at €3.40/kg depending on how good a seller you are.

Lesser grade P animals fall away to €3.20/kg as you slip down the conformation and fat score table.

One agent I spoke to was strong on the need for farmers to do their research especially when selling cows.

"It does no harm to pick up the phone and ring your agent and your neighbours and try to get a feel for the trade," said the agent.

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