Beef prices hit €4.00/kg for stock that tick all the boxes

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

IF the factory end of the cattle business at present was to be compared to a football match you'd be saying it was tight all across the park.

Official quotes from the processors remain unchanged from last week but in reality prices have edged upwards as agents are being squeezed on price by those with cattle to sell.

So the ball is going the way of the farmer in some of the on pitch skirmishes.

As of yesterday morning, beef prices of €4.00/kg were being paid for good bullocks that "ticked all the boxes". Ticking all the boxes"however isn't simple - breed, age, conformation, movements, quality assured and fat score - there are more variations and possibilities than there are appeals boards in the GAA.

In general, however, factories up until last Friday had been successful in holding the line at €3.95/kg as the base for bullocks with some plants being mischievous by continuing to quoting €3.90/kg.

The €4/kg line for bullocks was breached yesterday. Prior to that, over the weekend, I had farmers telling me that any number of combinations of prices from €3.95-3.98/kg were being talked about.

The story with the heifers is that factories are quoting bases as low as €4/kg, but €4.05/kg is generally accepted as where negotiations actually start. Whether they finish there as the week goes on will depend on the supply-demand balance.

There also appears to be good news for those with bulls to sell as after recent price pressures last week saw a levelling off. Prices were reported as firm to slightly improved.

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Under-24 month U grades hardened to just €4/kg with no talk of less being offered, with R grades at €3.90/kg.

However, the O grade bull sees some factories choosing to open a separate price book where Friesian bulls are concerned. Continental or "good O grades" are on €3.80/kg, while his Friesian cousin can only expect €3.70-3.75kg.

Cull cow quotes remain static with Rs making around above €3.50-3.60/kg, with Os on €3.40/kg, while P grades depending on weight and fat score range in general from €3-3.30/kg.

The big question last year and it continues into this year, is where is all the extra meat going?

Bord Bia's recent presentation on how the sector performed in 2017 provides plenty of answers to this and other questions.

Firstly Irish beef grew its share of the UK market by 4pc last year to 283,000 tonnes, while our share of the EU market remained stable at around the 240,000 tonne mark.

Non-EU markets accounted for 34,000 tonnes, which while small at 6pc of the overall export figure, was still a 37pc increase on 2016.

Numbers going through the factories continue to rise with last year's figure of 1.75 million well up on 2016's 1.64 million.

Of further interest here is that while the numbers were up, the actual average weights declined. Steers averaged 352.6kg which is 4.51kg less than the 2016 figure, bulls fell by 3.5kg to 364.8kg, with cull cows down by 2.2kg at 313.1kg on average, while heifers fell 1.8kg to 311.7kg.


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