Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Beef prices steady as stability returns to the trade

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Stability seems to be returning to the trade and prices appear to have steadied at last. Bullock quotes range from €3.85-3.90/kg, with heifers on €3.95-4.00/kg.

Bull prices are also no worse than they were last week. The price of under 24-month bulls sees U grades on €4.00-395/kg with some sellers with consistent supplies and quality getting up to €4.05/kg, R grades see prices range from €3.90-3.85/kg with O grades making €3.65-3.70/kg.

The base for under 16-month stock continues at €3.85-3.90/kg.

These are the general run of prices, but some agents continue to quote below these in the belief they might snooker at least one potential seller.

The cow trade also appears to have steadied.

Factory quotes I got yesterday showed a wide variety of prices with upwards of 20c/kg of a variation within grades from one factory to the next.

The general run appears to be €3.20-3.40/kg for Rs, O grades are on €3.20-3.00/kg, with the P+ animal on €2.90-2.70/kg.

The issue in relation to cows is flesh cover - if they have been fed and have good cover it is far easier to talk to the factories. The less cover the less they like them, but they'll still try to buy them.

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There was a general ­expectation from some in the business that with the arrival of the rain and grass beginning to return to normal that the number of cows going into the factories might begin to fall off.

However, one agent told me that he is now getting calls from dairy farmers who have just finished scanning their herds and upon finding "empties" are choosing to move them immediately rather than continue milking with the prospect of slaughter come year end. It will be worth watching to see how all of this will play out come late autumn.

The ICMSA's livestock chairman Des Morrison continues to question how the factories can justify the crippling cuts his members have seen in the price being paid for cull cows.

He also raised with me the question of the value of the fifth quarter. "I have questioned factory representatives on the value of the fifth quarter and the hide. I was given no information.

"If a cull cow made €500 last year in the factory and this year the same animal only brings €300, the question I have is has the value of the offal fallen as well as the value of the meat?"

It's a fair question and it's a question that applies to all cattle. The value of offal imports into China in 2016 was $3.3bn.

In relation to Kepak's acquisition of the 2 Sisters meat group in the UK, some I have spoken to commented that it is an example of factory bosses building their empires abroad on the backs of farmers at home. Maybe it is. But I'd rather we were buying up in the UK than having British companies coming in here. As with the hockey I don't claim to know all the ins and outs of it but I'm damn proud of our ladies team. I'm also proud the Irish beef industry is expanding.

Finally, with factory numbers having run at such high levels for the entire summer there is a growing belief that a window of opportunity for those with beef to sell must surely open at some stage.

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