Farm Ireland

Monday 16 July 2018

Beef trade finely balanced as processors chase supply

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The current situation on the factory side of the business is that over the last month factory bosses have been a bit like the English pack at Twickenham - when it's not going your way collapse the scrum.

That's another way of saying that week on week for the last month prices have been reset at more or less the same place every Monday morning.

Granted farmers are maybe marginally ahead but if you've €200-300/hd of feed gone into your cattle at this point, being marginally ahead is not a whole lot of consolation.

One glimmer of hope, however, is the positive news from China with Tánaiste Simon Coveney maintaining in Beijing last week that Irish beef will finally be on sale there this summer.

Given the potential problems in store for Irish beef from Brexit and an EU-Mercosur deal, some good news on the beef front would be welcome.

It would also be a welcome return for what has been an eight-year investment by the Irish state and the Irish beef industry.

Meanwhile, yesterday saw quotes varying from €3.95-4.00/kg for bullocks while heifer quotes ranged from €4.05-4.10/kg, effectively the same as last week.

I've had reports that there is 5c/kg more in the offing from some plants.

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Among the plants quoting €4.00/kg for bullocks and €4.10/kg for heifers are Moyvalley Meats. One of their representatives said that with two more short weeks coming up, the intake of cattle could very well be affected.

Factories will effectively lose a day's kill for the next three weeks between yesterday's bank holiday, Good Friday and Easter Monday.

The issue for a lot of factories in relation to these lost days is as much to do with their capacity to bone out carcases than their ability to keep the kill figures up.

Moving back to prices, bulls are steady at where they were last week.

U grades under 24 months are selling from €4.00-4.05/kg with R grades on €3.95-4.00 while Os appear steady at €3.80-3.85/kg.

As always there's a bit of give and take with some sellers getting R grades away at U grade prices depending on how the deal is done. The under 16-month bull is trading off €3.95-4.00/kg base with reports that those with better quality O grading stock can expect a flat price if conditions are right.

The cull cow trade remains firm with Rs selling up to €3.70/kg with Os on €3.40-3.45 while your better P grade will get you €3.30/kg. Poorer conformation Ps slip back to €3.00/kg or less on occasion.

A word of advice to dairy farmers when selling cull cows - ask the price before you put them up on the lorry.

The outlook for the trade overall appears to be more of the same notwithstanding the effect those Bank and church holidays will have.

Angus Woods of IFA said: "There is a very fine balance between supply and demand with factories very anxious for stock". He also said "Some factories were getting feeders to bring forward the delivery of cattle by three or four days"

It makes you wonder how full the factories' own feedlots now are with fit cattle?

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