Cattle buyers seize opportunity to tighten the screw on farmers


Cattle unloaded by farmer. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Cattle unloaded by farmer. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

It would be really nice if I could tie the classic hurling that was played over the weekend to some positive comments about the direction of factory cattle prices - but I can't.

What I can say is that it looks like factory prices are about to turn around, just as Limerick did against Cork.

If the beef trade was a hurling match, the beating farmers are taking at the hands of the factories could see some decide to hang up their hurleys permanently when the final whistle blew.

Some I have spoken to have told me they will be reviewing their entire beef enterprise when they get the last of this year's grass beef away before deciding whether to tackle the prospect of buying replacements or doing some limited winter finishing.

The price of fattening bulls at present I'm told runs at €3.96/hd per day, with that figure covering 12kg of meal and 3kg of straw only. And I'm told that cost will rise.

With the country short of fodder and all meals heading ever upwards, the factories turned the screw another notch over the weekend and effectively wiped another 5c/kg off their quotes for bullocks and heifers.

The prices I heard yesterday had bullocks on €3.85-3.90/kg, with heifers at €3.95-4.00/kg.

The bull job is equally under further pressure this week with less than 24-month U grades at €4.00/kg, while quotes for R grades started as low as €3.80/kg.

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The wheels have started to come off the price of your O-grade bull in a more complex fashion. O+ grade bulls are on €3.65-3.70/kg, while your O- bull is back at €3.60/kg.

The situation in relation to cows is that if you have a better-fleshed animal at any grade you will get more. That puts your R grade around the €3.40/kg mark, while O grades are in the €3.00-3.20/kg, with P+ animals at €2.90-3.10/hd.

These prices were quoted on the proviso that the animals in question had good cover. Prices for those cows that are currently going into the factories that are at the extreme end of the conformation scale and have less cover are in many ways a lottery.

In simple terms, the factory bosses are doing their job 100pc correctly, they are hammering prices when they get the chance. There is no business or moral obligation on them to do anything else.

From the other side, there were statements from various farm organisations yesterday urging farmers to "dig in" and "bargain hard" with the IFA, adding that they had "met with a significant number of the meat factory managers throughout the country over the last two weeks".

I am tempted to ask, to what end?

Indo Farming

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