Factories can pick and choose from abundance of bulls
While this is a new year, base prices for bullocks and heifers have remained exactly as they were in my last report before Christmas, ie €3.75/kg for steers with heifers 10c/kg better at €3.85/kg.
On the bull side, the story is at best the same as it was before the break, with under 24-month U grade bulls selling for €3.80/kg, Rs making €3.70/kg, while O grades are around the €3.50/kg mark. That's the good news. The bad news is that there appears to be, from what I'm hearing, an awful lot of bulls in the system at present, resulting in the factories being able to pick and choose their customers.
Those suffering the most appear to be the men with Friesian types, with many reports circulating of factories unwilling to take the numbers they are being offered. Those that do find a new home, seem to be doing so at a flat price of €3.50/kg.
The story among those with cull cows to sell is that prices for Rs continue to hover around the €3.00/kg mark, with maybe a shake more going on occasion. O grades are at €2.70-2.80/kg, while your better P grade is in the €2.50-2.60/kg price range, depending on cover. After that, it's a lottery but it can also depend on how good your agent is.
There does come a point, however, when I believe the factory prices of very poor cull cows are calculated not so much on what their meat actually might be worth but on what their hides and offal will make. I know of Jersey cows sold to a factory recently on the basis that the farmer told the lorry driver agent: "Get what you can for them." The eventual price varied from €1.50-1.60/kg.
I don't have a problem with the price, what bothers me is that animals who in their entirety could end up going into cat and dog food because they are not really worth boning out are taking up space on a kill line at a time when those with prime beef can't get in the door.
What of the future? What might 2019 bring? After the blizzards, the deluges and the drought of 2018, how bad might Brexit be by comparison? Some experts and politicians have painted a picture of a total trade shutdown as the British system wrestles with the logistics of implementing WTO tariffs.
Both the Kaiser and Hitler tried to starve the British people, so are we saying that where both of these warlords failed, the Conservative Party may succeed?