Farm Ireland

Monday 10 December 2018

Have cattle prices, like the weather, become frozen?

Cattle in from the snow this week.
Cattle in from the snow this week.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Like most of the country, I woke up yesterday to frozen ground and the prospect of snow and even colder weather to come.

I had already decided to adjust the ballcock in the last tank on the yard line to allow it flow at a reduced rate continuously in the hope of avoiding possibly losing the supply to the sheds over the coming days.

A friend suggested I check the heater bulb in the pump house. Simple and practical advice aside, how does any of this help with cattle prices? It doesn't but it may help avoid the stress of a frozen water supply and sheds of anxious stock.

However, some sellers are asking whether prices, like the weather, have become frozen. The short answer is no but movement is sluggish.

The quotes I was given for bullocks yesterday morning ranged from a low of €3.90/kg to a high of €4.00/kg. That is the range but I was left in no doubt by several agents that while factories want cattle you have to be prepared to dig in if you want that higher price.

Prices for heifers are in the €4.00-4.10/kg range. Again it's a case of factories playing the poor mouth but stumping up when put to the pin of their collar.

One of the key factors appears to be numbers; sellers with smaller numbers of stock are being told the best they can expect is €3.95/kg for bullocks and €4.05/kg for heifers. That said those higher bases are being paid.

And there is a want for beef. If you have cattle to sell deals are being done.

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However if you are a bigger finisher or are on contract you are in a different league to the ordinary farmer.

I'm told that the watch word for factories with repeating orders to fill is "consistency of supply" and to this end paying above the odds for numbers is not unusual.


I've had reports that bonuses on top of the base price can on occasion run to 20c/kg as factory bosses look after their major suppliers. Unfortunately, to make the books balance the ordinary farmer is being left out in the cold.

The underlying strength of the trade as always is reflected in the price of cull cows who start this week yet again steady. Steady to improving might be a better analysis as prices for R grades hit €3.75/kg last in at least one plant, overall however Rs continue in the €3.60-3.45/kg bracket with Os steady at €3.40/kg while Ps are selling from €3.30-3.00/kg.

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