Kill numbers help factories turn screw on farmers


Cattle at Kilkenny mart this week. Photo: Roger Jones
Cattle at Kilkenny mart this week. Photo: Roger Jones
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Factory prices for stock have gone into reverse. Quotes for bullocks yesterday ranged from €3.90-3.95/kg, with that higher figure touted as being "hard got".

It's the same story with the heifer, back by 5c/kg to €4.00-4.05/kg, with Friesians in the south on €3.90/kg.

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Gone is the optimism of a few weeks ago when many I spoke to were confident that €4.00/kg for bullocks might form the base of a resurgence in prices as numbers waned.

The word from many agents is that factories have already booked all the cattle they need for this week.

Strangely, prices on the cull cow front don't yet appear to be as badly affected. R grades continue at €3.30-3.40/kg, with O grades at €3.10-3.20/kg and Ps on €3.00-3.10/kg.

However, with supplies continuing to grow, these prices will probably also come under pressure.

On the bull front prices are also under pressure, with gaps opening between factories and regions. In the midlands for example, those killing bulls yesterday were able to report U grades making as high as €3.80-3.85/kg, with R-grades on €3.70-3.75/kg and your continental O-grade on €3.50-3.60/kg.

In the south, however, some plants were 20-30c/kg off these prices as agents claimed they had no job for bulls at those higher prices - the implication being they did have a job for them at lower quotes.

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Who would have predicted that after a spring that was six weeks better than 2018, with grass growth excellent and most farm jobs for this time of the year well in hand, we'd be looking at such strong factory kill figures.

Figures supplied by Bord Bia for the year to May 18 show that the total kill for steers, heifers, young bulls and cull cows is running 30,057hd ahead of last year, 670,942 versus 640,885.

The biggest increase has come in the number of bulls slaughtered, up 17.7pc to 101,540 as against the 2018 figure of 86,283.

Heifers are up 11pc, at 210,229, from 189,315. Bullock numbers are back 1.3pc at 223,681 and what may surprise many is cull cow numbers are also less at 135,492, a 2.3pc reduction.

While some might point to a sense of foreboding in relation to political events in the UK, the real issue continues to be the surge in supplies.

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