Farm Ireland

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Martin Coughlan: 'The push for better young bull prices comes with some risks attached'

Some beef markets require bulls to be slaughtered under 16 months of age, with a minimum carcass fat score of 2+ (6 on a 15 point scale).
Some beef markets require bulls to be slaughtered under 16 months of age, with a minimum carcass fat score of 2+ (6 on a 15 point scale).
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Despite last week's factory kill being 37,116, once you exclude the 1,095 calves slaughtered, prices appeared to be no better or worse this week than they were last week.

Bullocks and heifers continue on €3.75 and €3.85/kg for yet another week while prices for bulls see Rs in the €3.40-3.50/kg range, with Us at €3.60/kg. O grade bulls are reported as being steady at €3.30-3.20/kg.

IFA president Joe Healy yesterday waded into the current crisis facing bull producers, calling on the minister to intervene with the factories "to park up the age, weight and price cuts and prioritise the young bull kill".

My view is that the Food Harvest 2020 blueprint with its aim of increasing the value of beef exports by 20pc as well as expanding the dairy herd by 50pc is key to the current factory beef price situation.

This was a point taken up yesterday by IFA's beef chair Angus Woods. "Factories have a major responsibility to finishers and they need to step up to the plate. (They) told the Minister and farmers to expand numbers as they had no difficultly in selling the beef.

"Now they are telling finishers they don't want their stock."

There is a danger in the IFA's approach, however, that telling the factories to prioritise bulls over everything might lead to pressure being put on everything else.

Edmond Graham, ICSA's beef chair also got stuck into the debate surrounding the viability of bull beef production."I am calling on Teagasc to make it very clear that farmers should not get involved in dairy bull beef production.

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"Friesian bulls are just about making €3.00-€3.10/kg at present while ordinary bulls are getting €3.50-€3.60, which is still back a good 40c on this time last year. It is way too high of a risk and even if markets improve to the extent that there is a steady demand, the economics of dairy bull beef simply doesn't stack up."

The question I now pose is if everybody agrees that producing bull beef from the dairy herd makes no sense what is to become of this years male dairy calves? And is squeezing the current crop of Friesian X yearlings the only option?

Moving back to current prices, the story on cull cows also continues the same as it has for the last number of weeks.

R grade cows are hovering around the €3.00/kg mark, while O grade cows vary up and down from €2.80-2.85/kg and your better P3 grade cow continues on €2.50-2.60/kg.

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