Strong kill figures start to deliver a beef price boost


A panoramic view of the action at Carnew Mart.
A panoramic view of the action at Carnew Mart.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

Before getting into factory prices, a word of caution to all who work with cattle. I had another report over the weekend of an incident on a farm where an aged stock bull charged its owner.

The man got away but it was a close one. We are all guilty of being too casual at times when dealing with stock. Be careful.

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The news on the factory price front is a bit like the weather - improving.

While numbers continue to be strong and with the combined national kill of steers, heifers, young bulls, cows and other stock running at 8.2pc or 38,542 ahead of the 2018 figure to the end of the first week of April, there are indications that factories are becoming keener on sourcing stock.

This extra edge has helped sharpen prices to the point where yesterday bullocks were more likely to be €3.75 than €3.70/kg while heifers were reported as being solid at €3.85/kg with a bit of €3.90/kg thrown in.

There was also some good news for the men with bulls. Base prices for under 16-month bulls were yesterday reported to be running from €3.60-3.70/kg in places.

The trick, however, is not to have them too heavy and with good fat scores; not easily done admittedly but there appears to be a market once you tick those boxes.

That then appears to have left your under 24-month bull on prices ranging from €3.60-3.70/kg for U grades, with Rs on €3.50-3.60/kg and O grades generally back around €3.40-3.30/kg. Friesian types and those with poor fat scores continue to fall outside of these prices.

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Underpinning the whole trade is the cull cow and the news on that front is also encouraging.

I was told that up to €2.90/kg was paid flat for cows last week, meaning that one with the other, your O/P grade cow is probably better today by 10c/kg.

R grade cows are reported as now selling from €3.00-3.20/kg with O grades making €2.80-3.00/kg with the better P grade around the €2.70-2.90/kg.

Kill numbers

While kill numbers for last week were not available yesterday, looking back at this time last year, we see the beginnings of a gradual falloff in supplies from around this time.

What might come against the job in the very short term, from the farmer's point of view, is that with yesterday being a bank holiday, this is a short week meaning less stock goes through the system.

The first four months of 2019 have been very tough for those fattening cattle. However, with some spring shoots beginning to appear in relation to price, it's worth remembering that Bord Bia predicted back in January that there could be up to 40,000 less cattle to be slaughtered this year.

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