Alarm as factories cut cow prices by €80/hd

Mountrath Mart, Co. Laois ©Kevin Byrne Photography
Mountrath Mart, Co. Laois ©Kevin Byrne Photography

Martin Coughlan and Declan O'Brien

Factories have slashed cow prices, with quotes back as much as 30c/kg over the last fortnight - or around €80/hd.

Meat plants pulled quotes for cows by 10-20c/kg this week - on the back of a 10c/kg reduction last week - with most plants now on a base of 290-300c/kg for O-grade animals.

Fears of a flood of old and empty cows from the dairy herd between now and Christmas have been discounted by the factories. However, dealers report increased farmer enquiries regarding cull cows straight from the parlour.

Some milk suppliers are looking to book in cows for slaughter at the end of the month and aim to continue milking them up to that point.

The hit in factory quotes for cows has also been reflected in price reductions in the marts, with sale prices back €80 to €100/hd for all classes.

In Kilkenny Mart Friesian cows sold for 70c/kg to €1.50/kg last week, wtih continentals making €1.10/kg to €1.90/kg. This is back around 20c/kg over the last fortnight.

The increase in cattle disposals has driven overall kill figures to a new high of over 40,000hd.

Farmers in the west report delays of a week or 10 days in getting cattle killed, and factories have tried to use the lift in numbers to pull bullock prices to 370c/kg. However, this effort has generally failed, with most bullocks bought this week at 375c/kg, and heifers at 385c/kg.

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The downturn in factory quotes has also been reflected in the mart trade, with prices for plainer forward stores back €50-80/hd.

Mart managers complain that the delay in getting cattle killed has impacted on the number of buyers at ringside, with fewer farmers in a position to buy stock until they have their finished cattle offloaded.

Meanwhile, ICMSA president Pat McCormack has called on Meat Industry Ireland (MII) to clarify what exactly is happening in relation to the grid.

Rejecting the idea of factories themselves reviewing their own prices, Mr McCormack said all beef producers must be made aware of what is being considered, there must be full consultation on any changes being considered and, MII will have to provide the market and scientific basis for any changes.

"The reality is that the marketplace has changed substantially since the grid was introduced and the current EUROP grid is probably not reflective of market requirements today," Mr McCormack maintained.

"The meat plants appear to be focused only on increasing price differentials, with the likely result that more animals will be penalised to give additional bonuses to a smaller number of stock."


Mr McCormack insisted that the ICMSA would "vigorously question" the market and the sustainability basis of such a decision.

"The ICMSA's firm view is that any review of the beef grid must involve simplification, a reduction in the number of categories, the payment of the Quality Assured (QA) bonus on all cattle coming from QA herds, and a grid structure that reflects Irish beef production today and market requirements," he said.

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