Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Factory Prices: Beef prices on the rise as factories chase supply

Photo: Roger Jones.
Photo: Roger Jones.
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

The experts told us Donald Trump could never be president of the USA; they told us we would never beat the All Blacks in rugby or Austria in soccer and for much of this year beef farmers were told the autumn would see a total melt down in price.

Yet here we are with the unelectable candidate a president-elect, the All Blacks humbled, Austria dismissed and while cattle prices were bullied in October, this month has seen them recover.

Last week’s base price of €3.60-3.65/kg for bullocks appears to have been the bottom of the barrel with the quote yesterday being €3.65/kg while farmers were starting their side of the negotiations at 3.70/ kg.

Heifers are on €3.75/kg although west of the Shannon farmers are confidently expecting €3.80. Yes it is true factories are trying hard to stick at these levels, but their business requires constant supplies and with one eye on the Christmas market amid seasonally reducing supplies they are trying to pace the inevitable price rise.

In the interim, no doubt deals done that will see transport given and weight limits relaxed as the processing sector does everything it can bar lift the price. Latest quotes for bulls sees the 16-24 months category on a graduated flat price of €3.80-385/kg for Us, €360-3.65 for Os with Rs on €370-3.75/kg. Bulls under 16 months are on a grid base of €3.65/ kg.


Cull cows prices remain steady which is a very positive sign given that their numbers are now almost 9.5pc above their 2015 levels for the year to date. Prices continue to range from €3.20 for an R back to €2.90- 2.80 for a P+3 with Os on €3.10-3.00/kg.

I mentioned last week that stock under 30 months are a premium product and as each week passes, because of the predominant spring calving pattern, they become more so at this time of year.

Grid Therefore I was very interested to be told by one feeder in the midlands who has under age Friesians to sell in the run up to Christmas that he has already had an approach from one agent with an offer to buy them “off the grid” when the time comes.

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This news may not please some in the suckling section judging by comments I’ve read recently praising the grid which emanated from that quarter.

However what farmer with stock to sell would not opt for a better price, more control and the comfort of – if not a total flat price – a graded flat price as opposed to the lottery of the grid?

In summary as we hit the midpoint of November 2016 this commentator believes that while prices maybe slow to rise they eventually will – supply will see to that. Whether it will be enough for those with cattle fed in sheds is another question. 

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