Farm Ireland

Monday 19 November 2018

Is the end of the cattle glut finally in sight?

New Ross Mart Manager Richard Kirwan with auctioneer Jim Bush
New Ross Mart Manager Richard Kirwan with auctioneer Jim Bush
Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

These are difficult times for those with cattle fit for slaughter, whether they're indoors or out.

A combination of poor prices is being driven by continuing very strong numbers - 37,771 for the week ending October 7 - which in turn are being driven by poor ground conditions.

This has enabled factories to pull bullock prices back to between €3.70-3.75/kg. It's the perfect storm from the factories point of view.

There are those in the cattle business, however, who believe that the end of the glut may be within insight.

Jim Bush, auctioneer with New Ross mart, quoted me Thomas Fuller's famous line, "the night is always darkest before the dawn", on the state of play..

Based on conversations with factory agents, he predicts that numbers of heavy cattle may well begin to dry up sooner rather than later.

"Men I'm talking with don't believe that the numbers are there to keep coming at the rate they are," he said.

Indeed by this day last week reports were emerging from the south-east that the Goodman group was very anxious for stock and that the base price there had firmed again to €3.80/kg.

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The story up the country was not as promising with each passing day bringing little respite from poor weather.

On a more positive note, the payment of the first instalment of this year's single farm payment will at least ease the pressure to sell stock just to keep bills paid.

As of yesterday, Hurricane Ophelia had failed to move factory quotes forward with most plants reported as still quoting €3.70-3.75/kg for bullocks with €3.80 available in places as farmers cancelled lorries due to weather concerns.

Some factories moved very quickly to up the ante to be assured of supplies for today, (Tuesday).

Heifer quotes continue to keep ahead of the bullocks by 10c/kg leaving them between €3.80-3.90/kg.

Cow prices are reported to be under pressure as the dairymen start to weed out under-performing stock.

My information is that while some plants were attempting to pull cow, the factories that specialise in manufacturing beef are still quoting similar to last week and are anxious to keep the supplies coming.

So it's a case of as you were with Rs on €3.40/kg Os €3.30-3.20 and Ps from €3.15/kg back to €3.05.

On the poor quality cows, you are totally at the mercy of the factory. The message is shop around.

Bull numbers

Bull numbers have eased somewhat leading to reports that U grade, over 16-month stock are again seeing €4.00/kg in some plants with knock on positive effects back down the grades.

Base prices for under sixteen month bulls appear to be running from €380-3.85/kg.

The message therefore is that while kill numbers remain very high and prices continue to be under pressure there is real belief among farmers and finishers that the worst may be over.

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