Price gap between Irish and UK fat cattle soars 50pc in a month

MII warned that it is inevitable that producer prices will fall as a direct result of the loss of UK market share. Photo: Gerry Mooney
MII warned that it is inevitable that producer prices will fall as a direct result of the loss of UK market share. Photo: Gerry Mooney
ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The price differential between Irish and British fat cattle increased by more than 50pc over the last month amid mounting Brexit uncertainty.

Irish finishers received €85/hd less than their British counterparts for fat heifers this month, compared to a €55/hd difference in January.

Figures released by the LMC in Northern Ireland show that the Irish price for R3 heifers stood at 379.9c/kg for the week ending February 10, while farmers in Britain received 405.7c/kg.

This represents a price differential of 25.8c/kg, which equates to €85/hd on a 330kg carcass.

Meanwhile, the price difference between Northern Ireland and Republic for R3 heifers is 18c/kg or €60/hd.

The ICSA pointed out that an even bigger differential has emerged for young bulls, with the gap between British and Irish prices widening to €150/hd for U3 animals.

"The differential is unacceptable and does not even allow for the fact that bulls over 400kg are being crucified. The reality is that Irish farmers are being hit much harder by Brexit than British farmers, even though Ireland did not cause Brexit," said ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham.

Mr Graham pointed out that prices for young bulls are 32c/kg back on last year, but just 7c/kg lower in Britain.

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"If you have bulls over 400kg, which is typical for continental cattle, you are down at least another 10c. The reality is that every possible option for winter finishing is unviable," Mr Graham maintained.

"When you see that the euro is weaker against sterling this year compared to last, we have to question what is going on? Brexit does not explain this differential," he insisted.


Mr Graham said the collapse in beef prices over the last five months had sapped farmer confidence.

"Far from pushing cattle to finish at young ages, the message is that farmers should forget about intensive farming altogether, keep the minimum amount of stock and spend as little money as possible."

The LMC figures show that the highest price for R3 heifers was paid in Italy (427.7c/kg) followed by Sweden (406.3c/kg), then Britain, Northern Ireland, France (391c/kg) and Spain (387.6c/kg).

The Irish price was seventh of the 15 countries included in the survey, ahead of other major cattle producing nations such as Poland, Germany, Austria and Denmark.

The EU average price for R3 heifers in the survey was 380.7c/kg.

The higher quotes for stock in the North have prompted increased activity from northern buyers in some southern marts.

David Quinn said buyers from the North were active for fatstock at sales in Carnew over the last few weeks.

Mr Quinn said the Northern buyers were particularly active in Carnew Mart's special fatstock sales of late January and early February.

"They have not been around in the same numbers since, but there hasn't been the same number of fat cattle on offer in recent sales and the beef trade in the North has been a bit stickier of late," he explained.

Mr Quinn said the bulk of the activity in the mart of late has been for store cattle, with lighter stores in strong demand and securing some very fancy prices particularly with the level of grass growth.


Difference is now €85 for 330kg carcass and up to €150/hd on young bulls

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