Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tight supplies sees 5c/kg lift in beef prices

Martin Coughlan

Martin Coughlan

“Cattle are just scarce” were the words of more than one factory agent to me recently. While you can never paint a picture with just one colour, so too with the factory trade.

There is little doubt that cattle are scarce but regional variations add some colour to the price picture which changes the further up the country you go.

Bullock prices as of yesterday were working off of a €3.85- 3.90/kg base in the south to €3.90-3.95/kg in the midlands and west. Heifers appear to be more uniform with €4.00-4.05/kg the general run across the country, although several agents reported “ undisclosed” or “private deals” being done.

There are also other angles to the trade, depending on the type of finisher you are. There are rumours of different deals being done with larger fulltime beef finishers - many of whom have pre-set price contracts that operate on bonuses above official quotes - and farmers with beef as second string enterprise?

With the sun shining, grass growing and cattle to buy for grass the pressure is starting to mount.

The question now is will farmers and finishers sell or hold out for further increases?

It’s often a toss-up as to which is more important - selling as quickly and as best you can and getting out to the marts to buy replacements before their prices begin to go totally out of bounds, or toughing it out and trying to squeeze all you can out of the factories while hoping the mart trade doesn’t go ballistic in the mean time.

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It’s a dilemma, but not a bad one to have should prices remain firm or harden further. Hardening further is the cull cow price with factories remaining very active in their pursuit of good sources of manufacturing beef.

Mart prices for better conformation cull cows are now seeing €2/kg as the norm, while the factory price this week sees another 5c/kg nailed onto quotes. R grades are fetching €3.45-3.55/kg, with O grades on €3.30-3.35/kg, and P+3s now on €3.15-3.20/kg .

The remaining P grades are back to €3.00/kg. The bull trade while moving, hasn’t taken off to the same extent as everything else despite their numbers being back roughly 1,000hd on Saint Patrick’s week last year.

That said, the prices being paid are running at about 5c/kg or more above official quotes especially in the west and midlands. This then gives a general spread as follows: U grades €4.00-3.95/ kg, Rs €3.95-3.90 and O grades at €3.85-3.80/kg.

Meanwhile, Bord Bia reports that exports from Brazil have come under pressure in light of recent sanitary issues with a number of temporary restrictions in place across key importing markets.

US import demand remains strong due to a decline in supplies from traditional sources such as Australia and New

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