Bull beef prices have taken a hit but in-spec animals still offer profit potential
The start of a new year signals the midway point in the winter feeding season and affords us an opportunity to reflect on how things are progressing. The drop in beef price as the autumn progressed unfortunately impacted on a lot of the animals that were slaughtered for the Christmas market.
The 'Christmas market' traditionally was a time when livestock numbers were scarcer, demand was higher and the specialist finishers could command a few cents extra per kilo to justify housing the animals early to have them available at this stage. In 2013, this price increase didn't come about for a number of reasons:
1.A greater number of animals available for slaughter which allowed meat processors to meet their requirements without paying higher prices;
2.In spite of stronger beef prices in Britain, 50pc of our exports are still going to Continental Europe which operates at a reference price that is lower than current Irish prices;
3.A lot of specialist finishers have adapted their production systems to finishing continental cross bulls. This is the area that has met least demand on the market and has contributed to the overall suppression of beef prices.
In writing my preview of the winter feeding season I signalled the increasing resistance towards any bull beef that does not meet current market specification.
Bulls over 16 months of age and exceeding 420kg carcass weight are much more difficult to market and are immediately discounted on price.
One positive over the past few months is that prices for in-spec continental bulls (under 16 months, carcass weight 380kg-430kg and fat score 3) have held firm and with the QPS being available there has been quite good returns on these animals.