Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Cattlemen finally reap the rewards

Joe Healy

Beef men are currently reaping the rewards of having patience. Week on week, prices are some 15-16pc ahead of where they were at the same time last year, with the average for the year to date running at 13-14pc up on last year's levels. Cull cow prices are 17pc stronger than what they were for the first four months of last year.

To say it is a seller's market would be an understatement, as processors are using every tool at their disposal to secure adequate supplies. Cattle farmers definitely needed a break and, thankfully, this seems to be their turn in the sun. Long may it last.

Quotes and prices are all over the place as every sort of a bargain is being done, and sweeteners such as transport are being offered to close deals. Strong prices that were attracting some cattle across the Border have also prompted the local factories to increase prices.

I have heard of a 381c/kg base being refused for heifers. Another flat price of 374c/kg for R-grade heifers was also refused and I heard that one factory pleaded with a seller not to go elsewhere with his stock, even when he demanded in excess of 390c/kg flat for heifers.


Donegal is paying 375c/kg and 384c/kg for the R and U-grade in-spec heifers respectively and 3c/kg less for the steers. They are on 361c/kg and 370c/kg for the R and U bulls.

Some plants continue to quote as low as 355c/kg for the heifers, with the general base quote ranging from this up to 361c/kg. However, if you are selling, you can and should have a minimum starting point of 361-367c/kg for your heifers and then work from there.

Allowing the normal 6c/kg difference between steers and heifers, you should be taking a similar line for your bullocks and not entertaining any agent or plant that begins talking of a base below 356c/kg. Base prices of much more than these have been refused by farmers in places. Some farmers have done flat deals at 361-364c/kg, while others are demanding and securing prices 5-10c/kg more.

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U-grade young bulls are making 364-375c/kg. R grades are selling for 356-364c/kg, with the Os at 339-350c/kg.

Cull cows are going from strength to strength as flat deals of 330c/kg are being done for a mixture of O, R and U grades. Heavy Friesian cows have sold for 327c/kg flat. The lowest quote I got for P+3 cows was 294c/kg. O grades were going for 300-314c/kg, with O+ cows over 320kg carcass making 316c/kg in Donegal. Cows grading R are at 316-325c/kg while top-quality cows were selling up to 330c/kg.

With the processors struggling to meet demand for beef this week, the IFA's Michael Doran said they were forced to offer an extra 6-10c/kg to get stock and he urged finishers to shop around, bargain tough and realise top prices.

Meanwhile, Bord Bia reported the strengthened trade of the past week reflected better fifth quarter returns, a steady demand for steak cuts and signs of tightening finished cattle supplies.

Indo Farming