Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Confidence and stability still an issue

Joe Healy

Beef farmers will be hoping for a revival in their fortunes following Holy Thursday's meeting between all the industry stakeholders.

While it has taken much more time than it should for Minister Simon Coveney to show some leadership towards the beef sector, he now needs to sort out the issues in a way that restores long-term confidence and stability.

One issue currently causing problems for farmers is the 30-month cut off for the QA payment. A 36-month age limit would give finishers more time and help on meal costs while also levelling out the weekly kill over the year.

Quotes and prices show very little change although I heard of a few more 370c/kg prices for U grade bulls, some positive movement on the cull cow side and mentions of good heavy culls making up to 350c/kg.


The poorer types also improved with the bottom lots showing a rise of 10c/kg to a range of 270-280c/kg. O grades are at 280-300c/kg with Rs at 310-340c/kg.

U grade bulls are selling for 360c/kg while the Rs vary from 345-350c/kg. O grades continue to sell between 300-330c/kg.

Overage steers and heifers remain a struggle with 375-380c/kg being the base for steers. Underage steers are at 385-395c/kg with hardened sellers getting 390-395c/kg and it is a similar story for the heifers.

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IFA National Livestock Chairman Henry Burns met the EU Commission last week demanding urgent action to remove the artificial blockages preventing live export trade to Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

He argued that the EU Single Market must work and retailers and factories cannot be allowed to put blockages in place which prevent proper operation of the Single Market.

He said retailers and processors are refusing to buy cattle born in the Republic and fattened and slaughtered in Northern Ireland, despite EU labelling regulations being very clear.

Bord Bia reported that the beef trade showed little change, with plentiful supplies and subdued demand being evident across our key export market.

Prices quoted by export meat plants were similar to previous weeks. Steers were on average bought at a base of between €3.90-3.95/kg on the Quality Payment System.

Heifers traded at a base of €3.95/kg, excluding the €0.12/kg bonus for in-spec QA animals.

Department of Agriculture figures estimate last week's kill at 32,286hd.


In Britain, finished cattle prices declined by 2p/kg on average for the week ending April 15 to 367.8p/kg dw (equivalent to 469c/kg incl VAT).

In France, the beef trade was stable. Demand for BBQ cuts is up while demand for skirts, chuckroll and tongue is down.

In some good news for beef farmers, Bord Bia's Margaret McCarthy said that market fundamentals remain very positive for the global beef industry, according to a Rabobank report.

The market opening up for Australian chilled fresh beef products is boosting import volumes, accounting for more than 50pc of imports in 2013.

Prospects for the global beef industry remain positive for the coming months as continuing pressure on supplies and tight availability of competing proteins will boost price levels.

Trends by region:

* US: Volatility is the biggest factor impacting the cattle market. The exploding pig market due to the rapid spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea Virus will be the wildcard in the coming months. The pork shortage could have a significant impact on total meat supplies, strengthening beef demand.

* Australia: Poor climate conditions are keeping slaughter levels historically high with strong international demand supporting record boxed beef exports in Q1. A drier-than-normal period for Queensland and northern NSW and a continued high flow of cattle to markets is expected.

* Brazil: Continued strong demand will result in firm cattle prices in Q2. Domestic demand is likely to increase on the back of the World Cup and presidential elections, while exports will be driven by the continued depreciation of the US dollar.

* Canada: The long and extreme winter has been taxing, forcing increased feed usage. This, in conjunction with cattle shipments to the US means Canada is rapidly going through their available cattle supply with limited interest in expansion.

* Argentina: Exports are expected to remain low as limitations continue, with the aim of keeping domestic meat prices low.

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