Abeef finisher said to me over the weekend that our beef factories are like Fine Gael and Labour in that they are competing vigorously with each other at one level while at the next level they appear to be almost too close for comfort.
In any case, there is undoubtedly much more movement from our politicians this week than there is on cattle quotes and prices. This is extremely disappointing for finishers who have incurred ever-increasing costs to get their cattle to this stage.
The steers remain on a base of 330c/kg around the country with the heifers generally at an unchanged 336c/kg base. Factory men seem satisfied with the numbers on offer as, despite the estimated kill continuing to run at 4,000 less than last year, the 30,200 slaughtered last week was similar to the previous week and sufficient to match demand, according to a few of their sources.
Plants mentioned at the 330 and 336c/kg for the steers and heifers above include Aibp, Dawn and Kepak factories as well as Moyvalley, Kildare, Slaney, Dunbia, Duleek and Liffey. Demand in the north east is said to have resulted in up to 350c/kg being paid for young bulls with as high as 350c/kg rumoured to have been paid for heifers. Donegal are paying 350 and 358c/kg for the in-spec R and U-grade bullocks respectively with the heifers at 3c/kg more. Out of spec stock are selling at 11c/kg less than those figures.
Quotes for the U grade young bulls range from 342-347c/kg with Donegal at the higher end. They also fill this role for the Rs where plants vary from 330- 339c/kg. The O grades range between 319-322c/kg. IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran said that cattle prices have to increase immediately by a minimum of 10c/kg in order to cover the extra costs at farm gate. Speaking from the IFA executive council meeting in Dublin yesterday, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny reiterated his strong support for live exports, saying that they are essential for competition and market outlets.
Tops for the cull cows appear to be in the 302-308c/kg bracket, with reports of up to 314c/kg to be got if reasonable numbers of good heavy well-fleshed cows are being offered.
R grades range from 291-308c/kg, while the O grades are making 274-291c/kg. Quotes for the Ps run from 265-280c/kg with Donegal offering up to 300c/kg for the O+ cows killing out over 320kgs. They are paying 305c/kg for the Rs.
AN Bord Bia reported that the cattle trade across all categories eased slightly last week despite lower supplies at export meat plants. This reflects a more sluggish European beef trade.
Quotes for R-grade steers this week under the Quality Payment System were generally in the range 330-333c/kg. Heifer quotes were running at 336-340c/kg. These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec Quality Assured stock. The cow trade also eased slightly with O-grade cows typically selling for between 274 and 286c/kg.
In the UK, trade remained unchanged, with little forward buying being reported. Trade for round and steak remains slow while trade has reportedly settled down for forequarter product.
Reported cattle prices from the AHDB eased slightly, with GB R4L-grade steers averaging at Stg 284 pence/kg dw (equivalent to 357c/kg incl VAT dw) for the week ended February 12.
On the Continent, trade remained somewhat sluggish with best trade reported for roundcuts and silversides. In Germany, the R3 young bull price is making €3.82 with the O3 cow price making €2.70. Irish steer hinds are making around €5.26/kg in France, while in Italy, the R3 young bull price is averaging €3.76/kg, with O3 cows making €2.70/kg.
Meanwhile, IFA Animal Health Project Team chairman John Waters has welcomed the decision to confine the BSE testing of animals for slaughter, to cattle over 72 months from July 1 next. This change from animals over 48 months represents an annual saving of over €1.7m for Irish farmers.
Mr Waters said the extension of the testing age to 72 months removes in excess of 85,000 animals from the BSE test requirement, and coupled with the extension from 30 months, represents total savings of over €11.7m for farmers in reduced BSE testing over the past two years.
The IFA chairman said: "Only one case of BSE was identified in Ireland last year, which is a clear indication the disease has been virtually eliminated in this country."