Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Factories lose battle as prices head north

Joe Healy

No 'ordinary' beef farmer made the Sunday Independent rich list and none are likely to do so in the near future despite rising prices. But it is still good to be able to report positive movement at the start of a week.

Quotes and prices continue to move northwards and indeed reports suggest that some cattle and especially young bulls are heading in that direction too, with 430c/kg flat mentioned as a price.

Staying with the bulls, the general run for U grades is 425-435c/kg, with up to 440c/kg rumoured to have been paid.

The quote and price range for the Rs runs from 415c/kg to 425c/kg, but flat deals are being done for mixes of R and Us. O grades are making 400-405c/kg, while plain P grades are around the 390c/kg mark.

Base quotes for steers are in the 425-435c/kg bracket, with a peak of 440c/kg reported in the southeast yesterday.

Last week's top price of €3,000 for the 1,050kg champion at Athenry Mart show and sale works out at €5/kg if you give him a kill-out of 57pc.

Base quotes of 440-450c/kg are being offered for the heifers.

Finishers with numbers of heifers are negotiating prices above this. One agent said to me in jest that they were not quoting any more, adding if the cattle were there they would buy them.

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Processors are afraid of continuing tightening in supplies.

Last week's kill was down 1,500hd on the previous week at just over 28,000hd, with an expectation of a significant fall in supplies again this week.

IFA's Henry Burns said beef prices were "very lively and rising rapidly", with base prices of 440c/kg for steers and between 455-460c/kg as a base on the grid for heifers.

Bulls have moved to between 435c/kg and 440c/kg. He added that factories had lost the battle in trying to impose price penalties.

The double-muscled E-grade cow is making 420c/kg in Moyvalley. U grades are making 380-405c/kg, while the Rs are at 360-390c/kg.


O grades are selling for 350-365c/kg and I heard that P-grade cows had travelled from the northwest to the west for 365c/kg. This price was also paid in the east for similar stock. Generally, they are making 330-350c/kg.

An Bord Bia reported an improved beef trade again last week, in response to some seasonal tightening in supplies within the Irish and British market.

Trade also continued to be helped by strong demand across most of the key export markets for in-spec cattle.

R-grade steers on the grid made €4.25-4.30/kg, while quotes for heifers generally reached €4.40-4.45/kg.

These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec quality assured (QA) stock. O-grade cull cows made €3.55-3.65/kg.

In Britain, trade was generally steady as demand continued to build in advance of the Easter period.

A solid demand for round cuts is being helped by retailer promotions. Trade for forequarter continues to be steady.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB increased during the past week, with GB R4L grade steers averaging at 378.9p/kg deadweight (equivalent to 455c/kg, including VAT deadweight) for the week ending March 2.

On the continent, there was little change to report with trade firm across most markets. Overall, trade continued to be helped by ongoing tight supplies across key export markets.

Best demand is for hindquarter product. In Italy, R3 young bulls made €4.20/kg, while O3 cow prices stood at €3.11/kg. Irish steer hinds in France made €5.56-5.66/kg, while O3 cow prices made €3.80/kg, inclusive of VAT.

To date this year, strong supplies of cattle have been recorded at export meat plants. Supplies have risen on the back of increased availability of cattle for finishing.


Up to the first week of March, cattle supplies at export meat plants were around 9pc higher at 260,400hd. AIM data for December 2012 revealed an increase of almost 170,200hd in the number of cattle in the 12-24 month age bracket compared to a year earlier.

Most of the increase in availability to date has been evident in the steer category.

Despite the increase in cattle supplies, the R3 steer and heifer price has increased by 3pc and 4.5pc respectively to €4.00/kg and €4.18/kg excluding VAT.

Irish Independent