Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Farmers lose €250/hd on underfinished stock

Martin Ryan

Waterlogged fields to blame as prices drop by as much as 100c/kg

Beef farmers struggling to cope with waterlogged fields have resorted to sending hundreds of underfinished cattle to meat factories at discounted prices.

Farmers are losing up to 100c/kg or €250/hd by sending fat score 1 cattle to the factory instead of finishing them.

Their losses are compounded by a €60 fall in factory prices for finished cattle in the past week and reports from the marts that cattle prices are back by around €60/hd.

Friesian and plain bullocks are down €40-60/head. Mart prices for beef bullocks and heifers have also fallen, although to a lesser extent, with prices down €10-15/hd. Analysis of the latest Department of Agriculture figures show between half and three quarters of the 25 meat factories have recorded fat score 1 steers in the kill each week and about half the factories have recorded fat score 1 heifers.

Average prices recorded up to July 8 were as low as 140c/kg for O=1-steers, while prices for R grade steers were up to 100c/kg less than the national base price for the week.

The policy of the Department of Agriculture is not to include an average price in a category unless there are sufficient stock in the particular category to give a representative result.

This is the first time national average prices have been reported by Department of Agriculture for all R1 grades and half U/O fat score 1 grades of steers since weekly reporting was introduced 10 years ago.

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However, beef factory bosses are playing down the significance of a sharp increase in the supply of light and underfinished cattle to the plants.


"Having reviewed the monthly carcase classification data for steers for January through to May, in particular looking at fat classes 1 and 2, it would appear that there were fewer steers falling into these fat scores than in the same period last year," maintained a spokesperson for Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

Teagasc experts are reporting that the waterlogged conditions on heavy soil has had a big impact on the quality of intake.

Concentrates and silage are being fed on their heavy soil farms to supplement the grass.

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan urged farmers to bargain hard and consider all of the options before bringing underfinished cattle to factories.

The mart trade is reflecting the downturn in the factory trade and difficult weather conditions, with more cattle for sale and weaker prices.

Kilkenny Mart auctioneer George Chandler said rain was starting to have a bigger effect on the trade, with Friesian and plain bullocks down €40/hd and beef bullocks and heifers back by €10-15/hd.


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