Farmers make call for new beef formula

Joe Healy

Words such as 'in-spec' and 'quality assured' have definitely taken on a new level of significance recently. Farmers with this type of stock are currently in a strong position and need to ensure that they maximise the value of those animals.

Beef finishers are struggling to break even at recent prices and have been quite worried over the past week or two that prices might have taken a hit.

Thankfully, this has not been the case and prices and quotes for the early part of this week appear to be solid with demand keen on top of a relatively large estimated kill of 29,500hd last week. This was up 2,500hd on the same week last year.

Quotes that farmers have been getting from the factories on the grid for steers range from 410-420c/kg, with quite a few finishers selling at a minimum of 415c/kg. Others are negotiating prices of 420c/kg, while I heard of genuine base prices of 420-425c/kg including bonuses for quality-assured, in-spec steers.

Quotes and prices for heifers range from a low of 420c/kg up to 435c/kg, with the majority selling at 425-430c/kg. Farmers with numbers or frequent deliveries are securing 430-435c/kg with slightly more mentioned in spots. Again, in-spec heifers are most sought-after.

It is the over-age and heavier bulls that are probably the most difficult to bargain on at the moment. However, I did hear of those types also making a flat price of up to 420c/kg in the midlands, which is as good as the flat deals I have come across for the younger and lighter carcass bulls. In the main, the U grades are making between 420-425c/kg with the Rs at 410-415c/kg. Quotes for the O grades are generally at €4/kg.

There is good demand for the cull cows with quotes and prices very firm. Top-grade heavy cows continue to make between 380-400c/kg and above it on occasions. R grades are making from 360-385c/kg with the Os varying from 345-360c/kg. Well- fleshed P grades have also commanded up to 350c/kg but are normally making between 320-334c/kg.

The IFA's Henry Burns said that cattle prices are hardening with a top of 425c/kg for steers, 438c/kg for heifers, 425c/kg for bulls and 410c/kg for cows.

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Bord Bia reported steady demand across most of the key export markets, helped by tight supplies. Best trade continued for in-spec prime cattle supplies.

Prices quoted for R-grade steers under the Quality Payment System were making between €4.10-4.15/kg, while quotes for heifers were generally making between €4.25-4.30/kg. These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec quality assured stock. O-grade cull cows were making between €3.40-3.50/kg. According to the CSO, Irish net beef production was more than 9pc lower at 496,000 tonnes during 2012 compared to the previous year's levels.

In Britain, trade was reportedly similar to recent weeks. Demand for steak cuts remains firm. However, trade for roundcuts weakened somewhat as the week progressed.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB were steady during the past week, with GB R4L grade steers averaging 373.5p/kg dw (equivalent to 460c/kg incl VAT dw) up to January 19.

On the continent, trade remained relatively firm across most of the key markets, with prices reflecting this pattern. Trade continues to be helped by ongoing tight supplies across key export markets.

In Italy, R3 young bulls increased by 3c to €4.36/kg, while O3 cow prices rose by 3c to €3.14/kg. R3 steers were making €4.24/kg in France, while O3 cow prices were making €3.63/kg inclusive of VAT. The outlook for Irish exports to Spain in 2013 remains positive.

Indo Farming

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