Wouldn't it be great if beef farmers could do like CIE and, just at a whim, impose price hikes of up to 18pc with almost immediate effect.
Alas, it doesn't work like that for farmers and finishers have to make do with slow and reluctant increases like the 1pc added to factory quotes this week.
Quotes for the steers are generally at 390-395c/kg. Some finishers are bargaining hard and securing a base of up to €4/kg on the grid. In-spec R grades are making up to 408c/kg in the northwest, with Us at 418c/kg. R and U grade heifers travelling to the same plant are making 414c/kg and 426c/kg respectively.
Elsewhere, the base quote for heifers is 400-410c/kg. Prices paid are 410-415c/kg in the main, with a few farmers with well-fleshed heifers nailing down a base of 420c/kg.
Mixes of R and U grade bulls have made up to 410c/kg. Quotes and prices for U grades are at 400-410c/kg and Rs are at 395-405c/kg. O grades are at 380-390c/kg. Friesian R grades have made up to €4/kg, with O grade Friesians commanding 390c/kg. Some dairy-bred Friesian bulls have travelled to the North for a price of 395c/kg.
The best I've heard for quality heavy cull cows is 390c/kg but prices for good cows range from 360c/kg to 390c/kg. O grades are at 325-346c/kg. P+ cows are making between 305-334c/kg. No matter what category of stock you are selling it pays to shop around. One farmer I spoke to last week bargained successfully for a 10c/kg increase on the initial quote for 34 animals. If those animals killed out at 350kg, that translates into an extra €35/animal or €1,190 in total.
Commenting on the beef trade, IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said prices were continuing to rise, with top prices of 405c/kg for steers, 420c/kg for heifers and 390c/kg for cull cows. He added that prices were still rising in our main market, Britain, where there is a real shortage of stock for the Christmas trade.
The trade showed further improvement during the week according to An Bord Bia, reflecting on-going strong seasonal demand for tight supplies. The best trade continues to be for in-spec prime cattle supplies.
Prices quoted for R grade steers under the Quality Payment System were €3.90-3.95/kg, while quotes for heifers were generally €4.00-4.05/kg. These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec Quality Assured stock. O-grade cull cows were making €3.25-3.35/kg.
Cattle supplies at export meat plants for the week ending November 10 stood at 31,200 head, some 3,000hd lower than the corresponding week in 2011. Cattle supplies to-date this year are running around 13pc or 180,800hd behind last year.
In the UK, trade was reported as reasonable, with supplies matching demand levels. Demand for forequarter product continued to remain steady. Trade for steak and round cuts was slower than usual but demand is expected to build in the lead up to Christmas.
Reported cattle prices from the AHDB improved slightly with GB R4L grade steers making Stg 357.3 pence/kg deadweight (equivalent to 468c/kg including VAT deadweight) for the week ended November 10.
On the Continent, trade across most of the key markets firmed, with prices reflecting this pattern. Best demand was for forequarter cuts like featherblades and chucks.
On some markets, demand for certain fifth quarter cuts remains strong, particularly for tongues and cheekmeat. Demand for hindquarter cuts such as fillets remain subdued, but this trade is expected to return to more normal levels in the lead up to Christmas. In France, while Irish steer hinds are making from €5.48-5.78kg inclusive of VAT. R3 young bulls in Germany increased by 7c/kg €4.37/kg, with O3 cow prices unchanged at €3.26/kg.