Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

Mixed week as factories pull cattle prices

There was mixed news for the sheep and cattle sectors this week. Confirmation that the Quinns are to send a second boat to Libya is a real boost for the sheep trade. However, the determination of the factories to pull cattle prices has provoked an angry response from farmer representatives.

After all the talk about live exports kicking off in the cattle scene, it has been the sheep sector that has reaped the immediate rewards of having shippers battling with butchers and factory buyers for stock in the marts.

Reports from the sales rings indicate that buyers for the shippers were freely giving up to €2.50/kg for suitable stock but had been pushed to €2.58/kg in places.

It is understood that the ship sailing this week is to take up to 10,000hd – there were 5,000hd on the previous sailing.

In contrast, factory quotes for steers, heifers, bulls and cull cows have all been pulled. Steers were generally bought for around 425c/kg, heifers made close to 440c/kg and bulls 430c/kg.


Lambasting the actions of the factories this week, the IFA pointed out that quotes had fallen by around 30c/kg or close to €110/hd in the last five weeks.

However, defending their actions, the factories pointed out that the Irish steer price has been running at least 5pc ahead of the European average for most of the year.

Also Read

They also pointed out that the R3 young bulls in France, Germany and Spain were hovering on or below 400c/kg, while they were making 430c/kg here.

The factories have also cautioned that higher beef prices on the Continent were having an impact on sales. In France, retail sales of beef have fallen by 2.3pc in volume terms for the year to date, partly on account of a 6.2pc increase in beef prices.

But this argument hasn't cut much ice when our main market Britain is added into the equation. Their quoted prices are also running well ahead of the European average and well ahead of our price levels.

According to Bord Bia, the average R3 steer price in Britain is €4.68/kg. In addition, beef sales on the other side of the Irish Sea have improved by 1.1pc in volume terms despite prices increasing by 4.2pc.

Like the sheep trade, cattle prices would certainly benefit from a re-opening of live exports – and particularly so since cattle numbers are set to increase from this autumn.

It had been hoped that North Africa would provide such an outlet for cattlebut hopes of this trade getting going in earnest have faded.

The focus has now switched to the possibility of Ireland supplying Britain with store cattle. But, as our story on page 3 suggests, getting this trade up and going will not be simple.

Indo Farming