No future for beef sector if the factories are to be believed

Beef

The Irish Hereford Show and Sale at the Livestock Mart at Newport, Co Tipperary
The Irish Hereford Show and Sale at the Livestock Mart at Newport, Co Tipperary

Joe Healy

The rugby win over the South Africans last Saturday should serve to encourage us to expect the unexpected. When it comes to the beef prices, though, it's business as usual.

The fact is that prices have moved little or nothing despite strengthening prices in Britain, the Christmas market, the 130,000 extra cattle killed at this stage, the workings of the beef forum and also the IFA protests,

I spoke to a factory man yesterday morning and argued this point. On checking back on prices I saw where a particular factory had quoted me 380c/kg for steers in June for this column, 370c/kg for July and 360-365c/kg for August, September and most of October.

He quoted me 370c/kg for today. Now in any person's language this cannot be regarded as a positive movement on price. The fact that plants are offering the same base for overage steers is welcome.

Meat Industry Ireland are querying figures quoted by the IFA and say that they (the processors) are passing back what the markets are returning.

If they are to be believed then we might as well accept that there is no future for beef farming in Ireland because farmers just cannot survive or make a living at 370c/kg.

Teagasc figures show that €4/kg is a break even price. If factories are interested in the industry here going forward (and sometimes I have my doubts) this is the minimum benchmark price.It is up to them to ensure that the markets provide farmers with a price above the cost of production.

As I said, steer quotes this week are generally at 370c/kg. Some tougher sellers are bargaining for 375c/kg. On the heifer side, the quotes range from 375-380c/kg with prices of up to 385c/kg being negotiated.

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The best of the young bulls are making from 380-390c/kg with a few farmers still selling U grades at prices of as low as 375c/kg. The R grades are making from 360-380c/kg while the Os range from 325-345c/kg.

Some flat prices for a mix of bulls generally reflect the better grade in the mix in order to close the deal.

Cull cow prices vary from 310-360c/kg. The P and O grades range from 310-330c/kg while the Rs are selling for 340-350c/kg. Top quality lots are making from 350-360c/kg.

Demand

An Bord Bia said that there has been some increase in demand over the past week with supplies beginning to tighten. Trade was mixed across our key export markets.

Prices showed some increase across most categories. The majority of steers were purchased at a base price of between €3.70-3.75/kg on the Quality Payment System. Heifers were being purchased on average between €3.75-3.80/kg. These prices exclude the €0.12/kg bonus which is payable on in-spec QA animals. Prices paid for O grade cull cows were generally making from €3.05-3.20/kg. Cumulative supplies for the year to-date are 11% or 132,000 head above the figures for the corresponding period last year currently standing at 1.39 million head.

In Britain, reported cattle prices from the AHDB have risen with GB R4L grade steers averaging at Stg 362.0 pence/kg dw (equivalent to 462.1c/kg dw) for the week ended 1st November. Trade has shown little change with demand reported as slow due to lack of seasonal pick-up.

Indo Farming


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