High supplies are no excuse for the downward trend in prices
The Dubs are back, Angela Merkel is back and – I hate saying this at the start of the festival that is Ploughing week – beef prices are back. Whenever the weekly kill goes above the 30,000 mark, the factories hold the aces and last week's estimated kill from the Department of Agriculture stood at 33,900hd, some 3,700 or 11pc ahead of the corresponding week last year.
This, however, does not excuse the actions of the factories at a time when the trade in our largest market across the water in Britain is almost €1/kg or 20-25pc ahead of where we are at. This translates to Irish finishers receiving €300-350 less for his/her steer compared with their British counterparts. The processors need to think about the consequences that will have on the Irish beef industry and the 2020 targets.
On the positive side, improved weather conditions over the weekend should result in another grass growth spurt and cattle supplies should also tighten this week as farmers flock to Co Laois. This scarcity had already begun to manifest itself yesterday morning as several agents remarked on the scarcity of farmers enquiring about selling.
Prices in the North remain stronger than down south, with 410c/kg available for steers and 400c/kg for young bulls, in addition to free transport.
Having said that, I know that some bulls killed in the midlands last Friday achieved 410c/kg for the U grades and 400c/kg for the Rs.
Quotes are generally at 390-395c/kg for the Us while the R grade quotes are 10c/kg lower at 380-385c/kg. The Os remain at 370-380c/kg. Steer quotes are mainly at 390c/kg, with some farmers bargaining for up to 395c/kg before agreeing to sell. Heifer quotes have now slipped under 400c/kg, with a number of plants offering as little as 395c/kg. However, those same plants, when pushed, are willing to pay 400c/kg base and even 405c/kg in some cases.
Remember, if you are selling non-quality assured stock make sure you know what the factory is going to pay you before you kill.
IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said the factories are finding it impossible to buy cattle at the lower quoted prices and are having to pay a base of €4.00/kg for steers and a base of €4.10/kg for heifers and bulls. He said with the Ploughing match this week and the good weather, farmers have made up their minds they are not parting with cattle at less than a base of €4.00 for bullocks.