Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Prices hampered by high kill figures and grading woes

Joe Healy

If only our beef farmers could do like our Labour leader's wife and get the Department of Education to graze their fields, I think they would all gratefully accept that at this stage.

However, while Ms Gilmore can sit back and enjoy her €525,000 'field of dreams' windfall, the beef men are wondering whether they would be better off to just leave their fields idle for the year ahead rather than buy in and face another year as a loss-making enterprise.

The continuing high kill figures are not helping matters. Last week's estimated kill of 32,900 was 1,800hd over the same week last year. Allied to this, quite a few farmers continue to have trouble with all the different grades.

One farmer I spoke to last week said to me that he agreed a price in pence per lb and when he got paid it was obviously in c/kg -- but was 3c/kg (1p/lb) less than the agreement. Then, when he went through the statement, he saw that, even though he only had 15 cattle, they came into 11 different grades.

"Our farm organisations give out about bureaucracy and complicated paperwork from the Department of Agriculture and yet they back a scheme that reminds me of a maze," he said.

In any case, there is little or no change to the quotes this week, with steers at 290-300c/kg depending on whether they are under or over age. Dunbia is a typical example of this range and is paying those prices for the older and younger stock. Most of the others are quoting a base of 294-296c/kg. Donegal is paying 311c/kg for in-spec R grades and 319c/kg for the Us.

Base quotes for heifers are at 300-302c/kg, with up to 305c/kg on offer in some plants. There are reports of overage heifers up towards the northeast being sold for 308c/kg flat.

U-grade young bulls are quoted at anything from 300c/kg in Moyvalley to 314c/kg in Kepak Clonee, but AIBP Waterford and Dawn Grannagh are said to be paying up to 319c/kg. They are also reportedly top for the Rs at 308c/kg, while other plants are at 300-308c/kg. Quotes for the Os are generally in or around the 286c/kg mark.

Also Read

IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran said that, with the factories now having started slaughter for the Christmas market and with the last of the grass cattle being sold, farmers should now start insisting on a minimum base price of 300c/kg for their steers.

The general run of quotes for cull cows is 235-248c/kg, with better grades at 252-266c/kg.

The cattle trade showed little change during the past week, according to Bord Bia, as market demand remains reasonable. Cattle supplies have been boosted by deteriorating weather conditions in many parts of the country and the ongoing weakness of sterling is making trade to the UK more difficult.

Quotes for R-grade steers under the Quality Payment System were marginally higher, at around 294-300c/kg. Heifer prices showed little change with quotes now at 297-302c/kg. These prices exclude the 6c on in-spec Quality Assured stock. Cow prices were in the range of 238-246c/kg, reflecting stronger supplies over recent weeks.

In the UK, trade remained unchanged. Steak cuts continue to weaken seasonally, while round-cut supplies have tightened as Christmas orders begin to increase demand. UK reported cattle prices are largely unchanged as GB R4L grade steers averaged 272.6p/kg deadweight (330c/kg including VAT dw) up to Friday, October 23.

Irish Independent