WHAT's seldom is wonderful. While Laois hurlers' victory over Offaly last Sunday falls into this category, so too do the reports of a €4.40/kg base for heifers. More and more finishers have been securing the €4.35/kg and, while plants have been reluctant to go north of this, it appears that more has been paid.
A few plants might still be quoting lower, but little or no heifers are being bought outside of €4.30-4.35/kg. Agents are not shy in admitting that supplies were already tightening, especially if a few fine days came when the focus on farms would be on silage as opposed to selling cattle.
The kill figure for last week from the Department of Agriculture backs this up, with an estimated total kill of 26,770hd being some 2,600 animals less than the corresponding week last year.
Quotes for the steers range between €4.20-4.25/kg, but - as with the heifers - more farmers are holding out for the higher of the two figures. Some farmers have been successful in bargaining for a base of €4.30/kg.
Demand is strong for all young bulls with prices ranging from €4.00-4.30/kg. The best of them are making from €4.20-4.30/kg, while the R grades are selling for €4.20-4.25 generally.
I heard mention of €4.20/kg for O grades, but in the main they are in a range from €4.00-4.15/kg. Even without the higher figure, there's a 15c/kg difference worth as much as €60/hd to the farmer.
Depending on grade, cull cows are making from €3.60-4.10/kg. I did hear of €4.10/kg for Rs and Us. Most of these well fleshed cows are making from €3.80-4.10/kg. O grades are commanding prices of €3.70-3.90/kg, while the Ps are moving at €3.60-3.80/kg.
Commenting on the trade overall, the IFA's Henry Burns advised farmers with beef to sell to shop around and not be afraid to demand a price. He added that agents are very anxious to close deals and have room to manoeuvre.
Bord Bia reported that the cattle trade remained strong during the week on the back of continued good demand coupled with tight supplies.
Trade was relatively steady across our key export markets.
The majority of steers were being purchased at a base price of between €4.15-4.20/kg on the Quality Payment System, while heifers were being purchased on average at a base of between €4.20-4.30/kg, with selected lots achieving higher prices. These prices exclude bonuses payable on in-spec QA animals. Prices paid for O grade cull cows are generally making between €3.55-3.75/kg.
Cumulative supplies for the year to date are down around 4pc on supplies for the corresponding period last year standing at around 662,000 head.
In Britain, reported cattle prices from the AHDB for GB R4L grade steers were averaging at Stg 339.8p/kg dw (equivalent to €4.85/kg incl VAT dw). Trade was reported as relatively good this week with strips and rumps performing best. Some tightening in supplies was also reported while it is hoped that the good weather will help the trade. Little change has been reported in the French market with promotions centred on chucks and striploins.
The R3 young bull price was up 2c to €3.87/kg including VAT and the O3 cow price was up 2c to €3.47/kg.
A steady trade was reported in Italy but demand remains slow there with increased competition from imported beef also reported. The R3 young bull price was down 4c at €3.95/kg and the O3 cow price was down 10c to €2.93/kg inclusive of VAT.
Meanwhile, the recent decision to reclassify Ireland as a country of 'negligible risk' BSE status is good news.
The IFA president Eddie Downey said that Minister Coveney had targeted this summer for the removal of the 30-month age limit.
Bord Bia said that the vast majority of Ireland's top retail and food service customers do not have a 30-month age requirement and that there is now no scientific or market roadblock to increasing the 30 month age limit to 36 months.
ICSA beef chairman, Edmond Phelan, said that the announcement would improve the profit margins of meat processors to the tune of €25m per year unless there was some improvement in beef prices.