Bertie doesn't care what happens in 2011. He is sure of his ridiculously high pension to retire on despite leading the country into the mess it is in. Brian Cowen, while probably delighted to see the back of 2010, cannot be looking forward with any great delight to the year ahead.
Sticking with the Bs, beef farmers just seem to be a little more optimistic and enthusiastic for the coming year than they have felt for any year for quite a while. At this early stage I would plead with the factories to decide for the benefit of the industry as a whole to play their part. There needs to be much more transparency throughout the production chain and processors will have to hold a tougher line with the retailers.
The gap between what the farmer has been receiving for their animal and what that animal commands on the supermarket shelf has been allowed to grow and grow. All any finisher wants is a fair crack of the whip. All the signs point to a positive year for farmers price-wise, with tighter supplies and a strong global beef market.
The big thing for farmers here is to shop around and bargain hard. Do not fall for the factory line of cattle peaking now and prices falling back over the coming weeks. They will only reduce if the farmer agrees to sell at lower prices.
Over the past 2-3 weeks prices have continued to move in the right direction. During this period, young bull prices have improved by 15-20c/kg, steers by about 15c/kg, heifers by 10-12c/kg, with cow prices up by anything from 5-10c/kg. Another aspect that farmers are enjoying is the willingness of more and more plants to buy off the grid due to the tight supplies.
Base quotes for the steers at the moment range from 330-336c/kg with heifers at 336-342c/kg. Actual prices reported are higher than those figures with the very tops that came to my attention when all bonuses were included reaching up to 366c/kg for Angus heifers. I'm aware of wholesalers offering from 356-360c/kg for suitable heifers. Tops for O grade steers was 330c/kg with transport thrown in also. The in-spec cattle going into Donegal Meats are commanding prices of 353c/kg for the Us, 344c/kg for the R grades, with the O+ cattle making 336c/kg.
O grade young bull quotes range from a low of 314c/kg in Moyvalley up to 325c/kg in Kepak Athleague. It is a similar story for the Rs, with those plants at 325c/kg and 336c/kg respectively.
Some AIBP plants in the south are up towards the top for Rs also and are leading the way quote-wise for the Us at 350c/kg.
There are reports of 325-330c/kg and 336-341c/kg being paid for Friesian O and R grades in a few plants. Overage and overweight bulls have made 333c/kg flat for a mix of U and R grades.
Commenting on the current trade, IFA's Michael Doran said that winter finishers were determined to secure viable prices for their cattle and were demanding a minimum of 350c/kg.
Most plants seem to be quoting from 269c/kg upwards for all cull cows. Donegal is paying as high as 298c/kg for O+ cows over 320kgs. Moyvalley is offering 269-280c/kg, with a top price for the good continentals of 291c/kg. Kepak Clonee is at 280-286c/kg. Similar prices are on offer in the south.