Processors still play hard ball

Joe Healy

NASA's Curiosity might have had a comfortable landing on Mars yesterday but it wasn't such plain sailing for Olympian Annalise Murphy or beef farmers this week as the meat processors continue to play hard ball.

Despite finding it difficult enough to secure reasonable numbers, meat factories seem determined not to get into a situation where they find themselves increasing their quotes in order to entice farmers to sell. In fact, some of the plants are trying to exert downward pressure on prices.

But it is clear that most good sellers are refusing to entertain quotes as low as 390c/kg base for the steers. On a 400kg carcase, this lower quote would cost up to €40/hd compared to €4/kg. There are reports of some haggling successfully for up to 405c/kg. In-spec R grade steers up in the northwest are making 412c/kg with the Us at 427c/kg.

Quotes for the heifers are generally at 405-410c/kg. It is no secret that plants are willing to pay a premium for good quality in-spec heifers with some farmers securing up to 415c/kg for those types. More importantly, you don't have to travel to the northwest to secure this. In-spec heifers, like their male counterparts in the northwest, are making 418c/kg for the Rs and 430c/kg for the U grades.

The best I heard for the young bulls was 415c/kg flat for a mix of R and U grades but in fairness on each occasion they were mainly Us. Quotes for the U grades are at 410-412c/kg with the Rs at 400-405c/kg. O grade bulls are generally hovering between 390-395c/kg. Farmers with those plainer sorts are more anxious to look north where some of those travelling are securing up to €4/kg plus transport for their Os.


Some plain P and O grade bulls and a few of them with a low fat score made 390c/kg flat in a southern plant. IFA livestock chairman, Henry Burns said that factories were not able to get cattle at the low quotes and were having to pay 5-10c/kg more before farmers would sell.

I refer to it in the sheep trade, but the same goes for farmers selling under-finished cattle. If you have a price fixed regardless of grade or fat score then so be it but if you are selling on the grid then remember that you stand to be very heavily penalised if cattle are not of a suitable fat score. Store cattle should be sold at the mart.

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The cull cow trade has remained firm for the last few weeks after a period of downward pressure. Top cows continue to make 388c/kg up in Donegal with the Rs at 382c/kg. Around the country U grades range between 360-370c/kg with the Rs at 350-360c/kg. The O grades in Donegal are varying between 370-376c/kg while the P+ cows are making 364c/kg.

As you move south the Os are being quoted at 340-350c/kg with P+ grades running from 330-350c/kg.

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