It's all about perception, or so they say. Take last week for example: some quarters would almost have us believe that if our transport minister wasn't out of the country on holiday, our chemists would have run out of suncream.
There would have been no slippery roads, no frozen pipes, and salt would be falling like snow from the skies if our minister had stayed at home.
It is similar on the beef front. Some factory men over the past week were trying to encourage farmers to sell before the thaw as the increased supplies would affect prices. They said that the poor conditions were keeping supplies very tight and that was the only reason why prices had improved.
Yes, I agree that roads are not conducive to unnecessary travel, but last week's estimated kill of 24,450hd was actually up around 600 animals on the corresponding week last year.
Grid operation continues to be mixed, with the big three apparently sticking rigidly to it while the other plants around the country are willing to operate whatever system it takes in order to do the deal.
If there are farmers out there who agree with, and are positive about, the grid, will you please come forward and let it be known because any comments that have come my way so far are not very complimentary towards it. The base price, while rising, needs to go a lot faster and a lot higher.
Most of the plants seem to be working off a base quote of 291-294c/kg this week for the steers and 297-300c/kg for the heifers, plus the 6c/kg for quality-assured males and females paid on top of this. This is true for the AIBP, Dawn and Kepak factories.
Moyvalley is on 291c/kg and 297c/kg bases but it has bought R-grade steers at 297c/kg plus the bonus. Young heifers going into Dawn Ballyhaunis have made 300c/kg. Kepak Hacketstown has paid 305c/kg for similar stock, while Kildare has paid up to 308c/kg and paid an all-in 300c/kg for bullocks.
Liffey Meats is working off a base of 294c/kg for the bullocks and 300c/kg plus 6c/kg for the heifers.
There are reports of a finisher, with a large number of over-age steers, having been offered 288c/kg for his O grades, 300c/kg for his Rs and 308c/kg for the Us.
Donegal has also raised its prices, with quality-assured R grades making 314c/kg and the Us making 322c/kg. Young bulls in those grades made 302c/kg and 311c/kg respectively.
IFA's Michael Doran said strong market demand, among other factors, is helping to drive on the trade, with retailers reporting a strong Christmas trade for beef, and this is allied to the recent cold spell, which has ensured that supplies are tight at the moment.
Sean Scully, of the ICSA, has urged farmers to bargain hard to maximise price, and he added that we need, without delay, to get the base price up to 336c/kg.
The general run for cull cows ranges from 235c/kg up to 246c/kg. Donegal and Moyvalley are paying up to 258c/kg for top-quality cows, while Liffey Meats is paying a top price of 252c/kg.
Bord Bia reported that the cattle trade lifted over the past week as the severe weather curtailed stock movements and led to lower supplies at meat plants.
Quotes for R-grade steers under the new quality payment system made a base reference price of 291-297c/kg, while heifers made in the 297-302c/kg range. These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec, quality-assured stock. The trade for cows has also lifted, where O-grade animals generally made 235-246c/kg.
In the UK, trade was reported as steady. Reported cattle prices from the AHDB have increased slightly, GB R4L grade steers averaged Stg288.3p/kg deadweight (equivalent to 337c/kg dw) for the week ending January 2.
On the continent, most markets have little stock after the Christmas trade, which has helped demand. The best trade continues to be for forequarter cuts, which has been offset by a slight dip in demand for prime cuts.
In France, Irish steer hindquarters are at €4.20/kg (inclusive of VAT).