Lies, damned lies and statistics. This line has been frequently used over the past few years in relation to the economy, banks, politicians and a whole lot more, but I was reminded of it again yesterday when I got the estimated cattle kill figure for last week.
At 33,744hd, it was more than 4,000 animals higher than the same week last year, even though all the information and intelligence had led us to believe that it would be the other way around for all of this year.
The good news is that despite the high kill, quotes and prices more than held their own, with signs of actual improvements available in some areas.
Donegal are paying a top price of 364c/kg for the in-spec U-grade heifers and 356c/kg for the Rs. The steers are 3c/kg back from this, while cattle not in-spec are a further 11c/kg behind this again.
A further rise in Moyvalley Meats leaves them as one of the better places to go if you are selling heifers, as they are offering 350c/kg and 356c/kg for the R and U grades respectively. They are quoting 342c/kg and 347c/kg for the R and U steers and are also quoting those figures for young bulls.
Kepak Athleague are quoting a base of 347c/kg for young heifers but are said to have paid up to and over 350c/kg for nice stock. Their base for the steers is 336c/kg, while the bulls are at 328c/kg for the Os, 342c/kg for the Rs and 350c/kg for the U grades.
Several plants in the northern half of the country are close to those figures but apart from the real top stock, prices are not altogether as good for the O and R grades in the south. The AIBP plants are trying to buy R-grade bullocks at a 336c/kg base. Most of the southern plants are on a 342c/kg base for the heifers.
O-grade young bulls are making 322-328c/kg, while Rs are at 336-345c/kg and Us are making 347-452c/kg. Many farmers are doing flat deals for mixes of R and U grades.
IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran said the heavy Easter demand was helping to drive up prices for bullocks, heifers and fat cows.
Cull cows are making up to as high as 322c/kg for the best cows. R grades are making 308-314c/kg, while Os are at 286-300c/kg and P+3 types are posting 280-291c/kg.
Bord Bia reported that there was some improvement on the cattle trade last week as demand builds in advance of Easter.
Quotes for R-grade steers under the Quality Payment System were €3.36-3.42/kg. Heifer quotes were running at €3.40-3.47/kg. These prices exclude the 6c/kg bonus for in-spec Quality Assured stock. The cow trade remained unchanged, with the O-grade cow typically making €2.86-2.94/kg.
In the UK, trade was reportedly good over the past week due to tight supplies and steady demand, helped by a strengthening trade for steaks and forequarter cuts before Easter.
Cattle prices from the AHDB increased slightly, with GB R4L grade steers averaging Stg 293.3p/kg deadweight (equivalent to €3.50/kg including VAT dw) for the week ended April 2.
On the Continent, trade has improved somewhat as purchases for the Easter period continue. Best trade reported remains for forequarters and steaks. In Germany, the R3 young bull price is averaging €3.63/kg, with the O3 cow price falling by 1/c to €2.88/kg. Irish steer hinds are making €5.16-5.26/kg, with German cow hinds increasing by 20c/kg to €4.42/kg. In Italy, the R3 young bull price is averaging €3.57/kg.