Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Rise of 5c/kg in steer quotes as finishers hold out for 400c/kg

Joe Healy

The unacceptable gap between what meat processors pay for beef here and in Britain remains a thorn in the side for beef finishers here. It appears Irish finishers are being fleeced to compensate processors for the extra €250 they are willing to pay for finished beef animals in Britain.

I just can't figure out why this is allowed to happen and for so long at this stage but it's high time someone shouted "Stop".

Steer base quotes here have risen by 5c/kg to 395-400c/kg, with more and more finishers holding out for the €4/kg base. In-spec R grades are still making 408c/kg up in Donegal, with U grades at 418c/kg. Heifers there are making 414c/kg and 426c/kg respectively for the Rs and Us.

Elsewhere, the base quote for the heifers is at 410-415c/kg. Good sellers are getting a base quote of 415-420c/kg on the grid. I heard of a few mixed loads of under- and over-age male cattle, including some very heavy carcases, making flat prices of €4.10/kg for the Us and €4/kg for the Rs.

The best of the bulls are making 410-415c/kg, with quotes slightly lower at 400-410c/kg. Mixes of R and U grades have made up to 410c/kg, with the quote for the Rs more often than not in the 395-405c/kg range. O grade bulls are selling for 380-390c/kg.

Demand for cows remains strong, with a top price of 390c/kg paid for selections of top quality well-fleshed stock. U grades are making 360-390c/kg, while R grades made 340-370c/kg. Prices for the Os are 325-346c/kg and P+ cows are at 305-334c/kg.

IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said beef prices were edging upwards, with more farmers securing the €4/kg base for their steers and 420c/kg for the heifers. He added that some feeders had negotiated up to 415c/kg for good young bulls. He urged farmers with in-spec stock to dig in and demand up to an extra 10c/kg from the factories.

Cattle supplies to-date this year are running around 13pc or 183,900 head behind last year's levels. Last week's estimated kill was 32,787hd.

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The trade firmed last week, according to Bord Bia, reflecting strong seasonal demand for tight supplies on both the domestic and main export markets. Best trade continues to be for in-spec prime cattle supplies.

Prices quoted for R grade steers under the Quality Payment System were €3.95-4/kg, while quotes for heifers were €4.05-4.10/kg. These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec Quality Assured stock. O-grade cull cows are making €3.25-3.35/kg.

In the UK, trade was reported as reasonable, with supplies matching demand levels. Demand for forequarter product continues to remain steady. Trade for steak and round cuts continues to remain slower than usual, however demand is expected to build in the lead up to Christmas.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB have firmed, with GB R4L grade steers making Stg 362.2 pence/kg deadweight (equivalent to 470c/kg including VAT deadweight) for the week ended November 17.

On the Continent, trade across most of the key markets improved, with prices reflecting this pattern. Best demand reported is for forequarter cuts like featherblades and chucks, as promotional activity across a number of the key export markets underpins this demand.

Demand for hindquarter cuts such as fillets remains subdued, but this trade is expected to return to more normal levels in the lead up to Christmas.

In France, Irish steer hinds are making from €5.47-5.77kg inclusive of VAT. R3 young bulls in Germany increased by 1/c to €4.38/kg, with O3 cow prices up 1/c to €3.27/kg. In Italy, R3 young bulls were making €4.10/kg, with O3 cow prices increasing by 1/c to €3.15/kg.

Elsewhere, despite one of the worst droughts ever witnessed in the US and fears for the viability of the US livestock sector, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided against waiving the mandate on maize ethanol production, as it would only reduce maize prices by 1pc.

The sharp rise in feed costs has led the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to warn of possible liquidation of the US cattle herd. It predicts that 500,000 beef cows and 50,000 dairy cows will be culled this year.

This follows a long-term trend of falling stock numbers in the US cattle herd.

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