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Sellers' market as as prices harden

The past fortnight has been positive on the beef front and this month has shown a constant upward trend, despite the kill figures continuing at levels well above last year for the week gone by.

Even though the estimated supplies to the factories last week were 32,600hd, this still wasn't enough to satisfy the demand and factory men have been active sourcing stock, with one agent telling me that they are being told not to leave cattle behind.

Farmers need to realise that we have a sellers' market at the moment because there is a 10-15c/kg or €35-50/hd difference between the quoted figures and what farmers who bargain are getting. I know of one particular agent who quoted a base price for bullocks of 340c/kg to one farmer and 350c/kg to another within an hour.

General quotes for steers ranges from 340-346c/kg, with base prices mainly in the 342-350c/kg bracket. Some plants from the southeast up to the northeast are competing strongly for stock, with 350c/kg being mentioned more frequently for this area than elsewhere.

Donegal is paying 361c/kg for in-spec R-grade steers and 370c/kg for the U grades, with the heifers on 3c/kg more in each grade. Thereafter, the general base quote for heifers varies between 346-350c/kg. Reported prices paid run up to 355c/kg for good underage heifers.

Young O-grade bulls are making 330-336c/kg, while R-grades are commanding 342-450c/kg, with some deals being done for a mix of R and U grades at prices of 358c/kg. Quotes for the Us range from 347-358c/kg in Donegal.

I know of one man who was told by a factory that the cut-off carcass weight was 380kg less than three weeks ago, but the same factory this week is telling suppliers the cut-off weight is 460kg. That shows a lack of consistency that does nothing for farmer confidence in the processors or their systems.

The IFA's Michael Doran said cattle prices were continuing to rise, with the hard sellers holding out for base prices of 350c/kg for steers and 364c/kg for heifers and bulls.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said that up to €4/kg was required this year for beef farmers to make a profit due to the escalating costs of production and to ensure that the Food Harvest targets for increased exports are to be achieved.

On cull cows, the top price I heard for good fleshy cows was 322c/kg. The R and U grades over 363kg are making 314-422c/kg. O+ and R grades are at 311c/kg in Donegal, with an expectation that an increase is on the way sooner rather than later. The Us are making 316c/kg in the northwest plant.

O grades around the country are at 291-302c/kg, with some reports of up to 308c/kg being paid. The P+ cows are a tad sticky, with quotes of 274-286c/kg on offer.

Meanwhile, Bord Bia said the beef trade had been helped over the past week by a better trade for steak cuts in advance of Easter, combined with ongoing demand for manufacturing product as supplies stay tight.

Quotes for R-grade steers this week under the Quality Payment System were in the range of €3.40-3.47/kg, as were heifer quotes. These prices exclude the 6c/kg on in-spec quality assured stock.

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