Sellers' market sees returns improve for all classes of cattle

Joe Healy

While Rory Best's disappointment at losing the Rabo Direct final to Leinster last Saturday was eased greatly with a call-up to the Lions squad the following day, the pressure on beef finishers due to high production costs is also being eased somewhat by a continuing strong trade and rising prices.

Despite an estimated kill of 26,770hd for the past week, quotes and prices have risen across the board, with factories extremely anxious for stock and farmers equally as anxious to maximise the value of what they are selling.

I have heard of 435-440c/kg refused for young O-grade bulls, 450c/kg refused for steers on the grid and 470c/kg failing to buy heifers.

I have also heard of €4/kg flat being refused for a mixture of O and R-grade cows and the farmer was justified in his refusal as he ended up getting this figure for his Os and 420c/kg for his R grades.

Staying with the cow trade, the good U-grade types are making up to 430c/kg, with the Rs making 410-420c/kg generally, although some farmers are selling at €4/kg. Prices for the O grades range from 380c/kg to 400c/kg, while P-grade cows vary from 350c/kg to 380c/kg depending on numbers, flesh and the mixture involved.

The best I heard for young bulls was 465c/kg flat for a mix of mainly Us with about 20pc Rs included. Rumours suggested that some deals for top quality bulls were being done at up to 470c/kg. A number of farmers are selling at 460c/kg flat for a mixture of R and Us. Plants are buying a lot of the Os at 425-430c/kg but some finishers are holding out for prices of 435-440c/kg, with more being sought on occasion.

Steer prices are surpassing the general quotes by a minimum of 5-10c/kg, with the tuned-in finisher bargaining for and securing 450-455c/kg on the grid. This is at least a 5c/kg rise on last week.

Heifer prices range from 470c/kg to 480c/kg, with some plants quoting as low as 465c/kg. The 480c/kg I have mentioned is not a once-off deal either and is being secured in at least a number of plants in the midlands and east of the country.

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All in all, it's a seller's market at the moment and the very least a farmer owes to him or herself is to ensure they are getting the best price possible for their animals after a long and expensive feeding period.

The IFA's livestock chairman, Henry Burns, said that the beef trade remains buoyant with steer and heifer base prices at 455c/kg and 480c/kg respectively.

To date this year, cattle supplies are running 46,300hd higher compared to last year's levels. The majority of the increase in availability to date this year is evident in the steer and cow category.

In Britain, the trade was reportedly unchanged on previous weeks' trading as market demand remains steady.

The word from Bord Bia suggests that demand for steak cuts is weaker than usual as some resistance towards recent price rises continues to affect consumer purchasing behaviour. Some slowdown in demand for round cuts is also evident. Trade for forequarter continues to remain steady.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB firmed during the past week, with GB R4L grade steers averaging 406.4p/kg deadweight (equivalent to 497c/kg including VAT deadweight) for the week ended May 18.

On the Continent, trade remained firm across most markets during the week. Overall, trade continues to be helped by ongoing tight supplies across the different key export markets.

Strong demand is evident for hindquarter product, with best trade for fillets and striploins.

In Italy, the R3 young bull is making €4.02/kg, while the O3 cow is making €3.27/kg.

R3 young bulls in France are making €4.03/kg, while the O3 cow is making €3.95/kg inclusive of VAT.

Irish Independent

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