Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 February 2018

Shop around for quotes to nail the very best deal

Joe Healy

The harsh weather was definitely the X-factor that kick-started the jump in Irish beef prices over the past few weeks. OK, there obviously was always going to be a drop off in the kills due to the extremely high weekly throughput during the year, but bad road conditions accelerated this at a critical time.

We also saw worldwide prices for beef rise to record levels, but such is the relationship between our processors and the retailers that it required the recent scarcity which the weather ensured, and reports of quite a few cattle travelling North, to force a real price lift.

Quotes continue to increase but they mean little apart from some sort of a starting point for negotiating. To back this up, I will point to the fact that, as late as yesterday, one plant was still quoting as low as 308c/kg for steers while prices of up to 325c/kg were being paid.

Elsewhere, heifer quotes were as low as 314c/kg for Rs in one plant, although there were reports of as much as 350c/kg being paid for suitable females in more than one other factory.

The bottom line is that if you are selling, make sure you try a few agents. If you are getting prices yourself, then get four or five different factories to quote and then do not be afraid to bargain hard. You will only sell them once.

In terms of quotes, Donegal Meats remain top. It is paying 325c/kg for the O+ in-spec cattle, 333c/kg for the Rs and 342c/kg for the U grades. The out-of-spec stock are 11c/kg back from those prices for each of the grades.

Apart from one or two of the ridiculously low quotes, the general base quote for the steers at the moment is 314-320c/kg but prices range from 316-325c/kg.

Heifer quotes run from 325-330c/kg around the country but actual prices are generally in the 330-342c/kg bracket, with some farmers holding out successfully for up to 350c/kg if they have the right material.

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Plants included in relation to the above figures for steers and heifers are the big three of AIBP, Dawn and Kepak, as well as Slaney, Moyvalley, Liffey and Dunbia. More farmers are also doing flat deals as some of the more dedicated grid factories are willing to facilitate whatever it takes to secure numbers from tight supplies.


Young bulls are also up. Quotes for the O grades range from 300-308c/kg, with Donegal paying 314c/kg for the O+ bulls. Rs are being quoted for 314-330c/kg, while the U quotes are running at 319-336c/kg. Farmers selling R and U grades are anxious to do flat deals, with a few reports of anything from 325c/kg to 342c/kg being secured. Some finishers with top-quality U grades have secured prices of 350c/kg.

The IFA's Michael Doran said that strong factory and retail demand have continued to drive cattle prices to levels required in order to make the enterprise worthwhile for beef farmers.

A significant lift has also occurred in the cull cow quotes, and 252c/kg now appears to be the lowest quote being offered for O grades. Good R-grade, well-fleshed cows are making 280-298c/kg.

In Britain, the overall cattle trade remained steady in the run up to Christmas. Demand on topsides and round cuts continues to be firm due to a tightening in available supplies, driven by retail promotions.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB have firmed and GB R4L grade steers are averaging Stg282.4p/kg deadweight (equivalent to 354c/kg including VAT) for the week ended December 4.

On the Continent, demand for beef remained reasonably firm. In Germany, the R3 young bull price increased by 7c to €3.79/kg, with O3 cow prices up 3c to €2.44/kg. Irish steers hinds made €4.53-4.63/kg in France, while in Italy, the R3 young bull price was up by 7c to €4.07/kg, and O3 cow prices made €2.63/kg.

Irish Independent