Stand up to processors
Beef farmers are as desperate as Giovanni Trapattoni and the Irish soccer team for a change of fortunes this week. Whatever about tonight's match in Austria, it is imperative that the beef processors are stalled in their attempts to reduce steer base quotes below €4/kg.
Last week's story regarding the huge gap between prices on the grid for cattle from quality assured (QA) farms compared to those from non-QA farms concerned two large operators in particular. But this week the whole lot are singing off the same hymn sheet.
I spoke to one farmer yesterday morning who sold heifers on a base of 410c/kg. Three weeks ago he sold their comrades for a base of 435c/kg. Meanwhile, the steers he sold over the weekend at 400c/kg on the grid were 15c/kg back on their comrades also sold three weeks ago.
Those base figures are fairly typical of what is being achieved at the moment, with most of the steer quotes at 400c/kg, while some finishers are holding out for 405c/kg. Similarly, the base for heifers is more often than not 410c/kg. In the northwest there was mention of 444c/kg including all bonuses for in-spec heifers and 432c/kg for steers. Farmers must bear in mind that 'in-spec' in the northwest has seen the number of days on the farm rule move from 70 up to 90. If this is the case, some organisation needs to grab hold of these moving goal-posts that are resulting in different base prices for QA and non-QA stock, along with the different numbers of days required. This has resulted in large-scale confusion among farmers.
The best I heard for bulls ranged from a flat price of 412c/kg for a mix of R and U grades, to straight prices of 405c/kg for Rs and 418c/kg for Us. Generally, the plants are quoting 410c/kg for the U grades and 400c/kg for the Rs, with the O grades at 370-380c/kg. Farmers are at times negotiating a bit above the quotes, especially for the better grades. Farmers with prime stock to sell should enquire as to prices and extras for cattle going to the North for slaughter.
IFA livestock chairman, Henry Burns, said that there was no justification for the factory price cuts this week when our main markets were at the very least stable and possibly strengthened, with the British price for the R4 steer pushed close to €5/kg.
Cull cows have remained solid. Top cows are making from €360-390c/kg with R-grade cows commanding from 350-380c/kg. Prices for the Os range from 330-355c/kg while P grades are making from 300-325c/kg.
Bord Bia said the trade was relatively steady last week despite the ongoing increase in the number of cattle being marketed. It is being helped by tight supplies across Britain and other key European markets.