Beef price remains static, but E and U grade cattle ‘hardest hit by weight cuts’

Beef prices continue to remain static this week, with little change reported in the price being offered for prime beef or cull cows.

Processors continue to hold the steer price at 395c/kg. This is becoming quite a common theme, as the price has remained unchanged since early October when prices first dipped below the €4/kg mark.

This means that a 400kg steer will top out at about €1,580 excluding the 12c/kg Quality Assurance payment or various factory charges.

There has also been no movement in heifer prices, with the many plants holding firm on 400c/kg for these lots.

The young bull market also remains unchanged, with R grades making 385c/kg, O grade bulls selling at 375c/kg, while farmers with P grade bulls are being offered 365c/kg for these lots.

There has also been little movement in cull cow price, despite a 4% reduction in the number of these animals being slaughtered in beef export plants. R grade cows are currently being quoted at 330-345c/kg.

Beef quotes:
  • Steers: 390c/kg
  • Heifers: 400c/kg
  • Young bulls: R grade 385c/kg, O grade 375c/kg, P grade 365c/kg
  • Cull cows:  R grade 330-345c/kg, O grade 300-325c/kg, P grade 300c/kg

Weight limits to hit E and U grade animals hardest

The weight limits applied by some beef processors in recent weeks, which sees cattle over 420kg carcass weight being penalised by 10-20c/kg, has been criticised by the ICSA.

According to the ICSA Beef Chairman, Edmond Phelan the weight cuts will mainly hit U and E grade cattle and this will have a negative impact on beef produced from the suckler herd.

Phelan said that instead of U grade cattle getting a bonus, as was the first intended purpose of the grid, these cattle are now falling foul of weight limits.

He said that U grade cattle carcass weights range from 422-468kg and because of this, these cattle are deemed too heavy and farmers will be deprived of the bonuses.

Cattle supplies

The cattle kill for the week ending February 14, stood at 34,000 head, figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill data show, while the 2016 cattle throughput is almost 16,000 head higher than 2015.

The cumulative steer and heifer kill for the year-to-date has increased by 10% (5,915) and 3% (1,695) respectively, but cow throughput for the first six weeks of 2016 is back by 4% on the same period in 2015, it shows.

The young bull kill continues to rise, as many farmers seen this system as viable last year, with the total kill up 10,000 head for the year-to-date.

Key export markets

There has been little change in the trade across the key export markets for Irish beef, according to Bord Bia.

The British market remains balanced at present with some decline reported for manufacturing beef, but there has been some increase in steak demand.

However, the AHDB has reported some decline in prime cattle throughput during the month of January, which has been driven by a reduction in heifer numbers.

The British cattle price also remains steady as R4L grade steers made 342p/kg or 441c/kg for the week ended February 12.

Meanwhile, the French beef market remains under pressure due to poor demand on the back of falling consumption, it says.

Recent farmer protests have impacted negatively on some retailers, who have reduced promotions and are stocking and selling lower volumes of import products, Bord Bia says.

Despite the uncertainty in the French market, the Italian market remains stable with forequarter beef trading best, it says.

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