Beef price tug of war continues for another week

The weekend marked the beginning of the business end of the hurling championship, as hurlers from the counties of Waterford, Wexford, Clare and Tipperary battled it out to secure a last-four place.

Thousands of people flocked to a sparkling new Pairc Ui Chaoimh to marvel at the spectacle and despite the talk of ‘war’ beforehand, both events failed to live up to the hype.

Like the sweeper systems employed by Messrs Fitzgerald and McGrath on Sunday, a similar tactic appears to be taking centre stage on the beef market.

Additional supplies of cattle are taking up the Tadgh de Burca role and, like the Clashmore-Kinsalebeg man, are acting to give factories the upper hand when the push comes to shove in the heat of battle.

Farmers, in this instance are the Shaun Murphy of sweepers, having oceans of space and plenty of grass in front of them to hold on to cattle in the hope of stronger prices in the coming weeks.

However, both of these tactics mean that the cattle trade has remained steady and the prices on offer remain on par with last week.

Procurement managers are currently offering a base price of 400-405c/kg for steers and 410-415c/kg for heifers.

Cow prices also remain largely unchanged from last week with factories offering 340-355c/kg for R-grade cows, while farmers selling U-grade cows are being offering 360c/kg.

In addition, factory buyers are starting negotiations with farmers at 335c/kg for O-grade animals and 325c/kg for P-grade cows.

Supplies

Official figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database show that some 31,424 cattle were processed during the week ending July 16 – a fall of 690 head or 2.1% on the week earlier.

Aged bull and cow throughput increased by 31% and 2.7% respectively, according to department figures.

In addition, official figures show that young bull and heifer numbers declined during the week ending July 16. Some 2,761 young bulls and 7,618 heifers were slaughtered in approved beef export plants; this is a collective fall of 1,027 head on week earlier levels.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending July 16):
  • Young bulls: 2,761 head (-421 head or -13.2%);
  • Aged bulls: 650 head (+154 head or +31%);
  • Steers: 12,597 head (-26 head or -0.2%);
  • Cows: 7,756 head (+206 head or +2.7%);
  • Heifers: 7,618 head (-606 head or -7.4%);
  • Total: 31,424 head (-690 head or -2.1%).

When looked at on a cumulative basis, some 900,222 cattle have been slaughtered this year – a jump of 42,337 head or 4.9% on the corresponding period in 2016.

Main Markets

The British beef trade remained steady last week, according to Bord Bia, as good demand and relatively tight supplies of finished cattle helped the trade.

British beef prices increased again during the week ending July 15. Prices from the AHDB show that British R4L steers averaged 382.4p/kg (432.73c/kg). Heifers in Britain and Northern Ireland made, on average, 427c/kg and 419c/kg respectively.

Moving to France, Bord Bia says, the market remained slow last week and prices were down for all cuts including flank steak and ribs.

Trade is best for domestically produced product, according to Bord Bia, with a number of retail promotions taking place on chuck and rump steaks produced in France.