Beef trade: Farmers urged to ‘dig out’ best price

“There is more in the beef price, based on the market return, and farmers need to dig it out.” This was the message from Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Livestock Committee chairman, Angus Woods.

“The beef trade is driving on. Factories are paying more to get cattle to meet the strong Christmas demand. Farmers with suitable stock should dig in hard and demand full value,” he said.

Based on the strong UK market return and the increase in EU prices of 30c/kg on last year, Woods said further price increases are well justified.

He continued: “There is very strong market demand with the kill hitting 39,190 head. This year, over 30,000 bulls and heifers have been shipped to Turkey.”

What are factories offering?

As it stands, factories are currently offering 380-395c/kg for steers; heifers quotes are sitting at a base of 390-395c/kg.

However, some farmers, especially those with large numbers of in-spec stock to market, have been receiving prices of 5c/kg above base quotes. At the upper end of the scale, this brings some heifers to 400c/kg.

In addition, there are reports of some farmers receiving more than 400c/kg. However, the numbers slaughtered at these prices are very low in the grand scheme of things.

Cow prices remain relatively unchanged this week and most buyers are offering 310-320c/kg for P grade and 325-340c/kg for O-grade animals. R-grade cows are making 340-355c/kg.

Cattle supplies

The number of cattle processed in Department of Agriculture approved beef plants during the week ending November 19 stood at 39,190 head – an increase of 675 on the previous week.

Of this, just over 64.4% were steers and heifers. Some 14,960 steers were slaughtered in beef plants that week – a decrease of 722 head. However, heifer throughput climbed by 4.2% to 10,303 head.

Young bull slaughterings also increased (up 452 head), while cow and aged bull slaughterings dipped by 7% and 8% respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending November 19):
  • Young bulls: 4,452 head (+452 head or +11.3%);
  • Bulls: 541 head (-50 head or -8%);
  • Steers: 14,960 head (-722 head or -4.6%);
  • Cows: 8,302 head (-632 head or -7%);
  • Heifers: 10,303 head (+419 head or +4.2%);
  • Total: 39,190 head (+675 head or +1.75%).

Main Markets

According to Bord Bia, the British beef trade remained positive last week. This was due to a stronger demand and little change in supply.

In terms of prices, the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) reported that R-grade steer prices increased and averaged 426c/kg for the week ending November 19.

In terms of heifers, the latest British R-grade heifer price was 421c/kg on average, while the Northern Irish price stood at 398c/kg.

In France, Bord Bia says, the trade eased somewhat last week due to stronger supplies of domestic beef. Furthermore, there was also a slower demand for hindquarters, ribs and offals.

On the other hand, there was a good trade for fillets, chucks and featherblades. However, the market proved more difficult for imported beef.

An abundance of retail promotions took place last week, Bord Bia reports. This focused on domestically-produced fillets, rump steaks and burgers. In terms of prices, the R-grade young bull price averaged 398c/kg, while O-grade cows made 318c/kg.