Beef trade: Heifer base quotes pressing the 410c/kg mark

Heifer base quotes have started to edge towards the 410c/kg mark, but a number of buyers are still starting negotiations with beef farmers at 405c/kg.

Steers are currently sitting at a base of 395-400c/kg in most cases. Some farmers, especially those with large numbers of in-spec stock to market, have been receiving prices of 5c/kg above base quotes.

During the week ending March 18, in-spec, R+3= steers made a top price of 419.07c/kg, while the average price paid stood at 413.38c/kg. These prices are inclusive of breed-specific and QA bonuses where applicable.

Moving to heifers, a top price of 433.72c/kg was achieved for R+3= heifers; the average price paid for these animals stood at 426.66c/kg.

As has been the case in recent weeks, cow prices have also remained relatively stable and most buyers are offering 320-330c/kg for P-grade animals. Procurement managers are starting negotiations with farmers for O-grade and R-grade cows at 330c/kg and 350c/kg respectively.

However, it must be noted that there is a wide variation in the prices being quoted to farmers. This depends on the location and demand of individual processing plants.

Cattle throughput

Of the 34,067 cattle slaughtered during the week ending March 18, just over 65% of these animals were steers and heifers.

Some 11,949 steers were slaughtered in beef plants that week – a decrease of 1,381 head. Heifer throughput stood at 10,231 head – an increase of 583 head.

In addition, the number of cows processed increased by 426 head during the week ending March 18. However, throughput decreases were recorded for young bulls (-123 head) and aged bulls (-112 head).

Cattle supplies at Irish processing plants for the week ending March 18 amounted to 34,067 head. This was a decrease of 5% on the previous week. However, this is a 19% or 5,643 head increase on the corresponding week in 2017.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending March 18):
  • Young bulls: 3,797 head (-1,169 head or -23%);
  • Bulls: 636 head (-249 head or -28%);
  • Steers: 11,949 head (-1,381 head or -10.3%);
  • Cows: 7,454 head (+426 head or +6%);
  • Heifers: 10,231 head (+583 head or +6%);
  • Total: 34,067 head (-2,853 head or -5%).

The trade in Britain

In Britain, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reported that – during the week ending March 18 – R4 steers made 368.2p/kg (421.6c/kg). R4 heifers made the equivalent of 420.2c/kg.

Looking at young bull returns, it was reported that overall prices decreased by 6.2p/kg (7c/kg). However, R4 young bull prices increased by 7.1p/kg (8c/kg) to the equivalent of 402.4c/kg on the previous week.

Overall cow prices were reported to have decreased during the week ending March 18. However, prices for cows falling into the O-grade category increased. These animals made the equivalent of 319.2c/kg.

According to the AHDB, cow slaughterings increased by 9% or 900 head on the previous week. The total number of cows processed during that week equalled 11,100 head. This reflects the strong demand for manufacturing beef.