Beef trade: Prime cattle unchanged, but bulls remain difficult in some plants

While there is some demand for beef steers and heifers, procurement managers have made no movement on price this week. As it stands, bullocks are still moving at 375c/kg, while heifers are being bought at 385c/kg.

The turbulence when it comes to bull processing has continued in some plants, while others have increased slaughterings. However, weight penalties are still causing problems.

This week, factory agents are quoting 330-340c/kg for O-grade bulls, while R-grades are moving for 360c/kg; procurement managers are quoting 370c/kg for U-grading bulls and maybe 5c/kg higher in some cases.

Most beef cattle buyers are offering 300c/kg for R-grade cows and 280-290c/kg for O-grade types. Looking at cows falling into the P-grade category, these animals are selling at 260-270c/kg.

Cattle throughput

The number of cattle slaughtered in Ireland during the week ending January 27 amounted to 38,049 head, official figures show.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database show that some 138,337 cattle have been slaughtered this year – an increase of 7,822 head on 2018 levels.

With weekly supplies sitting in the mid-to-late 30,000s, the weekly kill is running on the high side for this time of year.

During that week, increases were witnessed across the young bulls, aged bulls, steers and cow categories. However, steer throughput fell – albeit slightly.

Young bull throughput jumped by 839 head; nine more aged bulls were slaughtered, while the number of steers processed decreased by 64 head.

In addition, cow slaughterings increased by 640 head compared to the previous week’s kill and heifer throughput grew by five head.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending January 27):
  • Young bulls: 6,485 head (+839 head or +14.8%);
  • Bulls: 405 head (+9 head or +2.8%);
  • Steers: 11,244 head (-64 head or -0.5%);
  • Cows: 8,038 head (+640 head or +8.6%);
  • Heifers: 11,831 head (+5 head or +0.04%);
  • Total: 38,049 head (+1,393 head or +3.8%).