Beef trade: Prime quotes unchanged and cows still under pressure

As has been the case over the past number of weeks, beef factories are quick to quote prices of 375c/kg for steers and 385c/kg for factory-ready heifers.

However, some producers have achieved 5c/kg higher, but these deals are few and far between and the number of cattle being purchased off the higher quotes are in the minority.

That being said, factory agents are sourcing prime cattle to build stocks for the Christmas market, but this hasn’t made a difference to prices on offer.

On the other hand, some factories have kept the downward pressure on cow prices. While poorly-conformed cows have continued to come on stream, one factory agent noted that the quality of cows has slightly improved, suggesting that farmers culling dairy cows have introduced meal in order to achieve higher prices in the factories.

The demand is best for prime cattle and this is evident in the cow kill with 593 fewer cows processed during the week ending November 18.

Beef buyers are starting negotiations with farmers for cows at 270c/kg for P-grade cows; poorer-quality cows are achieving lower prices.

In addition, 280-300c/kg is on the table for O-grade animals and 310c/kg is being quoted for R-grade cows. However, the location and demand of individual processing plants plays a role in the price being quoted to farmers for cows.

Weekly kill

Turning to the weekly kill, for the second consecutive week, the total number of cattle processed breached the 40,000 head mark during the week ending November 18.

In fact, during that week, the number of cattle processed by Department of Agriculture beef export plants increased marginally.

That week, 40,062 cattle were slaughtered by beef processors – up from 40,039 the week before. During the same week in 2017, some 38,515 cattle were processed.

The number of young bulls processed amounted to 4,266 head – a jump of 567 head. However, the number of cows slaughtered decreased slightly. The number of cows processed by Irish beef plants stood at 8,810 – a fall of 593 head.

Some 15,165 factory-fit bullocks were slaughtered – a fall of 931 head. Moving to heifers, 11,281 of these animals were processed during the week ending November 18 – up from 10,369 head during the week before. Furthermore, some 42 more aged bulls were slaughtered.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending November 18):
  • Young bulls: 4,266 head (+567 head or +15.3%);
  • Bulls: 492 head (+42 head or +9.3%);
  • Steers: 15,165 head (-931 head or -5.7%);
  • Cows: 8,810 head (-593 head or -6.8%);
  • Heifers: 11,281 head (+912 head or +8.8%);
  • Total: 40,062 head (+29 head or +0.1%).

Yearly kill

Moving to the overall kill in 2018, we can see that over 1.59 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland so far up to the week ending November 18.

Breaking this figure into individual categories, data from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database indicates that 176,676 young bulls have been processed.

Comparing this with 2017 levels, some 14,007 more young bulls have been slaughtered up to and including the week ending November 18.

Aged bull slaughterings are also running above last year’s levels; some 28,154 aged bulls have been purchased by the beef plants – an increase of 2,602 head when compared to 2017 figures.

Furthermore , some 600,140 steers have been processed. However, in 2017, some 612,230 bullocks were slaughtered by this date.

Cow slaughterings in 2018 have also recorded a relatively high increase when compared to 2017 levels. So far this year, 353,103 cows have been slaughtered – an increase of 22,456 head compared to 2017.

Finally, looking at heifer throughput, slaughterings of these animals are up 26,044 when compared to 2017 figures. Up to and including the week ending November 18, some 426,842 heifers have been slaughtered.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 176,676 head (+14,007 head or +8.6%);
  • Bulls: 28,154 head (+2,602 head or +10.1%);
  • Steers: 600,140 head (-12,090 head or -2.0%);
  • Cows: 353,103 head (+22,456 head or +6.3%);
  • Heifers: 426,842 head (+26,044 head or +6.5%);
  • Total: 1,594,593 head (+55,518 head or +3.6%).