Beef trade: Wide variation in prime cattle quotes

Farmers selling cattle this week will notice that there is a wide variation in base quotes for both bullocks and heifers. The factory/farmer price stalemate has continued in some plants with both parties ‘sticking to their guns’.

Some procurement managers are working off a base of 390c/kg for steers and 400c/kg for heifers, while other plants are quoting 395c/kg and 405c/kg. In addition, there are reports of some beef processors operating off a base of 400c/kg for steers and 410c/kg for heifers.

Overall, factories are offering 390-400c/kg for bullocks and 400-410c/kg for their female counterparts. These quotes exclude Quality Assurance bonus payments.

Furthermore, some finishers have noted that buyers are willing to pay 5c/kg – for in-spec animals – on top of the base quotes to secure supplies.

During the week ending March 4, in-spec, R+3= heifers made a top price of 438.25c/kg, while the average price paid stood at 425.29c/kg. These prices are inclusive of breed-specific and QA bonuses where applicable.

Furthermore, a top price of 419.49c/kg was achieved for R+3= steers; the average price paid for these animals stood at 411.59c/kg.

As has been the case in recent weeks, cow prices continue to be steady. Factory buyers are currently starting negotiations with farmers at 320c/kg for P-grade cows, 330c/kg for O-grade animals and 350c/kg for R-grade lots.

The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) national livestock chairman Angus Woods outlined that there is a demand for beef in the factories. He also stated that there is a demand at a retail and wholesaler level – on the back of the weather disruptions – in both Ireland and the UK.

Cattle supplies fall by 9,515 head

The adverse and inclement weather experienced during the week ending March 4 led to 9,515 less cattle being slaughtered when compared to the previous week’s kill.

During that week, some 24,734 cattle were processed in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants.

Steer and heifer throughput continued to lead the way; collectively these accounted for over 62% of all of the beef cattle slaughtered in Ireland during that week. 7,331 heifers were processed during the week ending March 4 – a 2,793 head decrease.

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Furthermore, steer supplies also witnessed a decrease. Some 8,844 bullocks were slaughtered – a fall of 2,324 head on the previous week’s figures.

Young bull slaughterings amounted to 3,533 head – a drop of 1,338 head. Additionally, aged bull and cow slaughterings fell by 46.3% and 37% respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending March 4):
  • Young bull: 3,533 head (-1,338 head or -27.5%);
  • Aged bull: 358 head (-309 head or -46.3%);
  • Steers: 8,844 head (-2,324 head or -20.8%);
  • Cows: 4,668 head (-2,751 head or -37%);
  • Heifers: 7,331 head (-2,793 head or -27.5%);
  • Total: 24,734 head (-9,515 head or -27.7%).

Cattle prices in Britain

In Britain, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reported that – during the week ending March 4 – the average price achieved by prime cattle increased by 1.7c/kg. During that week prime cattle averaged 355.6p/kg (400c/kg).

R4 bullocks made 367.4p/kg (413c/kg), while R4 heifers also made the equivalent of 413c/kg during the week ending March 4.

Moving to young bull returns, it was reported that overall prices decreased by 4.5p/kg (5c/kg). Animals meeting R4 specifications made the equivalent of 386c/kg.

Prices were reported to be strong for cull cows during this period. Animals falling into the O-grade category increased by 3.4p/kg. These animals made the equivalent of 311c/kg.

According to the AHDB, the total number of prime cattle slaughtered during the week ending March 4 stood at 26,200 head – a decrease of 18%. Cow throughput decreased to 3,000 head.