Cattle marts: Age and weight price cuts ‘a way for factories to buy cheap beef’

The recent changes to the beef price is a way for factories to buy more beef for less money, according to the Manager of Tullow Mart, Eric Driver.

Driver said he finds it difficult to accept that the farming organisations will allow the beef price cuts affecting overage and overweight animals to creep into the industry.

“It is just extra cheap beef for the factories,” he said.

Some beef processors have implemented price cuts of 10c/kg on cattle over 30 months of age and a further 10c/kg on cattle with a carcass weight in excess of 400kg.

However, Driver said that these cuts are not stopping factory agents from buying heavy heifers in the mart.

Driver said that he can’t understand why the gap between heifer and cow price is so narrow, as it seems that cows are not being penalised by weight.

“Cows sold in the ring at €1,700-1,800, while the best-priced heifer on the day made €1570. It really puts into question what is going on in the industry,” he said.

The Mart Manager also said that he has fears that the beef industry will follow the sheep industry which resulted in farmers only being paid up to a certain carcass weight.

The recent price cuts introduced by factories is also having a negative impact on the trade for store cattle in Dungarvan Mart, according to Ger Flynn.

The Mart Manager said that the forward store steer and heifer trade has slipped by 20c/kg on last year’s prices, with the majority of these lots making €2.00-2.20/kg.

Flynn said there were very few finished cattle sold in Dungarvan Mart on Monday, but the factory price cuts for overage and overweight animals are starting to filter down to the store cattle trade.

The Mart Manager said that older store cattle are meeting a weaker trade, as cattle finishers are slow to buy these animals.

Finishers are cautious purchasing these animals. This is especially the case for animals that need a finishing period of 70+ days to qualify for the 12c/kg Quality Assurance Payment, he said.

He also said that the number of store cull cows coming forward for sale has increased in recent weeks and this may have a negative impact on the trade for these animals in later in the year.

Meanwhile, IFA National Livestock Chairman, Henry Burns, who spoke at a recent protest in Co. Wexford said the price cuts introduced on overage and overweight cattle will have a negative impact on the Irish beef industry.

“Weight penalties imposed by the meat plants are extremely penal and unnecessary, and target our best farmers and best cattle”.

Burns said that these weight penalties will have the biggest impact on the most productive suckler farmers.

“The factories are now trying to tear up the Quality Payment System (QPS) and impose weight limit price cuts which completely ignore the science.

“This is not acceptable and a complete breach of what was written down by Minister Coveney in the Beef Forum,” he said.

Cattle trade round up

Tullow Mart

Tullow Mart held the second part of its annual fatstock show and sale on Friday, which featured a large entry of heifers and cull cows.

Mart Manager, Eric Driver said there was a very good trade for all the stock on offer, but light store heifers met with the best demand.

The majority of beef heifers sold from €850-1,000 over, he said, with the plainer aged types trading a little easier at €720 over.

Driver said that farmers who have recently sold cattle are the main purchasers of light store heifers, with these lots readily making €3/kg.

Sample prices

  • 3 Limousin heifers weighting 310kg made €930 each
  • 2 Limousin heifers weighing 307kg made €1,070 each
  • 3 Limousin heifers weighing 400kg made €1,060
  • 1 Belgian Blue heifer weighing 455kg made €1,210

He also said there was plenty of demand for cull cows, due to the strong presence of factory buyers. These lots generally traded from €1.48-2.00/kg.

Macroom Mart

It was hard to justify some of the prices farmers paid for store cattle on Saturday, according to Macroom Mart’s John O’Mahony.

The Mart Manager said store cattle met a firm trade, as farmers continue to drive the market for these lots.

He said that good quality cattle continue to meet a buoyant trade, with steers weighting 400-500kg trading at €2.00-2.32/kg, while lots weighing 300-400kg made €2.20-2.67/kg.

Heifers generally sold from €215-565 over of €2.13-2.29/kg, he said, while the cull cows on offer made €1.50-1.65/kg

O’Mahony also said that Friesian bulls continue to remain in relatively good demand, with the hammer falling on these lots from €1.70-1.80/kg.

Balla Mart

There were 900 lots of cattle on offer in Balla Mart on Saturday, according to the Mart Manager Michael Murphy.

Store steers made from €600-850 over or €1.55-3.41/kg, while the heavier beef steers traded at €1.84-2.80/kg.

The heifer trade had improved, he said. The average price paid for store heifers had increased by 16c/kg on the previous week, as these lots traded from €2.41-3.41/kg.

The beef heifers had also improved slightly, with the hammer falling on these lots from €1.65-3.00/kg, while cull cows made €1.20-2.63/kg.

Murphy also said there was a good weanling trade, with plenty of exporters present around the ring.

Light weanling bulls made €2.12-3.16/kg, while the heavier lots traded from €1.90-3.15/kg. Weanling heifers also remained in good demand, with the hammer falling on the lots from €2.13-2.53/kg.

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