Festive demand continues to drive the beef trade

For the first time in almost 10 years, the weekly beef kill reached 40,529 head during the week ending December 3.

Despite this substantial kill, the demand for beef remains relatively strong; buyers are continuing to hunt for in-spec cattle ahead of the lucrative Christmas market.

Due to this, farmers have been urged to dig in their heels and bargain hard when it comes to marketing their stock.

Like last week, for the most part, factory base quotes have remained unchanged. Most processors are currently offering 385-390c/kg for steers and 395-400c/kg for heifers.

However, farmers – especially those with large numbers of in-spec stock to sell – are finding that 5-10c/kg on top is the base quotes is achievable.

Cow prices remain relatively stable this week and most buyers are offering 310-320c/kg for P-grade and 325-340c/kg for O-grade animals. R-grade cows are making 340-355c/kg.

Cattle supplies

During the week ending December 3, some 40,529 cattle were processed in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants – the highest weekly throughput in almost 10 years. The last time that the weekly beef kill reached such a height was back in October 2008.

Steer and heifer throughput continues to lead the way; collectively these accounted for almost 62% of all of the beef cattle slaughtered in Ireland during the week ending December 3.

Additionally, young bull and cow slaughterings also peaked at 5,684 head and 9,143 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending December 3):
  • Young bull: 5,684 head (+144 head or +2.6%);
  • Aged bull: 528 head (-40 head or -7%);
  • Steers: 13,586 head (-390 head or -2.8%);
  • Cows: 9,143 head (+286 head or +3.3%);
  • Heifers: 11,532 head (+738 head or +6.8%);
  • Total: 40,529 head (+703 head or +1.8%).

Mart trade

Kilkenny Mart

A larger cattle sale, consisting of 830 animals, was witnessed in Kilkenny Mart, Cillin Hill, on Thursday (December 7) last.

According to the mart’s George Candler, there was a strong trade for quality lots of cattle.

Continental cattle are scarce and in demand.

In addition, over 130 cull cows went under the hammer. Those cows met a fast-selling trade and a 100% clearance rate was achieved on the day.

Quality heifers also met a good trade, as small numbers were on offer. The heavier lots made €2.00-2.47/kg, €1.90-2.55/kg was paid for forward stores and the lighter store classes (<400kg) made €1.80-2.67/kg.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Charolais: 680kg – €1,680 or €2.47/kg;
  • Aberdeen Angus: 505kg – €960 or €1.90/kg;
  • Limousin: 395kg – €970 or €2.46/kg;
  • Charolais: 315kg – €840 or €2.67/kg.

In the steer ring, Candler said quality beef and forward stores sold well and the majority traded at €1.92-2.63/kg.

Sample steer prices:
  • Charolais: 780kg – €1,850 or €2.37/kg;
  • Saler: 600kg – €1,420 or €2.37/kg;
  • Limousin: 470kg – €1,170 or €2.49/kg;
  • Hereford: 340kg – €710 or €2.09/kg.

He added: “Continental cull cows traded for €1.20-2.05/kg and Friesian cull cows went under the hammer for €0.80-1.85/kg.”

On the day, a number of in-calf heifers went through the sales ring. These lots traded for €1,150-1500/head. Cows with calves at foot sold for €1,000-1500/head.

Castlerea mart

Some 650 cattle were presented for sale at Castlerea Mart, Co. Roscommon, on Thursday last. The trade was reported as being strong for all of the quality lots on offer.

In the weanling ring, bulls peaked at €3.30/kg and one heifer sold for €3.58/kg. However, quality is reported to have dipped in recent weeks.

Sample weanling prices:
  • Charolais heifer: 285kg – €920 or €3.22/kg;
  • Simmental heifer: 320kg – €790 or €2.46/kg;
  • Charolais bull: 285kg – €870 or €3.05/kg;
  • Limousin bull: 455kg – €1,045 or €2.29/kg.

According to the mart’s Brendan Egan, cows with calves at foot made €1200-1,550/head and in-calf cows made up to €1,800/head. Dry cows sold well, he added, and a top price of €1,580 was achieved for a Charolais cow weighing 815kg.

Raphoe mart

Last Thursday’s sale in Raphoe Mart, Co. Donegal, featured a “excellent” entry of cattle, according to the mart’s Anne Harkin.

Quality cattle were in demand, which led to increased prices. Plainer cattle also sold well and plenty of buyers were around the ring.

Top-class bulls (weighing over 600kg) sold at €640-715 over, the mart manager stated. Beef bullocks made €2.00-3.20/kg and lighter store steers sold for €400-805 over.

Beef heifers made €510-745 over and store heifers traded at €350-890 over. Fat, well-fleshed cows sold for €600-1,550/head.

Ennis mart

A total of 800 cattle were on offer last Thursday in Ennis Mart. 300 cull cows also went under the hammer at the Clare-based venue. These were a split of 50% Friesian and 50% continental animals.

Danny Moran said: “The quality in the ring was even better than it was last week. There was some lovely stock in both the heifer and bullock rings.

Sample bullock prices:
  • Charolais: 742kg – €1,635 or €2.20/kg;
  • Limousin: 585kg – €1,440 or €2.46/kg;
  • Charolais: 465kg – €1,265 or €2.72/kg;
  • Hereford: 512kg – €1,110 or €2.02/kg.

A number of aged bulls also passed through the ring on Thursday. The best of these made a top price of €2,070.

Sample heifer prices:
  • Limousin: 385kg – €1,090 or €2.83/kg;
  • Limousin: 705kg – €1,660 or €2.35/kg;
  • Charolais: 480kg – €1,230 or €2.56/kg;
  • Hereford: 467kg – €900 or €1.93/kg.

Moran added: “Forward cattle in all rings were a very strong trade and some very fancy prices were achieved.”

Sample cull cow prices:
  • Limousin: 555kg – €1,170 or €2.11/kg;
  • Charolais: 685kg – €1,380 or €2.01/kg;
  • Friesian: 610kg – €880 or €2.06/kg;
  • Friesian: 765kg – €1,090 or €1.43/kg.