Beef factory prices remain unchanged, but weight and age cuts still in place

There has been no movement in the prices quoted for beef cattle this week, with the prices being offered remaining similar to last week’s levels.

Procurement managers are offering a base price of 390c/kg for steers on the grid, with a 12c/kg Quality Assurance Payment available for animals that meet the Bord Bia requirements.

However, there has been no lifting in the age and weight cuts which first came into place in January of this year.

Farmers are facing the prospect of losing between 10-20c/kg on over-age and overweight carcasses. Cattle producing carcasses over 400kg and over 30 months of age are being targeted by these cuts.

Recent IFA figures show that 10.8% of cattle slaughtered in Ireland produce carcass weights in excess of 420kg.

But, IFA data, presented by Henry Burns shows that these cuts are causing problems for bull beef finishers as 35% of bulls slaughtered from the suckler herd has carcasses over 420kg.

The heifer price remains largely unchanged, with farmers currently being offered 400c/kg for these animals, despite the week-on-week heifer throughput falling by 2.6% over the last two weeks.

There is also no change to report in the cull cow trade, with farmers being offered 340c/kg for R grade cows. The P and O grading cows are trading for 300c/kg and 310-315c/kg respectively.

  • Steer: 390c/kg
  • Heifers: 400c/kg
  • R grade cows: 340c/kg
  • O grade cows: 310c/kg
  • P grade cows: 300c/kg

Beef cattle supplies

Recent figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill data shows that cumulative supplies of steers and heifers are up by 8% and 4% respectively in 2016, compared to the same time last year.

However, despite the cumulative increase in the cattle slaughtered at Department approved beef export plants, the beef kill has shown some signs of slowing in recent weeks.

Cattle supplies at Irish export meat plants for the week ending February 28 stood at almost 33,000 head, which was 5% higher than the same week in 2015, these figures show.

But, the number of prime cattle being slaughtered on a weekly basis has dropped in recent weeks.

The number of young bulls, steers and heifers slaughtered fell by about 400 head during the week ending February 28 on the week before, these figures show.

Department of Agriculture figures show that the throughput of young bulls has dropped by 14% (732 head) over the last two weeks.

The number of heifers killed is also falling from week-to-week. Between February 21 and February 28, heifer throughput at Irish beef export plants fell by 260 head (2.6%).

But, the week-on-week steer throughput has increased by 585 head during the week ending February 28 on the previous week.

Key export markets for Irish beef

The trade for Irish beef continues to remain mixed across the key export markets, according to Bord Bia.

In recent weeks, the value of Sterling has dropped compared to the euro, recent figures from the European Central Bank show. This change may have a negative impact on beef sales to the UK.

According to Bord Bia, the supply of beef remains relatively strong in the UK, but there has been some easing reported at retail level, with the trade for most cuts static.

The French trade also continues to remain slow with demand poor. But, it is hoped the re-opening of schools after the spring break will boost demand, Bord Bia says.

Bord Bia says that French promotions focused on domestically produced beef including briskets, steaks and roasting joints.

Despite the mixed trade in both France and the UK, the Italian market remains stable with little change reported, while wholesale prices for hinds and forequarters were static, it says.