Beef markets could weaken further over the next two months

Beef cattle prices have come under increased pressure in recent weeks and, as it stands, most factories are offering 380-385c/kg for steers and 390-395c/kg for heifers.

There is a growing fear among producers that prices could weaken further in the coming weeks and months.

This is particularly the case as beef cattle supplies are set to remain in a position of surplus for the remainder of this year. In total, an extra 100,000 cattle are expected to be slaughtered in Irish beef plants this year – that’s a weekly kill increase of almost 2,000 head.

Speaking to AgriLand at last Sunday’s Tullamore Show, Dawn Meats’ Paul Nolan said: “The trade has been a little quiet over the summer months by most standards; but for 33,000 cattle to go through the system on a weekly basis, it has been a good achievement.

“I think the trade is definitely under a bit of pressure and I see a bit of weakness coming into the market over the next two months or so.

“But, then again, that’s normal for this time of year,” the Group Development Manager at Dawn Meats said.

Nolan also touched on the increasing number of dairy-origin stock being brought forward for slaughter in Ireland.

The progeny of dairy expansion is starting to come through on the beef side and the carcass sizes they are producing are very akin to what the majority of consumers are looking for – in terms of cut size and affordability.

“We see that there’s room to do more work with the continental crosses on the dairy side to give us the best of both worlds.”

A future for the suckler cow?

Despite the increasing number of dairy-origin stock available on the market – a trend that will undoubtedly increase in the coming years – Nolan was adamant that there is a future for the Irish suckler industry on a number of fronts.

“First of all, there’s a future for the suckler cow producing that top-class weanling for the feedlots in Europe.

“On top of that, there are some very good suckler farmers who have adapted to producing very good cattle that are ideal for certain European markets like Belgium and the Netherlands.

“You only have to look at the price of weanlings to know that there are markets for suckler-origin stock,” he said.

Brexit and new markets

On Brexit, Nolan commented: “We always said that Brexit is a concern not a worry, simply because you can’t worry about something that you don’t know what way it’s going to pan out.

The comfort we take at the moment is that the Department of Agriculture seems to have its feet pretty much under the table and are, therefore, on top of every move that will be made.

“For the moment, our biggest job is to look after our British clients that we have worked hard to build up over a long number of years and they are looking for that comfort from us too.”

On new markets, Nolan said that China is the interesting market coming up from the Irish beef industry’s perspective.