Beef prices ease slightly as cattle numbers increase

Factories are blaming strong cattle supplies and reduced demand for beef as the main reasons for some easing in Irish cattle prices this week.

Most factories are offering a base price of 390c/kg for heifers and 380c/kg for steers, down from the 395c/kg and 385c/kg paid during the latter stages of last week.

The move by beef buyers follows an increase in cattle slaughterings in recent weeks, while the markets for Irish beef are also said to be a little easier than hoped.

One procurement manager told Agriland that cattle supplies remained strong during the month of August and he expects numbers to increase in the coming weeks as more grass cattle come forward for slaughter.

In recent weeks, procurement managers were willing to pay an extra 5c/kg on top of the base price to secure stock.

But, cattle buyers seemed less confident in paying this top-up payment this week, with many suggesting that the quoted prices will remain in action for the week.

However, despite the slight ease in steer and heifer prices, the young bull and cull cow trade remains similar to last week.

Procurement managers are currently offering 370c/kg for P grade young bulls, 380c/kg for O grades and 390c/kg for the better quality R grade animals.

There has also been very few changes in the cow trade, with most factories maintaining quotes at last week’s level of 290c/kg for P grade lots, 300c/kg for O grade cows and 320c/kg for the better quality R grade animals.

Cattle prices:
  • Steers: 380c/kg
  • Heifers: 390c/kg
  • R grade young bulls: 390c/kg
  • O grade young bulls: 380c/kg
  • P grade young bulls: 370c/kg
  • R grade cows: 320c/kg
  • O grade cows: 300c/kg
  • P grade cows: 290c/kg

Cattle supplies

There have been few signs that beef cattle supplies are beginning to tighten, as the weekly beef kill continues to remain above 30,000 head.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture show that just over 30,500 cattle were slaughtered in Irish beef plants during the week ending August 21.

This is a slight increase of 88 head compared to the week before, when the kill stood at 30,506 head.

Official figures from the Department also show that the average weekly beef kill for the month of August is sitting at 29,774 head, just under the supply and demand balance of 30,000 head.

Looking at the weekly beef kill in more detail, figures from the Department show that the throughput of young bulls declined by 22.7% or 620 head during the week ending August 21, while the weekly heifer kill fell by 1% or 71 head.

However, despite the fall in young bull and heifer throughput, supplies of aged bulls (+21.2%), steers (+2.7%) and cows (+4.1%) all increased.

Week-on-week beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: -620 head (-22.7%)
  • Bulls: +150 head (+21.2%)
  • Steers: +369 head (+2.7%)
  • Cows: +264 head (+4.1%)
  • Heifers: -71 head (-1%)
  • Total: +88 head (+0.3%)

Main markets

The British beef trade continues to be underpinned by tight cattle supplies, Bord Bia says, while demand is relatively good as the fine weather has boosted the trade for steak cuts.

According to the AHDB, the balance between supply and demand, that has characterised the British cattle trade, continued into last week.

It reports that retail demand is fairing well, particularly for specific products being sold under specialised retail schemes.

Reported cattle prices from the AHDB show that GB R4L grade steers averaged 359p/kg dead weight or 420c/kg for the week ending August 20.

Meanwhile, figures from Bord Bia show that the average R3 steer in Northern Ireland made the equivalent of 389c/kg.

Little change in the French beef trade

According to Bord Bia, the French beef trade remains unchanged with ongoing difficulties in getting imported product onto retail shelves.

Major retail promotions continue to focus on domestically produced mince and roasting joints.

Figures from Bord Bia show that the R3 young bull price was down 2c/kg to 354c/kg, while the O3 cow price was back by 7c/kg to 307c/kg.

Bord Bia also says there has been little change in the Italian beef market, with the latest R3 young bull price sitting at 376c/kg.

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