Beef stalemate continues between factories and farmers

Similar to last week, the factory/farmer beef price stalemate has continued and both parties are ‘sticking to their guns’.

Steers are currently sitting at a base of 375c/kg, while heifers are trading at 385c/kg in most cases.

Some farmers, especially those with large numbers of in-spec stock to market, have been receiving prices of 5c/kg above base quotes.

At the upper end of the scale, this brings some heifers to 390c/kg. However, the numbers slaughtered at these prices are relatively low in the grand scheme of things.

As has been the case in recent weeks, cow prices have also remained relatively unchanged from last week and most buyers are offering 300-315c/kg for P-grade and 315-335c/kg for O-grade animals. R-grade cows are making 340-350c/kg.

The recent dry weather over the last week will be a welcome change for beef finishers. This, in turn, could have a positive result for farmers as factories hunt for cattle.

Cattle throughput

Of the 37,443 cattle slaughtered during the week ending October 29, just over 65% of these animals were steers and heifers.

Some 15,893 steers were slaughtered in beef plants that week – a decrease of 1,098 head – and heifer throughput stood at 8,803 head.

Other throughput increases included young bulls (+539 head) and cows (+1,460). However, aged bulls throughput decreased by 17 head.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending October 29):
  • Young bulls: 3,405 head (+539 head or +18.8.%);
  • Bulls: 504 head (-17 head or -3.2%);
  • Steers: 15,893 head (-1,098 head or -6.4%);
  • Cows: 8,751 head (+1,460 head or +20%);
  • Heifers: 8,803 head (+350 head or +4.1%);
  • Total: 37,443 head (+1,302 head or +3.6%).

Cattle supplies at Irish processing plants for the week ending October 21 amounted to over 37,000 head. This was an increase of 3.6% on the previous week. It is also a 9% or 3,000 head increase on the corresponding week in 2016.

Main markets

Similar to previous weeks, in Britain, the trade eased slightly last week. According to Bord Bia, this was due to a recovery in throughputs and little change in demand.

In terms of prices, the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) reported that R-grade steer prices decreased and averaged 426c/kg for the week ending October 29.

Also, the latest AHDB beef forecast is indicating a 1% decline in beef output for 2017.

However, it is predicting a small recovery next year due to higher prime cattle supplies. On the other hand, imports are forecast to rise 2% for 2017. A similar increase in 2018 is expected – with domestic consumption also expected to increase.

In France, an improvement in the trade was reported. This is due to higher demand on the back of the cooler weather. This has boosted demand for offals and forequarter cuts, while premium Angus cuts were also proving popular.

French produced meat remained dominant on the supermarket shelves – making trade more difficult for imported beef. A number of retail promotions took place last week; mainly focusing on steaks, diced beef and mince.

In Italy, Bord Bia says, the trade remained relatively steady last week for most products.

In addition, data from the latest European Commission beef forecast is indicating a 2% rise in beef output for 2017 across Europe.

This is driven by greater output in Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Poland. However, decreases are expected in Germany, France and the UK.

Looking ahead to 2018, it is forecast that production will increase in Poland, Netherlands, Ireland and the UK –  a lower output is predicted in France and Germany.