Beef trade: 400c/kg for factory-fit heifers more freely available

The latest kill figures from the Department of Agriculture database indicate that just over 31,500 cattle were slaughtered during the week ending May 5.

This is expected to tighten over the coming weeks and will be welcome news for beef farmers and finishers. A tightening supply has already made an impact on the price paid by beef processors to farmers.

As reported last week, agents are actively sourcing stock with deals being done at higher prices. Farmers with the ‘right’ cattle or who have numbers on their side are in the best position to achieve these higher prices.

At the moment, general quotes hover around the 385c/kg mark for steers and 395c/kg for heifers, but 390c/kg (bullocks) and 400c/kg (heifers) is becoming easier to achieve for farmers.

It is not just prime cattle that have potential to secure higher prices; cows prices are improving, but prices are determined by quality and location and demand from one processor to the next.

P-grading cows are making 290-300c/kg, with O-grades hovering around the 300-310c/kg mark; however, better-quality O-grades are making 10-20c/kg more. In addition, R-grades are achieving 320-340c/kg in the beef factories, with U-grades making upwards of 340c/kg.

Farmers with bulls have made progress, with a higher price on the table for these animals.

Factory agents are quoting in the region of 360-370c/kg for R-grades and procurement managers are quoting upwards of 370-380c/kg for U-grades. O-grade bulls are making 340-355c/kg.

Whether it be heifers, bullocks, cows or bulls farmers have been urged to bargain hard with factory agents when it comes to off-loading cattle for slaughter.

‘Decent’ price coming

Last week, the livestock chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that the beef price should experience a “decent” rise as the month develops.

Des Morrison outlined that the throughput was going to challenge the ability of factories to keep prices down, arguing that the current difference between Irish and UK prices for an R3 steer was evidence that “Irish prices were being actively managed downwards”.

“Throughput was down 4,829 head in the last two weeks of April and is actually down 1,441 head to the end of April for the same period last year.

“Even with the feedlots, the tightening in numbers is going to make a price rise inevitable and our opinion is that it might be a decent price rise,” argued Morrison.

Morrison pointed out that, last year, the prices rose “steadily” from the beginning of February; that kind of rise has not been seen yet this year, he said.