From speaking to farmers about the beef trade this week, the tone around prices at the moment is positive – yet the message is clear from finishers that more is still needed to enhance a sufficient profit margin.

In terms of prices, procurement managers are offering €4.05-4.10/kg for heifers – with deals up to €4.15/kg also secured. Meanwhile, bullock prices are jumping between €4.00-4.05/kg.

The cow trade is booming at the moment too, with prices for higher quality P-grades now at €3.30-3.35/kg. O-grades are valued at €3.35-3.45/kg, while R-grades are being tabled offers of €3.60-3.65/kg depending on their quality and flesh.

This rise in the quotes for cows has also risen cull cow prices in some marts over recent sales.

beef suckler farms

Bull beef trade

In the bull trade, movement in quotes has also been seen for the under 24-month-old males. These U-grades are now selling at €4.00-4.05/kg, while R-grades are not that far behind at €3.90-3.95/kg. The O-grades are receiving prices ranging from €3.80/kg up to €3.85-3.90/kg.

The under-16-month-old-bull is valued around the €3.95/kg mark on the grid.

‘€5/kg is needed in order to stay viable’

Speaking this week about current beef prices, Edmund Graham, beef chairperson of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), reiterated that with the rise of input costs in the sector, €5/kg is needed if beef finishing is to stay viable.

He also claimed that 2021 has seen “peak rip-off” by factories.

Speaking on Tuesday (April 20) Graham said: “Although prices are now starting to head up, we started 2021 with a steer price differential of 35c/kg compared to the UK. This rose to almost 75c/kg differential in the first week of April.

“Factory arguments about access to the UK retail trade cannot explain this extraordinary chasm.

“Given strong market demand, the reality is that farmers have more to be unhappy about in 2021 than in the summer of 2019 when the beef factory protests took hold,” he added.

The ICSA beef chair went on: “It is also clear that retailers are being let get away with outrageous profiteering when we know that retail beef sales in Ireland, UK and continental Europe are well up on 18 months ago.

“Current low prices, which are well below the published breakeven price for winter finishing of €4.50/kg, must also be set in a context of escalating input prices.”

According to Graham, global demand for inputs is leading to higher costs for farmers. He cited fertiliser prices specifically, saying they have “rocketed” in recent months.

He noted that urea is now fetching 50% more on global markets than a year ago, with even larger increases observed for phosphates.

Concluding his comments, he said: “The reopening of the UK food service and catering sector means that there is no more room for excuses.

“This is why I am insisting that beef factory bosses should give an explanation why our prices are so far behind the UK prices at a time of rocketing demand.”