Beef trade: A record-high kill in 2018, but similar price scenario so far in 2019

While some factories had reopened after the Christmas break last Wednesday, it is business as usual for beef processing plants all over the country today.

Factories will be keen to return to the normal throughput levels witnessed before the Christmas festivities.

Although we are seven days into the new year, it appears the old prices have resumed. Procurement managers are still working off a base price of 375c/kg for steers and 385c/kg for heifers, with little reports of farmers securing higher prices.

While factories are applying pressure to prime cattle, farmers selling P-grade cows can expect to be offered 260-280c/kg. Buyers are starting negotiations with farmers for O-grade and R-grade cows at 280c/kg and 300c/kg respectively.

A closer look at supplies

Some 13,245 cattle were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants during the week ending December 23 – a decline of 18,179 head. This is a fall of 5,695 head when compared to the corresponding week in 2017.

This fall was expected as many beef processors closed up shop for the Christmas holidays.

During the week ending December 30, steer and heifer throughput led the way at 4,403 head and 4,622 head respectively.

Some 1,686 cows were also slaughtered during this period, while the weekly young and aged bull kill stood at 2,439 head and 93 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending December 30):
  • Young bull: 2,439 head (-2,782 head or -53%);
  • Aged bull: 93 head (-302 head or -76%);
  • Steers: 4,403 head (-5,052 head or -53%);
  • Cows: 1,686 head (-5,096 head or -75%);
  • Heifers: 4,622 head (-4,902 head or -51%);
  • Total: 13,245 head (-18,179 head or -57%).

The 2018 kill

The cumulative number of cattle slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants in 2018 reached over 1.79 million – 1,798,289 to be precise, figures from the department’s database indicate; this is the highest kill for over 15 years in Ireland.

This is a jump of 3% or 51,236 head on the corresponding January-to-December period in 2017.

Much of this increase in throughput can be attributed to a rise in heifer slaughterings, with supplies of these animals up by 26,778 head.

A 22,722 head jump in cow slaughters was also witnessed in 2018, leading to the overall cow kill reaching 396,735 head. In addition, young and aged bull slaughterings have also increased on 2016 levels – up 8,787 head and 2,557 head respectively.

However, a decrease was witnessed in the steer category; some 669,068 bullocks were processed in 2018 – down from 681,152 head in 2017.

Total number of cattle slaughtered 2018 v 2017:
  • Young bull: 204,729 (+8,787 head or +4%);
  • Bull: 30,760 (+2,557 head or +9%);
  • Steer: 669,068 (-12,084 head or -2%);
  • Cow: 396,735 (+22,722 head or +6%);
  • Heifer: 487,063 (+26,778 head or +6%);
  • Total: 1,798,289 (+51,236 head or +3%).