Beef trade: Another blow for farmers with factory-fit cattle

Towards the end of last week, beef processors opted to knock another 5c/kg off prime cattle base quotes. Where 375c/kg was available for bullocks in the early days of last week, factories have now lowered this to 370c/kg.

In addition, the factories are operating off base quotes of 380c/kg for factory-fit heifers. This additional 5c/kg drop in base quotes leaves farmers with little or no profit margin.

Rising meal costs and fodder shortages are hanging over farmers’ heads and these price cuts are destroying farmers’ confidence in the market.

Looking at the cow trade, beef buyers are starting negotiations with farmers at 280-290c/kg for P-grade cows, 300c/kg is on the table for O-grade animals and 310-320c/kg is being quoted for R-grade cows.

Weekly kill

During the week ending September 16, the number of cattle processed by Department of Agriculture beef export plants increased by 475 head.

That week, 38,342 cattle were slaughtered by beef processors – up from 37,860 the week previous. During the same week in 2017, some 36,048 cattle were processed.

Heifer throughput contributed the most to this increase; the number of heifers processed amounted to 10,105 head – a jump of 848 head.

However, all other categories recorded a drop in slaughterings. The number of cows processed by Irish beef plants stood at 8,161 – a fall of 123 head.

In addition, some 17,025 factory-fit bullocks were slaughtered – a decrease of 105 head.

Looking at bull slaughterings, 74 fewer young bulls were slaughtered, while the number of aged bulls dropped by 64 head.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending September 16):
  • Young bulls: 2,495 head (-74 head or -2.9%);
  • Bulls: 556 head (-64 head or -10.3%);
  • Steers: 17,025 head (-105 head or -0.6%);
  • Cows: 8,161 head (-123 head or -1.5%);
  • Heifers: 10,105 head (+848 head or +9.2%);
  • Total: 38,447 head (+475 head or +1.3%).

Yearly kill

Moving to the overall kill in 2018, we can see that almost 1.25 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland so far up to the week ending September 16.

Breaking this figure into individual categories, data from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database indicate that 148,696 young bulls have been processed.

Comparing this with 2017 levels, some 12,904 more young bulls have been slaughtered up to and including the week ending September 16.

Aged bull slaughterings are also running above last year’s levels; some 23,160 aged bulls have been purchased by the beef plants – an increase of 2,676 head when compared to 2017 figures.

Bullocks account for over 36% of the total kill; some 453,193 steers have been processed. However, in 2017, some 461,532 bullocks were slaughtered by this date.

Cow slaughterings in 2018 have also recorded a relatively high increase when compared to 2017 levels. So far this year, 275,429 cows have been slaughtered – an increase of 15,148 head.

Finally, looking at heifer throughput, slaughterings of these animals are up 17,743 when compared to 2017 figures; up to and including the week ending September 16, some 338,106 heifers have been slaughtered.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 148,696 head (+12,904 head or +9.5%);
  • Bulls: 23,160 head (+2,676 head or +13.1%);
  • Steers: 453,193 head (-8,339 head or -1.8%);
  • Cows: 275,429 head (+15,148 head or +5.1%);
  • Heifers: 338,106 head (+17,743 head or +5.5%);
  • Total: 1,247,857 head (+42,842 head or +3.6%).