Beef trade: No good news for farmers with factory-fit heifers or bullocks

Another plus 40,000 head beef kill during the week ending November 25, has kept a lid on prices for prime cattle. And, from talking to procurement managers this week, it looks like another big kill was recorded last week.

For the most part, factory-ready bullocks are operating off a base price of 375c/kg, while their females counterparts are being quoted 10c/kg higher at 385c/kg.

Again, there are reports of some farmers receiving 5c/kg more for in-spec cattle, but – in the grand scheme of things – these farmers are in the minority.

Looking at the cow trade, P-grade cows are making 250-270c/kg, while cows falling into the O-grade category are achieving prices of 290-300c/kg. In addition, R-grading cows are making in the region of 310c/kg in the beef processing plants.


For the third consecutive week, the total beef kill has surpassed 40,000 head. In fact, the week ending November 25 was the highest kill in 2018, bettering the amount of cattle slaughtered during the previous week by 305 head.

Cattle supplies at Irish export meat plants for last week amounted to 40,344 head. This was an increase of 518 head on the corresponding week during 2017.

Of the 40,344 cattle slaughtered during the week ending November 25, 14,885 were steers and heifer throughput stood at 11,240 head.

Throughput increases included young bulls (+454 head) and cows (+148). In addition, aged bulls throughput fell by 10 head.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending November 25):
  • Young bulls: 4,720 head (+454 head or +10.6%);
  • Bulls: 482 head (-10 head or -2.0%);
  • Steers: 14,885 head (-280 head or -1.8%);
  • Cows: 8,958 head (+148 head or +1.7%);
  • Heifers: 112,240 head (-41 head or -0.3%);
  • Total: 40,344 head (+282 head or +0.7%).

Yearly supplies

Excluding last week’s kill, over 1.63 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland, official data shows. Figures taken from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database indicate that some 1,635,000 cattle were processed up to the week ending November 25.

When we compare this to the corresponding period in 2017, that’s an increase of 56,099 head or 3.56%.

In terms of throughput, the combined steer and heifer kill accounted for over 64% of all of the cattle slaughtered in Ireland between January 1 and November 25, 2018.

Meat processors

Some 615,035 steers and 438,129 heifers were slaughtered in approved beef export plants this year. In addition, some 362,067 cows have been processed this year – an increase of 22,563 head on the corresponding period in 2017.

Furthermore, there has been an increase in the number of aged bull and young bull slaughterings. Aged bull throughput has jumped by 2,516 head and young bull supplies are up by 13,187 head.

Year-on-year beef kill changes (week ending November 25):
  • Young bulls: 181,396 head (+13,187 head or +7.8%);
  • Bulls: 28,636 head (+2,516 head or +9.6%);
  • Steers: 615,035 head (-3,808 head or -1.7%);
  • Cows: 362,067 head (+10,021 head or +6.6%);
  • Heifers: 438,129 head (+13,835 head or +6.4%);
  • Total: 1,635,000 head (+56,099 head or +3.56%).