Beef trade: No let up in pressure from processors

Beef processors are keeping the pressure on finishers, while the weekly kill continues to increase. During the week ending September 2, some 36,888 cattle were slaughtered.

This figure is expected to rise this week, with one procurement manager outlining that 39,000-40,000 head of cattle could be slaughtered.

For the most part, factory agents are offering a base of 380c/kg for bullocks and 390c/kg for heifers. Farmers with negotiating power are fighting for a base of 385c/kg for steers and 395c/kg for heifers; however, these farmers are in the minority.

Procurement managers have hinted at a base of 375c/kg for bullocks and 385c/kg for factory-fit heifers towards the end of the week or early next week.

Looking at the cow trade, prices for cows range from 290c/kg to 300c/kg for P-grades. Negotiations start at 310-325c/kg for O-grade cows and at 330-345c/kg for R-grade types.

Demand of individual processing plants for cows will have an impact on prices secured.

Weekly kill

During the week ending September 2, the number of cattle processed by Department of Agriculture beef export plants increased by 1,448 head.

That week, 36,888 cattle were slaughtered by beef processors – up from 35,440 the week previous. During the same week in 2017, some 34,774 cattle were processed.

Steer throughput contributed the most to this increase; the number of bullocks processed amounted to 16,961 head – a jump of 1,604 head.

The heifer category also witnessed an increase; 9,247 factory-fit heifers were slaughtered – an increase of 234 head.

However, all other categories recorded a drop in slaughterings. The number of cows processed by Irish beef plants stood at 7,483 – a fall of 133 head.

Looking at bull slaughterings, 149 fewer young bulls were slaughtered, while the number of aged bull dropped by 108 head.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending September 2):
  • Young bulls: 2,546 head (-149 head or -5.5%);
  • Bulls: 651 head (-108 head or -14.2%);
  • Steers: 16,691 head (+1,604 head or +10.4%);
  • Cows: 7,483 head (-133 head or -1.7%);
  • Heifers: 9,247 head (+234 head or +2.6%);
  • Total: 36,888 head (+1,448 head or +4.0%).

Yearly kill

Moving to the overall kill in 2018, we can see that over 1.17 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland so far up to the week ending September 2.

Breaking this figure into individual categories, data from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database indicates that 143,632 young bulls have been processed.

Comparing this with 2017 levels, some 12,105 more young bulls have been slaughtered up to and including the week ending September 2.

Aged bull slaughterings are also running above last year’s levels; some 21,984 aged bulls have been purchased by the beef plants – an increase of 2,801 head when compared to 2017 figures.

Bullocks account for over 35% of the total kill; some 419,038 steers have been processed. However, in 2017, some 426,511 bullocks were slaughtered by this date.

Cow slaughterings in 2018 have also recorded a relatively high increase when compared to 2017 levels. This can be attributed to the demand for manufacturing beef and also the drought, where some farmers off-loaded cows to reduce feed demand.

So far this year, 258,984 cows have been slaughtered, up from 246,408 in 2017 – an increase of 12,576 head.

Finally, looking at heifer throughput, slaughterings of these animals are up 15,393 when compared to 2017 figures; up to and including the week ending September 2, some 318,744 heifers have been slaughtered.

Year-on-year beef kill changes (week ending September 2):
  • Young bulls: 143,632 head (+12,105 head or +9.2%);
  • Bulls: 21,984 head (+2,801 head or +14.6%);
  • Steers: 419,038 head (-7,413 head or -1.8%);
  • Cows: 258,984 head (+12,576 head or +5.1%);
  • Heifers: 318,744 head (+15,393 head or +5.1%);
  • Total: 1,171,438 head (+38,029 head or +3.4%).