Beef trade: Prices stagnate but processing capacity greatly reduced

The beef protests – in some form or another – have been going on over the past number of weeks and have been a major talking point.

A new wave of protests were announced by the Beef Plan Movement (BPM) on Saturday last, although this time the target is retail distribution centres.

However, farmers are still protesting at factory gates, and this has led to further throughput difficulties. During the week ending September 1, some 30,000 head of cattle were slaughtered in beef processing plants – a fall of approximately 4,000 head.

However, kill numbers are expected to be back further from last week.

Yesterday, Monday, September 9, Meat Industry Ireland (MII) adjourned its participation in the beef talks due to continuing blockades at processing plants.

According to a statement by Meat Industry Ireland (MII), 20 plants are still being blockaded by farmer protesters, representing 80% of processing capacity.

Where possible, the show still goes on and there is little change to prices on offer this week. Prices for steers are at 345-350c/kg, while base quotes for heifers stand at 350-355c/kg.

Beef buyers are starting negotiations with farmers for P-grade cows at the 280-285c/kg mark, with O-grades at 290-300c/kg. Moreover, R-grading cows are securing 330c/kg plus depending on quality.

Factory agents are quoting in the region of 340-350c/kg for R-grade bulls and procurement managers are quoting upwards of 345-355c/kg for U-grades. O-grade bulls are hovering around the 310-330c/kg mark; under-16 month bull prices are 340c/kg.

Figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database show that some 30,188 cattle were slaughtered – a decrease of 4,000 head on the week before; all categories recorded a fall in supplies.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending September 1):
  • Young bulls: 1,898 head (-988 head or -34%);
  • Bulls: 505 head (-249 head or -33%);
  • Steers: 13,862 head (-1,013 head or -7%);
  • Cows: 4,920 head (-1,621 head or -25%);
  • Heifers: 8,981 head (-92 head or -1%);
  • Total: 30,188 head (-4,000 head or -12%).

Yearly supplies are sitting at 1,190,212 head – an increase of 28,760 head up to and including the week ending September 1.

Yearly supplies (week ending September 1):
  • Young bulls: 159,808 head (+16,176 head or +11%);
  • Bulls: 26,520 head (+4,536 head or +21%);
  • Steers: 401,414 head (-17,624 head or -4%);
  • Cows: 243,060 head (-15,924 head or -7%);
  • Heifers: 346,275 head (+27,517 head or +9%);
  • Total: 1,190,212 head (+28,760 head or +2%).

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