Beef trade: Prime cattle prices static in the lead into Christmas

At this point last year, beef factories were offering approximately 20c/kg (base quotes) more for factory-fit prime cattle.

During the corresponding week in 2017 (week ending December 24, 2017), the higher base quotes stood at 395c/kg for bullocks and 405c/kg for factory-fit heifers.

This time last year, the demand for beef was relatively strong; buyers were continuing to hunt for in-spec cattle, as they finalised orders ahead of Christmas.

This week, factory base quotes have remained unchanged from last week; beef processors are currently offering 375c/kg for steers and 385c/kg for heifers. Again, a handful of farmers have received an additional 5c/kg.

Another plus 40,000 head kill – during the week ending December 9 – has allowed factories to obtain cattle without any problems.

Similarly, cow prices remain unchanged from last week and most buyers are offering 250-275c/kg for P-grade and 275-290c/kg for O-grade animals. R-grade cows are making 290c/kg upwards.

Cattle supplies

During the week ending December 9, some 40,102 cattle were processed in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants – a jump of 147 head on the previous week’s figures.

Steer and heifer throughput continued to lead the way; collectively, these accounted for almost 25,300 head of all of the beef cattle slaughtered in Ireland during the first full week of December.

Additionally, young bull slaughterings peaked at 5,404 head. However, young bull, aged bull, heifer and cow slaughterings increased by 576 head, 138 head, 668 head and 40 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending December 9):
  • Young bull: 5,404 head (+576 head or +11.9%);
  • Aged bull: 621 head (+138 head or +28.5%);
  • Steers: 13,331 head (-1,240 head or -8.5%);
  • Cows: 8,754 head (+40 head or +0.4%);
  • Heifers: 11,960 head (+668 head or +5.9%);
  • Total: 40,102 head (+147 head or +0.3%).

Yearly supplies

Excluding last week’s kill, over 1.71 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland, official data shows. Figures taken from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database indicate that some 1,715,058 cattle were processed up to the week ending December 9.

When we compare this to the corresponding period in 2017, that’s an increase of 56,261 head.

Some 642,937 steers and 461,381 heifers were slaughtered in approved beef export plants this year. In addition, some 379,535 cows have been processed this year – an increase of 22,475 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 2,570 head and young bull supplies are up by 11,190 head.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 191,628 head (+11,190 head or +6.2%);
  • Bulls: 29,740 head (+2,570 head or +9.4%);
  • Steers: 642,937 head (-9,624 head or -1.4%);
  • Cows: 379,535 head (+22,475 head or +6.2%);
  • Heifers: 461,381 head (+27,185 head or +6.2%);
  • Total: 1,715,058 head (+56,261 head or +3.4%).

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