Beef trade: Prime quotes steady, but cows under pressure

After holding relatively steady for an extended period, cow prices have come under pressure this and some beef buyers have opted to drop quotes.

Downward pressure has been applied to P-grade cows and quoted prices have moved towards 290-300c/kg this week. However, poor-quality, non-fleshed cows – with low carcass weights – are struggling to hit the €200c/kg mark in some cases.

O-grade animals and buyers are starting negotiations with farmers at 310-320c/kg for these lots. R and U-grade cow quotes start at 330-355c/kg. Factories specialising in cows are paying the higher prices; the location and demand of individual processing plants plays a role in the price being quoted to farmers for cows.

Despite the dip in cow trading, the prime beef market remains relatively unchanged from last week. Factory buyers are currently offering 375c/kg for steers and 385c/kg for heifers; however, some deals are being done at higher prices and some buyers are paying 5c/kg above base.

Weekly kill

During the week ending October 28, the number of cattle processed by Department of Agriculture beef export plants decreased.

That week, 38,453 cattle were slaughtered by beef processors – down from 39,112 the week before. Looking at the kill in more detail, the number of young bulls processed amounted to 3,226 head – a fall of just 9 head.

In addition, the number of cows slaughtered also decreased marginally. The number of cows processed by Irish beef plants stood at 8,853 – a drop of 135 head.

Some 16,256 factory-fit bullocks were slaughtered – down from 16,441 head. Moving to heifers, 9,592 of these animals were processed during the week ending October 22 – down from 9,883 during the week before. Furthermore, two fewer aged bulls were slaughtered.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending October 28):
  • Young bulls: 3,226 head (-9 head or -0.2%);
  • Bulls: 500 head (-2 head or -0.3%);
  • Steers: 16,256 head (-185 head or -1.1%);
  • Cows: 8,853 head (-135 head or -1.5%);
  • Heifers: 9,592 head (-293 head or -2.9%);
  • Total: 38,453 head (-659 head or -1.7%).

Yearly kill

Moving to the overall kill in 2018, we can see that over 1.48 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland so far up to the week ending October 28.

Breaking this figure into individual categories, data from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database indicate that 166,031 young bulls have been processed.

Comparing this with 2017 levels, some 14,853 more young bulls have been slaughtered up to and including the week ending October 28.

Aged bull slaughterings are also running above last year’s levels; some 26,816 aged bulls have been purchased by the beef plants – an increase of 2,945 head when compared to 2017 figures.

Bullocks account for over 37% of the total kill; some 554,955 steers have been processed. However, in 2017, some 568,085 bullocks were slaughtered by this date.

So far this year, 396,347 cows have been slaughtered – an increase of 21,271 head compared to 2017.

Finally, looking at heifer throughput, slaughterings of these animals are up 23,951 when compared to 2017 figures. Up to and including the week ending October 28, some 396,347 heifers have been slaughtered.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 166,031 head (+14,853 head or +9.8%);
  • Bulls: 26,816 head (+2,945 head or +12.3%);
  • Steers: 554,955 head (-13,130 head or -2.3%);
  • Cows: 326,956 head (+21,271 head or +7%);
  • Heifers: 396,347 head (+23,951 head or +6.4%);
  • Total: 1,480,662 head (+52,439 head or +3.7%).