Beef trade: Ship somewhat steady, but how long will it last?

Last week, we saw farm organisations lead farmers in protest against price cuts made by beef processors in recent weeks and throughout 2018.

Approximately 300 farmers turned up on Wednesday last to protest outside the 12th Beef Roundtable, while large crowds of frustrated farmers protested outside ABP in Clones, Co. Monaghan, on Friday.

This week, factory agents are offering 370-375c/kg for factory-fit bullocks, while base quotes of 380-385c/kg are on the table for heifers.

Regular customers or farmers with large numbers of in-spec cattle are in the best position to secure the higher prices.

Similar to the prime kill, cows remain somewhat difficult. As it stands, processors are offering 290c/kg for P-grade cows, while lesser-quality cows are further back.

Negotiations are starting at 300-310c/kg for O-grade cows, while finishers supplying better-quality, R-grade cows are being offered 330c/kg this week.

However, with the highest kill of 2018 recorded, one would wonder how long factories will operate off these prices.

Cattle throughput

Official figures show that some 39,255 cattle were processed in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants last week – the highest weekly kill since the week ending December 10, 2017.

The addition of last week’s throughput brings the cumulative kill for the year – up to and including the week ending September 30 – to over 1.3 million head.

Looking at the figures in more detail, last week’s steer and heifer kill stood at 17,329 head and 9,865 head respectively; when combined, this represents 69% of the total weekly kill last week.

Cow slaughterings accounted for the third largest segment of the kill at 8,376 head, while young bull and aged bull throughput stood at 2,749 head and 923 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending September 30):
  • Young bulls: 2,749 head (+404 head or +17.2%);
  • Bulls: 923 head (+351 head or +61.4%);
  • Steers: 17,329 head (-229 head or -1.3%);
  • Cows: 8,376 head (+257 head or +3.2%);
  • Heifers: 9,865 head (+172 head or +1.8%);
  • Total: 39,255 head (+929 head or +2.4%).

Yearly kill

As mentioned above, just over 1.3 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland this year – a climb of 46,818 head or 3.7% when compared to the corresponding period in 2017.

Throughput increases have been witnessed in the young bull, aged bull, cow and heifer categories. However, steer throughput has declined by 11,329 head or 2.3% – largely due to the rise in young bull slaughterings.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 153,769 head (+13,753 head or +9.8%);
  • Bulls: 24,673 head (+3,034 head or +14%);
  • Steers: 488,083 head (-11,329 head or -2.3%);
  • Cows: 291,924 head (+18,164 head or +6.6%);
  • Heifers: 357,664 head (+20,562 head or +6.1%);
  • Total: 1,325,438 head (+46,818 head or +3.7%).