Beef trade: The stalemate continues with no let up in base quotes

The factory/farmer beef price stalemate has continued, with steer and heifer prices remaining unchanged. As has been the trend in recent weeks, base quotes for prime cattle are still operating well below the 400c/kg mark.

Steers are currently sitting at a base of 375c/kg, while heifers are trading 10c/kg higher at 385c/kg in most cases.

There are some farmers – especially those with large numbers of in-spec stock – who have been receiving prices of 5c/kg above the base; however, these farmers are in the minority.

Looking at the cow trade, the large kill of 9,403 has added further downward pressure on the cow market. Friesian cows coming straight from the parlour are at very low prices.

Prices for P-grading cows vary from 280c/kg to 290c/kg, while negotiations for O-grade cows start at 290-320c/kg.

R-grade cow quotes are starting at 320c/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.


Looking at the figures in more detail, last week’s steer and heifer supplies stood at 16,096 head and 10,369 head respectively; when combined, this represents 66% of the total weekly kill last week.

Cow slaughterings accounted for the third largest segment of the kill at 9,403 head, while young bull and aged bull throughput stood at 3,699 head and 450 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending November 11):
  • Young bulls: 3,699 head (+1,054 head or +40%);
  • Bulls: 450 head (+55 head or +14%);
  • Steers: 16,096 head (+2,131 head or +15%);
  • Cows: 9,403 head (+1,470 head or +19%);
  • Heifers: 10,369 head (+1,554 head or +17%);
  • Total: 40,039 head (+6,208 head or +18%).

Year-on-year supplies

As mentioned above, just over 1.55 million cattle have been slaughtered in Ireland this year – a climb of 54,719 head or 3.6% 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 12,295 head or 2% – largely due to the rise in young bull slaughterings.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 172,410 head (+14,193 head or +9.8%);
  • Bulls: 27,662 head (+2,651 head or +14%);
  • Steers: 584,975 head (-12,295 head or -2.3%);
  • Cows: 344,293 head (+22,580 head or +6.6%);
  • Heifers: 415,561 head (+25,066 head or +6.1%);
  • Total: 1,554,531 head (+54,719 head or +3.7%).

‘Factories profiteering on the back of farmers’

Last week, IFA president Joe Healy met with Meat Industry Ireland (MII) to discuss the current prices on the table for beef finishers.

He said beef farmers have been short changed on price this autumn and it’s high time the factories restored some confidence to the beef sector and increased prices.


Healy told MII that livestock farmers need to see beef prices at the factories move up to at least 400c/kg. He outlined that cattle farmers have come through a horrendous year with incomes on the floor and it’s time the meat factories stopped profiteering on the back of farmers.

The IFA president also noted that there is rising anger among farmers with the way the factories cut beef prices this autumn and continued to hold prices down at loss-making levels, despite strong returns from our main export market in the UK.