Cattle prices remain unchanged as factory specs have a lessor impact

There has been no movement in cattle prices this week, as most of the major processors have maintained prices at last week’s level.

Farmers selling steers can expect to be quoted a base price of 395c/kg, while heifer finishers are being offered a base price of 400-405c/kg.

Like last week, the cull cow trade has remained unchanged.

Finishers selling R grade cows can expect a base price of 340-350c/kg, O grade cows are trading from 320c/kg and the dairy P grades are making 310-315/kg.

However, the main markets for Irish beef continue to remain under pressure and one procurement manager said ‘there is no major demand for beef anywhere’.

He also said that the good weather seen in Ireland over the past two weeks is unlikely to have an impact on the Irish beef trade as 90% of our beef is exported overseas.

But, there has been one noticeable trend in the market, the factory specs introduced earlier this year are having a lessor impact.

One procurement manager told Agriland that cattle carcass weights and ages are starting to decline as the year progresses, making it easier for slaughtered animals to meet retail specifications.

In January of this year, a number of beef processors introduced price cuts on carcasses weighing over 400kg and 30 months of age, with the prices of some animals cut by 20c/kg,

But, he said that lighter and younger carcasses seen over the last couple of weeks have reduced some of the penalties applied on the carcasses.

Cattle supplies

However, despite the static beef price, cattle supplies are continuing to remain tight, with just 27,677 slaughtered during the week ending May 8, the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill data has shown.

It shows that the throughput of cattle dropped by 3.7% on the week before, as cattle numbers begin to tighten on the ground.

This means that the number of cattle slaughtered has remained below 30,000 for the past three weeks.

Figures from the Department show that the young bull kill declined by 6.9% or 236 head, while heifer throughput also fell by 5%. There was also a fall in aged bull slaughterings, which dropped by 12%.

But, official figures show that both the steer and cow throughput increased last week, by 0.5% and 2.9% respectively.

Main markets

There was some uplift in the British beef trade during the week ending May 7, due to some tightening in supply, according to Bord Bia.

It shows that in euro terms, the British steer price is now equivalent to 410c/kg, while the latest figures from the European Commission show that Irish and UK heifers are almost on par in price terms.

However, despite the improvement in the British trade, there was little change seen in France, as Bord Bia reports it remains difficult to get imported product into retailers due to a continued focus of domestically produced beef.

Like France, there was little change seen in the Italian beef trade, but R3 young bull prices declined by 11c/kg to €3.92/kg.