The weekly beef kill has passed the 35,000 head mark for the first time in 2017, with some 35,264 cattle slaughtered in approved beef export plants last week.

Cattle supplies have been building gradually since the beginning of the year but have yet to match 2016 throughput levels as cumulative supplies are down 1,662 head year-on-year.

But this is unlikely to be the case from the remainder of the year as an additional 100,000 cattle are expected to come on stream due to lower live exports and higher calf births in 2015.

Worryingly from the farmers’ viewpoint this puts the beef price ball firmly in the factories court, thus heightening the importance of opening new live export markets for Irish cattle.

Weekly factory price round up

Despite the increase in supplies seen over the last 10 days, the majority of factories are still working off last week’s base quotes with 370-375c/kg being the norm for steers.

There appears to be little movement in the steer market as procurement managers report there has been a noticeable increase of Hereford and Angus steers of late.

However, the week-on-week fall in heifers supplies (-468 head or -4.6%) is adding a little bit more to this market.

And as a result some processors are willing to pay ‘a little extra’ on top of the base price of 380-385c/kg to secure the right type of continental stock, with some deals being done at 390c/kg.

Moving to young bull prices, there has been little movement in this market with 390c/kg being paid for U grades, 380c/kg for R grades and 365c/kg for the plainer continental and dairy type O grade animals.

Cow prices have also remained unchanged with many plants starting negotiations with farmers at 330-340c/kg for R grade lots, 310-320c/kg for O grades and 300-310c/kg for P grade animals.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (WE February 19):
  • Young bulls: +9 head (+0.2%)
  • Bulls: +87 head (+20.4%)
  • Steers: +791 head (+7.1%)
  • Cows: -253 head (-3.4%)
  • Heifers: -468 head (-4.6%)
  • Total: +676 head(+2%)

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the UK continues to remain steady with strong supplies being offset by good demand, particularly at retail level.

Cattle prices from the AHDB show that British R4L grade steers were averaging at 362.8p/kg (424.85c/kg) during the week ending February 11.

In terms of heifer prices, an R3 heifer in Great Britain was making the equivalent of 417c/kg with the Northern Ireland price averaging 408c/kg.

Bord Bia also reports that the French market remains unchanged from previous weeks and continues to be dominated by domestically produced beef with trade best for offal products.

Retail promotions have been very limited and focused on domestically produced ribs. The latest R3 young bull price was making on average 372c/kg, while the O3 cow price was 307c/kg.