Factories act and beef prices come under pressure

A number of processors have moved to drop base quotes this week, with steer and heifer prices falling to the tune of 5-10c/kg.

Factory buyers are clear in their assessment of the market and have blamed the closeness in the price of Irish and UK-origin cattle for this week’s fall.

One buyer said: “If last week’s prices were maintained, we would be forced to sell into the UK at a loss.”

In recent weeks, the price difference between Irish R3 heifers and UK R3 heifers narrowed to just 3.7c/kg. Irish R3 heifers have also climbed to become more expensive than their Northern Irish counterparts.

Procurement managers have said that this is a worry and have suggested that UK buyers are prioritising beef from Scotland, England and Northern Ireland as a result.

Furthermore, buyers said that Irish cattle supplies are beginning to pick up and ‘strong’ numbers are expected this week.

What’s on offer?

Factory agents and buyers have moved to drop steer quotes to 410c/kg and heifers to 420c/kg this week – down from the 415-420c/kg and 425-430c/kg widely available last week.

During the week ending June 4, base heifers traded for 438c/kg and base steers made 427c/kg. Both of these prices included breed-specific and other bonuses. For a detailed breakdown of prices visit AgriLand’s Beef Price Calculator

Cow prices have also come under pressure of late and many buyers are starting negotiations for R-grade cows at 350c/kg, O-grade cows are trading at 320c/kg and P-grade animals are making 310c/kg.

Beef supplies

Some 32,634 cattle were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef plants during the week ending June 4. This was a jump of 1,043 head or 3.3% on the week before.

The majority of this rise was due to an increase in both the number of young bulls and cows sent for slaughter. Supplies of these animals climbed by 320 head and 1,727 head respectively during the week ending June 4.

However, fewer steers and heifers were slaughtered and supplies of these animals stood at 9,494 and 7,588 respectively.

All-in-all, when all the categories are considered, some 703,791 head of cattle have been slaughtered in approved beef export plants this year – a jump of 27,085 head or 4% on 2016 levels.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending June 4):
  • Young bulls: 4,802 head (+320 head or +7.1%).
  • Bulls: 520 head (-59 head or -10.2%).
  • Steers: 9,494 head (-412 head or -4.2%).
  • Cows: 10,208 head (+1,727 head or +20.4%).
  • Heifers: 7,588 head (-514 head or -6.3%).
  • Total: 32,634 head (+1,043 head or +3.3%).

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the British cattle trade remained strong last week due to higher demand and a decreased supply.

Prices from the AHDB show that British R4L steers averaged 369.5p/kg or 425.49c/kg, while British R3 heifers made the equivalent of about 421c/kg.

A relatively steady market was reported in France last week, with demand being helped by the good weather.

This, Bord Bia says, has led to a lot more promotional activity at retail level with most promotions seen on domestically-produced items such as steaks, mince, rump and chuck beef.