Factories take control of market as prices drop further

Beef cattle buyers have regained control of the market and are implementing further price cuts after a number of weeks of solid prices.

A few weeks ago, heifer prices were edging toward the 430c/kg mark. However, factory buyers have acted quickly to reverse this trend.

Farmers selling cattle this week will find that most processors have opted to knock another 5c/kg off steer and heifer base quotes. This is on top of the 10c/kg wiped off quotes last week.

Procurement managers are adamant that grass cattle supplies are starting to come forward and, as a result, have decided to shave 15c/kg off beef prices in little over a week.

Along with increasing supplies, buyers are also laying the blame on the greater parity in prices between Irish and UK beef, as well as a “strong cow kill”.

Most buyers are now starting negotiations with farmers at 405c/kg for steers and 415c/kg for heifers. But cow prices remain largely unchanged from last week, with quotes of 340-350c/kg for R-grade cows being the norm. Check out AgriLand’s Beef Price tool for a factory-by-factory breakdown of prices

Steer and heifer supplies increase

The latest data from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database shows that some 10,209 steers were slaughtered in approved export plants during the week ending June 11.

Along with an increase in steer supplies, heifer numbers also increased during the second week of June. Official figures show that 7,795 heifers were bought by beef factories – an increase of 207 head or 2.7% on the week before.

However, the total number of cattle slaughtered during the week ending June 11 actually dropped when compared to the previous week.

In total, some 30,873 head of cattle were sent for slaughter – a decrease of 1,761 head or 5.4%. Much of this drop can be attributed to falling cow and young bull numbers. Week-on-week supplies of these animals fell by 19.1% and 14.9%, respectively, during the week ending June 11.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending June 11):
  • Young bulls: 4,087 head (-715 head or -14.9%);
  • Bulls: 483 head (-37 head or -7.1%);
  • Steers: 10,209 head (+715 head or +7.5%);
  • Cows: 8,255 head (-1,953 head or -19.1%);
  • Heifers: 7,795 head (+207 head or +2.7%);
  • Total: 30,873 head (-1,761 head or -5.4%).

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the British cattle trade remained positive last week on the back of steady demand and a decreased supply.

Prices from the AHDB show that British R4L steers averaged 369.9p/kg (422.4c/kg) during the week ending June 10, while Northern Irish and British heifers made the equivalent of 420c/kg and 425c/kg, respectively.

In France, the market remained steady last week with demand being helped by the recent good weather, Bord Bia reports.

This, it says, led to a lot more promotional activity at retail level. However, most of the promotions were focused on domestically-produced beef such as steak, mince, rump and chuck beef.