Farmers hold onto Christmas cattle in the hope for better prices

Farmers held onto cattle during the final two weeks of 2016 in the hope that prices would rise with the turn of the new year.

Procurement managers reported that cattle supplies remained relatively tight during the final fortnight in 2016 and as a result many were paying an additional 5c/kg on top of the base price to secure supplies.

However, many buyers suggest that cattle supplies are likely to return to normal levels in the coming weeks. 

This week, most procurement managers are working off a base price of 370c/kg for steers and 380c/kg for heifers, while cow prices have also remained unchanged from before Christmas.

Some buyers are still willing to pay an additional 5c/kg bonus on top of the base price, bringing the all-in-all steer price (including Bord Bia QA bonus) to just over 390c/kg and over 400c/kg for heifers.

Farmers selling R grade cows can expected to be quoted 310-320c/kg, while buyers are starting negotiations with farmers for P and O grade at 280c/kg and 290c/kg respectively.

Cattle supplies fall 20% over Christmas week

Some 28,191 head of cattle were slaughtered during Christmas week – a decline of 7,191 head or 20% on the week before.

Procurement managers were actively looking for cattle over the Christmas window, but many farmers were slow to sell stock.

This fall was expected as many finishers opted to shift cattle in the weeks leading up to Christmas, while procurement managers also report that farmers were keen to hold onto stock until the new tax year began on January 1.

Supplies or all types of cattle posted falls on the week before, with steer and heifer throughput leading the way at 9,226 head and 7,590 head respectively.

Some 6,293 cows were also slaughtered during the week ending December 25, while the weekly aged and young bull kill stood at 470 head and 4,535 head respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes:
  • Young bull: -1,213 head or -21%
  • Aged bull: -100 head or -17.5%
  • Steer: -2,011 head or -17.9%
  • Cow: -1,557 head or -20.5%
  • Heifer: -2,289 head or -23%
  • Total: -7,191 head or -20%

Cumulative cattle kill breaks 1.6m head mark

The cumulative number of cattle slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants reached 1.62m during the week ending December 25.

This is a jump of 5% or 77,068 head on the corresponding January to December period in 2015.

Much of this increase in throughput can be attributed to a rise in young bull slaughterings, with supplies of these animals up by 24% or 38,309 head on the same time in 2015.

A 11.7% jump in cull cow slaughters was also witnessed in 2016, leading to the overall cow kill reaching 355,390 head – a rise of 37,311 head on 2015 levels.

Heifer throughput also increased slightly when compared to the year before.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bull: +38,309 head or +24.9%
  • Bull: -3,886 head or -11.7%
  • Steer: -6,512 head or -1%
  • Cow: +37,311 head or +11.7%
  • Heifer: +12,095 head or +2.9%
  • Total: +77,068 head or +5%