Heifer price: British farmers received €141/head more than Irish beef producers

Meat processors in Ireland have come under increased pressure from Irish beef farmers and farm organisations.

Protests have taken place in recent days, as farmers gathered to voice their anger and frustration at low prices offered by the factories.

What’s more, Irish R3 heifer prices have dropped to almost 5c/kg below the EU average – after a period of being above the average – figures from the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) show.

During the week ending September 30, the Irish R3 heifer price stood at 377.3c/kg, a decrease of 14.6c/kg on the beginning of the month, while the EU average R3 heifer price was 382.1c/kg.

These prices are exclusive of VAT, Bord Bia Quality Assurance bonuses or any breed-specific bonuses that may be secured.

According to the LMC, this placed the Irish price 4.8c/kg below the EU average, 26.3c/kg lower than the equivalent price in Northern Ireland and a massive 46.7c/kg below the price paid in Britain during the week ending September 30.

For example, if we compare these prices on a per head basis – on a 300kg R3 heifer carcass – this puts the price difference between Irish and Northern Irish heifers at €78 in favour of farmers operating north of the border and at €141 for beef farmers in Britain.

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In fact, the report indicates that British farmers continued to receive the highest price for R3 heifers – with a price of 424c/kg – while Italy moved to second place with an R3 heifer price of 417.2c/kg (up 19.6c/kg).

Looking at other countries, both Sweden and France are placed above Ireland. Interestingly, prices for R3 heifers in other countries have recovered (some more so than others) except Ireland (down 14.6c/kg).

Prices steady this week

This week, factory agents are offering 370-375c/kg for factory-fit bullocks, while base quotes of 380-385c/kg are on the table for heifers.

Regular customers or farmers with large numbers of in-spec cattle are in the best position to secure the higher prices.

Similar to the prime kill, cows remain somewhat difficult. As it stands, processors are offering 290c/kg for P-grade cows.

Negotiations are starting at 300-310c/kg for O-grade cows, while finishers supplying better-quality, R-grade cows are being offered 330c/kg this week.

However, with the highest kill of 2018 recorded, one would wonder how long factories will operate off these prices.