The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that Irish beef prices are now up to 64c/kg behind the UK.

The chair of the ICMSA Livestock Committee, Michael O’Connell accused beef processors of cutting the prices paid to farmers “under the radar” in recent weeks.

As a result, he said that Irish prices are now “absolutely adrift” of their UK counterparts when beef finishers face into the most expensive quarter of the year in terms of finishing cattle/

“After last year’s record summer and autumn store cattle prices, the factories have knocked the confidence out of winter finishers with unwarranted price cuts.

“Irish beef processors are quoting €5 – €5.05c/kg for steers, while heifers command 5c/kg more at €5.05 – 5.10c/kg,” he said.

Beef prices

O’Connell claimed that meat factories “seem intent on absolutely wiping out young bull finishers” as some have turned away young bulls, while others are imposing weight penalties.

“It was agreed in the 2019 beef agreement that changes to specifications of weights by processors were to be communicated with farmers. That certainly doesn’t seem to be what’s happened here,” he said.

The ICMSA Livestock chair claimed that it was an “age-old” trick by processors to cut beef price at this time of year “in a bid to control the live trade and allow the factory feedlots to restock”.

O’Connell said that the mart trade is “quite strong for all types of beef cattle” with no reported changes to quoted price this week.

He said that there was “a sense of tightness” about coming cattle supplies, even factoring-in the few short kill weeks coming due to the bank holidays.


O’Connell voiced serious concern over how the disparity between Irish and UK beef prices is being “normalised”.

“Tighter cattle supplies and firm demand in the UK have meant deadweight beef prices there have remained strong with the average R3 steer price increasing to €5.78/kg (equivalent to £4.98/kg) for the week ending February 25, 2024.

“By comparison, for the week ending February 25, 2024, the average price paid by Irish beef processors for R3 steers decreased slightly to €5.14/kg.

“Not alone is this badly trailing the UK price, but it’s 12c/kg behind the corresponding week in 2023 when the R3 steer price was €5.26/kg.

“The reported R3 heifer during the week ending February 25, 2024, decreased by 2c/kg to €5.19/kg, placing it 10c/kg behind the corresponding week in 2023,” he said.

O’Connell said that the factories “continue to play games with farmers” while “there is clearly stronger returns from the marketplace than what is being returned to farmers”.

As cattle numbers are expected to get tighter in the coming weeks, the ICMSA Livestock chair urged farmers to shop around to ensure they receive the best possible price for their cattle.