Processors move to tighten their grip on the beef trade

Beef cattle prices have come under pressure this week and processors are attempting to lower steer and heifer quotes by 5c/kg.

As it stands, the majority of plants are now offering 400c/kg for steers on the grid. In addition, heifer prices have also come under increased pressure and most buyers are now offering 410c/kg to secure supplies.

Some sellers have been able to secure deals at 5c/kg over these base prices; agreements have also been reached where factories are waiving haulage charges in a bid to secure supplies.

Despite the slight ease in prime cattle quotes, cows remain relatively stable and most buyers are offering 315-320c/kg to purchase P-grade animals. Procurement managers are starting negotiations with farmers for O-grade and R-grade cows at 330c/kg and 350c/kg respectively.

During the week ending December 31, in-spec, R+3= heifers made a top price of 443c/kg, while the average price paid stood at 432.77c/kg.

Furthermore, a top price of 429.40c/kg was achieved for R+3= steers; the average price paid for these animals stood at 417.60c/kg.


  Click here for a detailed breakdown of prices

Cattle throughput

The number of cattle processed in Department of Agriculture approved beef plants during the week ending December 31 stood at 18,927 head – a decrease of 12,310 head or 39.4% on the previous week.

However, this fall was expected as processing plants halted operations during Christmas week. This week will see cattle slaughterings increase, as factories return to a five-day week.

Just over 62.5% of the total kill were steers and heifers. Some 16,383 steers were slaughtered in beef plants that week – a decrease of 3,270 head. Heifer throughput also decreased by 42.2%. In addition, young bull, cow and aged bull slaughterings all decreased.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending December 31):
  • Young bulls: 4,222 head (-825 head or -16.3%);
  • Bulls: 117 head (-233 head or -66.5%);
  • Steers: 6,383 head (-3,270 head or -33.9%);
  • Cows: 2,692 head (-3,943 head or -59.4%);
  • Heifers: 5,513 head (-4,039 head or -42.2%);
  • Total: 18,927 head (-12,310 head or -39.4%).

The 2018 market so far

The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) Angus Woods indicated that the 2018 market has recommenced strongly.

He said: “With the 100,000 head increase in the kill for 2017, and with the large weekly kills in the autumn, supplies are expected to be tighter in 2018.”

Woods also touched on the prices needed by finishers in order to secure profit, stating: “Cattle finishers need to dig in hard and drive on prices over the coming weeks, as winter finishing at this time of year is a very costly enterprise”.

He also outlined that there is scope for Irish cattle prices to increase further. This, he said, is based on the UK market and the main markets across Continental Europe.

“Cattle prices in the UK are the equivalent of 440-445c/kg for R-grade steers [including VAT]. Across the main EU Continental markets, R-grade young bulls are trading for 420-440c/kg [including VAT],” he concluded.