Quotes unchanged as beef factories return to business after adverse weather

After what can only be described as a disastrous number of days weather wise, beef processing plants are back open for business as usual today (March 5).

In anticipation of Storm Emma, a number of factories front loaded throughput and brought more cattle in for slaughtering on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.

Factories monitored the weather carefully and the decision to close plants was done with the safety interests of suppliers and staff in mind. Some plants were forced to close on Wednesday afternoon, while others managed to keep operating until Thursday midday.

There has been little movement in the prices beef factories are offering for steers and heifers. Many have opted to maintain quotes at last week’s levels.

What are the factories offering?

For the most part, factories are offering 390-395c/kg for steers and 400-405c/kg for heifers. These quotes exclude Quality Assurance bonus payments.

However, some finishers have noted that buyers are willing to pay 5c/kg on top of the base quotes to secure supplies.

During the week ending February 25, in-spec, R+3= heifers made a top price of 435.41c/kg, while the average price paid stood at 422.34c/kg. These prices are inclusive of breed-specific and QA bonuses where applicable.

Furthermore, a top price of 422.97c/kg was achieved for R+3= steers; the average price paid for these animals stood at 408.53c/kg.

Looking at the cow trade, farmers marketing cows are in a good position this week. Given the strong demand for manufacturing beef, farmers may be able to squeeze an additional 5-10c/kg out of procurement managers when marketing such animals.

However, it must be noted that there is a wide variation in the prices being quoted to farmers. This depends on the location and demand of individual processing plants.

As it stands, buyers are offering 325-330c/kg to purchase P-grade cows. Procurement managers are starting negotiations with farmers for O-grade and R-grade cows at 330c/kg and 350c/kg respectively.

Cattle throughput

During the week ending February 25, some 34,249 cattle were processed in factories across Ireland. This was a decrease of 806 head compared to the previous week.

Looking at steer throughput, some 11,168 steers were killed – a drop of 703 head or 5.9% on the previous week. In addition, cow throughput also decreased to reach 7,419 head.

There was also a decrease in young bull slaughterings. Some 4,871 young bulls were slaughtered during the week ending February 25 – down 167 head or 3.3% on the previous week.

beef

On the other hand, there was a slight increase in the number of heifers processed. A total of 10,124 heifers were slaughtered that week – an increase of 147 head or 1.5% on the week before.

Furthermore, there was also an increase in the aged bull category. 667 of these animals were slaughtered during the week ending February 25 – an increase of 48 head.

Moving to overall throughput, some 270,954 cattle were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants this year. When compared to the same time last year, that’s an increase of 5,569 head or 2.0%.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending February 25):
  • Young bulls: 4,871 head (-167 head or -3.3%);
  • Bulls: 667 head (+48 head or +7.7%);
  • Steers: 11,168 head (-703 head or -5.9%);
  • Cows: 7,419 head (-131 head or -1.7%);
  • Heifers: 10,124 head (+147 head or +1.5%);
  • Total: 34,249 head (-806 head or -2.3%).

The British market

In Britain, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) reported that – during the week ending February 25 – R4 steers made 365p/kg (409c/kg). R4 heifers made the equivalent of 411c/kg.

Looking at young bull returns, it was reported that overall prices remained firm. However, R4 young bull prices decreased by 4.8p/kg (5.3c/kg) to the equivalent of 382c/kg on the previous week.

Prices were reported to be strong for cull cows during this period. Animals falling into the O-grade category made the equivalent of 306c/kg.

According to the AHDB, the demand for cows is still good. However, thoughts that more cows may come forward at turnout may at least temporarily bring more balance to the market.

The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) national livestock chairman Angus Woods outlined that cull cow prices were rising in the UK market. This reflects the strong demand for manufacturing beef.