The number of cattle coming forward for slaughter is expected to drop this week, as farmers prioritise saving hay and silage.

Procurement managers are expecting supplies to be easier in the early part of this week before rain moves in from the west on Tuesday evening / Wednesday morning.

Cattle supplies have also abated somewhat in recent weeks. Official figures from the Department of Agriculture’s beef kill database show that some 32,114 cattle were processed during the week ending July 9 – a fall of 1,568 head or 4.7% on the week earlier.

This comes as many farmers took advantage of the fine weather to save hay and silage for use over the winter months.

Department figures also show that young bull and heifer numbers declined during the week ending July 9. Some 3,182 young bulls and 8,224 heifers were slaughtered in approved beef export plants; this is a collective fall of 1,448 head on week earlier levels.

In addition, official figures show that aged bull and cow throughput declined by 21.4% and 0.1% respectively.

Week-on-week beef kill changes (week ending July 9):
  • Young bulls: 3,182 head (-594 head or -15.7%);
  • Aged bulls: 496 head (-135 head or -21.4%);
  • Steers: 12,623 head (+52 head or +0.4%);
  • Cows: 7,550 head (-9 head or -0.1%);
  • Heifers: 8,224 head (-854 head or -9.4%);
  • Total: 32,114 head (-1,568 head or -4.7%).

When looked at on a cumulative basis, some 868,798 cattle have been slaughtered this year – a jump of 40,649 head or 4.9% on the corresponding period in 2016.

Beef prices

Despite the ease in cattle numbers, procurement managers are holding firm on base quotes. Most plants are now offering a base price of 400-405c/kg for steers and 410-415c/kg for heifers.

However, as supplies are expected to tighten, some finishers may be able to secure deals at higher prices.

Procurement managers are keen to keep the kill line moving and to avoid a flood of cattle towards the latter end of the week.

This may give farmers and finishers the upper hand when negotiating deals this week; especially when numbers of in-spec cattle are being marketed.

Like the prime cattle market, cow prices also remain largely unchanged from last week. Farmers selling R-grade cows are being offered 340c/kg. Furthermore, 320c/kg and 310c/kg is available for O and P-grade cows respectively.

In addition, young bull prices are also relatively stable. Factories are starting negotiations with farmers at 410c/kg for U-grade bulls and 400c/kg for R-grade animals. Click here for a detailed breakdown of factory prices

Main markets

The British beef trade remained firm last week, according to Bord Bia, as good demand and relatively tight supplies of finished cattle helped the trade.

British beef prices also increased during the week ending July 7. Prices from the AHDB show that British R4L steers averaged 380p/kg (430.57c/kg) and R3 heifers in Britain and Northern Ireland made the equivalent of 429c/kg and 419c/kg respectively.

Moving to France, Bord Bia says, the market remained sluggish last week due to poor weather and seasonality affecting the trade.

It also says that ribs performed best, but the demand for flank steaks and thick skirts eased. Beef promotions were also ongoing at retail level and most of the focus was on domestically produced items such as steaks and burgers.