Upward movement in beef prices, as supplies tighten further

Beef cattle numbers have tightened considerably in recent weeks and, in a bid to secure supplies, procurement managers are offering higher prices.

For the most part, steer and heifer prices are up by 5c/kg on last week’s levels. Many plants are now offering 385-390c/kg for steers and 395-400c/kg for heifers on the grid.

There has also been some movement in the cow market, with 340-350c/kg being offered for R grade cows this week.

Cattle supplies continue to tighten

Official figures show that just 28,905 cattle were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef plants during the week ending March 19.

This is a drop of 5,047 head or 14.9% on the week before.

And vibes from procurement managers suggest that another sub-30,000 weekly kill could be on the cards again this week.

The fall in throughput seen in recent weeks comes as many farmers have focused on lambing and calving on their farms.

As a result, all of the major categories of cattle, with the exception of aged bulls, posted a decline in throughput numbers during the week ending March 19.

Young bull throughput declined by 639 head, the steer kill fell by 1,574 head and heifer supplies were back by 1,409 head (or 14.7%) when compared to the week before.

Weekly beef kill update:
  • Young bulls: 3,049 head (-639 head or -17.3%)
  • Bulls: 533 head (+27 head or +5.3%)
  • Steers: 10,950 head (-1,574 head or -12.6%)
  • Cows: 5,724 head (-1,286 head or -18.3%)
  • Heifers: 8,168 head (-1,409 head or -14.7%)
  • Total: 28,905 head (-5,047 head or -14.9%)

Meanwhile, figures from the Department also show, the cumulative number of cattle slaughtered so far this year is up by 2% (7,241 head) on the corresponding time in 2016.

This comes as increased numbers of steers, cows and heifers have become available on the market.

Cumulative beef kill update:
  • Young bulls: 52,431 head (-6,705 head or -11.3%)
  • Bulls: 4,828 head (-727 head or -13.1%)
  • Steers: 124,056 head (+658 head or +0.5%)
  • Cows: 73,991 head (+10,688 head or +16.9%)
  • Heifers: 104,491 head (+1,114 head or +1.1%)
  • Total: 364,076 head (+7,241 head or +2%)

Beef prices

When breed-specific or other bonuses are included, farmers were paid an average price of 406c/kg for base heifers during the week ending March 19. This was an increase of 2.5c/kg on the week before.

national average base price for heifers

Steer prices also improved during the week ending March 19 and were up by  2.72c/kg to 396c/kg.

steer prices march 19 Launch the Agriland beef price toolkit here

Main markets

The UK beef trade has eased slightly, according to Bord Bia, on the back of relatively strong supplies.

Cattle prices from the AHDB have shown a decrease in Sterling terms, with British R4L steers making the equivalent of 415.80c/kg during the week ending March 18.

Looking at heifer prices, British R3 heifers made the equivalent of 407c/kg while similar heifers in Northern Ireland traded at 399c/kg.

In France, Bord Bia says, the market remains unchanged with difficulties ongoing for imported products. Demand has slowed for most products including offal and traditional cuts.

Domestically-produced beef, it says, is performing best, while promotions are limited at retail level to French-origin ribs.