THE beef market has continued to heat up, with scarcity of finished cattle relative to market demand forcing processors to concede further improvements in prices.
This leaves farmers with fit in a strong position to bargain with factories and do very good price deals — which are badly needed after a production period during which the cost of feed reached its highest ever.
The most noticeable feature of the trade this week is the convergence on prices between the factories.
While processors normally paying at the higher end of the trade are reluctantly conceding the minimum necessary to secure enough cattle, the plants which usually lagged behind on price have been left with no option but to match the going rate — and they are so doing this week.
Some of the latter increased their quotes by up to 6 cents/kg (2p/lb), under pressure to get cattle, and faced with the reluctance of farmers to accept less.
The going rate for R grade steers is hovering around 350 to 353 cents/kg (125p or 126p/lb) with the higher end of the price range generally applying up-country, and into the usually top end of the trade in the north west. Prices for the O grade steers are being quoted at 226 cents/kg in the south and east of the country, while generally making 339 cents/kg (121p/lb) with a further 3 to 6 cents/kg to be added in the north west.
While some of the processors are trying to buy heifers at a premium of 3 cents/kg (1p/lb) over steers, most of the factories are willing to add 6 cents/kg (2p/lb) to the steer price to get heifers. There is a variety of flat price deals and perks such as transport being included in deals this week.
For the next couple of weeks, the trade will continue to steer through its most difficult period (from the processor’s point of view), as the finished cattle remain very tight until they start to come off grass.
Grass growth and animal thrive has been very good in recent weeks, and fat cattle will begin to move off the land as early as possible to benefit from the higher prices — if they last.
Overall, there is very little change in the trade for the cows this week.
All of the factories looking for cows are finding supplies hard to get. O and P grade cows are making 302 cents/kg (108p/lb), and up to 315 cents/kg (112p/lb) is being paid for heavy, R grade cows.
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