Some tightening in cattle supplies could be about to herald relief for cattle farmers who have feeling the effects of weaker prices at the beef factories.
There is cautious optimism among farmers that the strong supply may be easing, after intake at the factories last week dipped below 30,000 head. As a result, processors now have to work harder — and pay more — to source a sufficient cattle supply.
However, the St Patrick’s Day effect in last week’s cattle intake has to be factored in, before drawing definitive supply trend conclusions.
The supply last week fell to about 29,600, a similar level to the corresponding week in 2014.
It is usual for the supply to dip in shorter working weeks, and to rebound again immediately thereafter.
So the intake this week will be closely watched, to determine the overall trend.
Nevertheless, the impact at farm level has been fairly immediate, delivering 5-10 cent/kg extra for cattle this week.
The base price for steers is being quoted at 410-415 cents/kg.
Heifer prices are at a premium of 10 cents over steer prices, with a base range of 420-425 cents/kg.
Some deals for a few cents over these prices are being reported from around the country, indicating that processors are coming under some pressure to get sufficient stock to supply strong beef export markets.
The weak euro, compared to sterling, remains a significant factor in beef exports to the UK.
There has also been some strengthening in prices being offered for cows this week.
The base quote for O/P-grade cows has increased around 10 c/kg, to a 340-370c range. R-grade cows are making up to 380-385 cents/kg.
The beef trade in Britain has firmed over the past week, with R4L-grade steers averaging equivalent to 531 cent/kg (including VAT).
In France the beef market remained steady, with promotions focused on steak cuts and diced beef.
In Italy, a slight rise in demand was reported, with some increase in prices.
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