Supply of 31,964 keeps a lid on beef cattle prices

Beef prices at the factories remain frozen this week.

Any movement in prices appears to be going in the wrong direction for farmers, with processors adhering even more strictly to their base prices for stock, with few exceptions.

The base for the steers continues at 410 cents/kg for most of the purchasing, and a little of 415 cents/kg being secured by a minority of sellers for better quality stock after hard negotiating.

It is not easy to get to the higher end of this week’s narrow price range.

The base for heifers remains set at a 5-10 cents/kg premium over the steer prices, mostly at 415 cents/kg, with a little bit of 420 cents/kg being secured.

The strong supply of stock available to the processors year-to-date has certainly weakened the position of cattle farmers in trying to hold prices, not to mention looking for higher prices, over the past month.

While the strong intake of cattle remains, it will be very difficult to change the processors’ price freeze.

There is a legitimate argument that the exchange rate with sterling (the euro fell to near 71p in value this week) should have delivered a cattle price boost, with nearly half of Ireland’s exports going to the UK. But that appears to have been lost in the system, and is certainly not being returned to cattle finishing farms.

Last week, the cattle supply was 31,964 head, which was around 1,000 less than the same week last year, but still a very strong kill for early March, and sufficient to relieve any pressure on processors to get enough cattle.

Cow prices remain firm, at a base of 330-360 cents/kg in general for the O/P-grade cows, with a little more at the top for better quality carcases. Demand is strong for R-grade cows, which are making up to 375-380 cents/kg.

The beef trade in Britain firmed further over the past week, with R4L-grade steers averaging equivalent to 535 cent/kg (including VAT), widening the gap between Irish and UK cattle prices to 125 cents/kg, or €450 for a 360 kg carcase animal.

In France, the beef market remained steady last week, with promotions ongoing.


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