Rain and 35,800 cat­tle per week squeeze mar­kets

Irish Examiner - Farming - - FARMMARKETS - Martin Ryan

There are some things in life that never change, like the num­bers game dic­tat­ing the price for beef cat­tle every au­tumn, with which beef fin­ish­ers are very fa­mil­iar. When a spell of heavy rain­fall is added to the num­bers g ame, you have a per­fect recipe for a drop in beef prices, as sure as night fol­lows day, year in and year out.

And in 2017, the de­cline in the value of ster­ling has added an­other factor to the mix, help­ing to can­cel out the con­tin­u­ing strength of mar­kets for beef, and the scarcity of beef stocks within fac­to­ries, de­spite a strong sup­ply of cat­tle over re­cent months. Beef pro­ces­sors have been do­ing a good ex­port mar­ket­ing job, re­sult­ing in an ap­par­ent weekly de­mand at fac­to­ries for up to 33,000 head of cat­tle. The ques­tion arises as to how long beef fin­ish­ers can gen­er­ate that level of cat­tle sup­ply, with many very suc­cess­ful fin­ish­ers opt­ing out and switch­ing to milk pro­duc­tion.

Calf births are well up on pre­vi­ous years, but grow­ing live ex­ports will also af­fect the sup­ply of beef cat­tle, as the switch to milk pro­duc­tion is ac­cel­er­ated by con­tin­u­ing low re­turns from suck­ler farm­ing and other beef en­ter­prises, par­tic­u­larly felt at this time of year... every year.

Some pro­ces­sors, par­tic­u­larly in the western coun­ties, are of fer­ing a base of 375 cents/kg for steers this week, hop­ing to take ad­van­tage of the pres­sure on farm­ers to sell c at t l e o f f l a n d s o a ke d by re­cent del­uges of rain. How­ever, most pro­ces­sors are at a base price of 380 cents/ kg, and it is hard for them to get cat­tle for less than this, with some re­ports of up to 385 cents/kg be­ing paid.

On the other hand, the in­creas­ing num­ber of an­i­mals com­ing up to 30 months old is help­ing to keep a lid on prices by bring­ing out ex­tra sup­ply, a trend which will con­tinue through September and Oc­to­ber.

Heifer prices are gen­er­ally at 390 cents/ kg, al­though some pro­ces­sors are quot­ing at 385 cents/kg.

There is good de­mand for cows, at un­changed prices. Prices for the O/ P- grade cows range mostly from 315 to 330 cents/ kg, but up to 335 cents/kg, while the qual­ity Rgraders are gen­er­ally at 345 cents/kg or a shade higher. The cat­tle kill last week hit 35,800 head, one of the high­est weekly sup­plies in 2017. The beef trade in Bri­tain has re­mained sta­ble last week, with de­mand firm and sup­plies rel­a­tively tight. Sup­plies are ex­pected to re- cover, with the lat­est cat­tle count in­di­cat­ing a rise in the num­ber of prime cat­tle un­der 30 months.

In terms of prices, the R4L grade steer prices were av­er­ag­ing equiv­a­lent to 442 cent/ kg (at 92p ster­ling for €1). In France, lit­tle change was re­ported in the beef mar­ket last week.

It is hoped the re­open­ing of schools and busi­nesses after the hol­i­day sea­son will boost the trade over the com­ing weeks.

In Italy, the trade is re­ported to be re­main­ing slug­gish, and in Ger­many, the mar­ket was re­ported as finely bal­anced.

FArm­ers in the south east are look­ing for­ward to Pro­tected Ge­o­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tion (PGI) sta­tus for Comer­agh ioun­tain Lamb, pro­duced mainly from these Scotch Black­face flocks, born and raised in the Comer­agh ioun­tain re­gion of Co Water­ford, where the wild grasses, flow­ers and herbs pro­vide the meat’s par­tic­u­lar flavour and del­i­cate tex­ture. The process has started, to add Comer­agh ioun­tain Lamb to the list of Ir­ish PGI prod­ucts such as Clare Is­land Salmon, Con­nemara Hill Lamb, and Ti­moleague Brown Pud­ding.

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