Beef cattle moving on as feed gets scarce
Gradual upward beef price movement at factories has continued to deliver improving returns to finishers for their livestock this week. While the consecutive shorter working weeks St Patrick’s day and Easter resulted in processors reducing intakes in line with lost days on the boning lines, the overall beef cattle supply remained strong. Despite this, the power in price negotiating remain balanced between processors and beef finishers, with each having strong cards in their hand.
The processors need all the cattle they can get, which leaves the finisher in a reasonably strong position to keep upward pressure on prices. The base price for steers this week is 400 cents/kg in general. Some finishers are successfully negotiating for 405 cents/kg, and the indicators are that the trade for steers is moving positively in that direction, but it has a little way to go before 405c becomes the norm. Heifers continue to trade at a premium of 10 cents/kg over steer prices.
The general base for heifers is 410 cents/kg, with up to 415 cents/kg being paid in some regions of the country, particularly in the northern half. The feed supply on most farms is now reaching a critical point, which is putting pressure on farmers to move out stock as early as possible, which in turn is contributing to maintaining the strong supply to factories, and counteracting any inclination among farmers to hold finished cattle in the hope of higher prices to come. The cost of buying in feed has risen very sharply in recent weeks, to the point where it quickly erodes the benefit of any extra return that could be anticipated by delaying the sale of stock. The supply to factories reached around 33,300 head last week, a strong supply for the end of March, and in line with expectations for the shorter week.
Cow prices are following a similar pattern to that of prime beef prices. While the prices being offered by processors this week are stable overall, they are showing a slight hardening for the higher grades. There are some reports that the margin between the R-grade steer price and the similar grade in cows has narrowed to just over 20 cents/kg, which must indicate a strong market for manufacturing beef — which is always regarded as a good overall omen for the beef trade going forward.
O/P-grade cows are ranging from 320 cents/kg to 350-355 cents/kg, while in general the better quality R-graders are making 370-375 cents/kg.
Winning owner Ted O’SullivAn, BArtlemy, Co Cork, showing his ChAmpion Hereford, ‘Furleigh LieutenAnt’, At the reCent Bull show And sAle in Corrin SArt, Fermoy: inCluded Are mArt Committee memBers SArtin DorgAn And SiChAel RyAn, And Ben RyAll, WAtergrAsshill, who judged the Bulls.