Cat­tle prices surge as fac­to­ries vie for stock And fur­ther rises forecast as short­age of fin­ished cat­tle drives ‘fierce com­pe­ti­tion’ in the trade

Irish Independent - Farming - - SEEDSAVERS - LOUISE HO­GAN AND CLAIRE FOX

FAC­TORY buy­ers have binned weight and age penal­ties and upped prices as they bat­tle to se­cure cat­tle sup­plies.

Up to 425c/kg for heifers and 410415c/kg for steers was paid by fac­to­ries yes­ter­day. This is a lift of 10c/kg or €35 per an­i­mal on last week, but agents were still strug­gling to se­cure suf­fi­cient num­bers.

Fierce com­pe­ti­tion for cat­tle has also re­sulted in lu­cra­tive deals be­ing done for cows and for over­age and over­weight bul­locks and heifers — an­i­mals that “were not wanted in times of plenty”, as one in­dus­try source de­scribed them.

O-grade bul­locks over 30 months were bought this week for 400c/kg flat, while 390c/kg was paid for P- grade an­i­mals. Mean­while, good-qual­ity con­ti­nen­tal fat cows have topped €1,800 in the marts on the back of buoy­ant de­mand from fac­tory agents and fin­ish­ers.

New Ross Mart auc­tion­eer Jim Bushe de­scribed the trade for con­ti­nen­tal cows on Sat­ur­day as “cruel dear”.

A 600kg red Li­mousin topped the sale, mak­ing €1,500 or €2.50/kg, but he said over €2/kg was freely avail­able.

Sim­i­lar prices were on of­fer in Roscom­mon Mart where an 850kg Charo­lais cow sold for €1,820.

Big prices are also be­ing of­fered for plainer suck­ler cows, and those from the dairy herd.

Fac­to­ries bought P-grade cows in the west this week for flat prices of between 350c/kg and 360c/kg.

The short­age of fin­ished stock has al­ready hit through­put in the fac­to­ries, with some forced to cut kills to three and four days as a re­sult of tight sup­plies.

While the weekly kill is still his­tor­i­cally high at over 33,000 head, one in­dus­try source main­tained that fac­to­ries now needed to process over 35,000 head each week be­cause of re­duced car­cass weights and in­creased mar­ket de­mand.

Scarcity

With cat­tle sup­plies likely to re­main tight for the next two months, in­dus­try com­men­ta­tors are fore­cast­ing fur­ther price rises.

ICSA beef chair­man Ed­mund Gra­ham said the short­age of fin­ished stock had to be taken ad­van­tage of by beef farm­ers and he ad­vised them to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity when the fac­to­ries came call­ing for cat­tle.

“The long win­ter may have some small up­side in that cat­tle will be very scarce in May and June,” Mr Gra­ham ex­plained.

“Farm­ers need to push hard to get prices up where they have cat­tle to kill,” he added.

Nor­mally, some cat­tle would be put out to grass much ear­lier and fit to kill in early sum­mer.

In ad­di­tion, many farm­ers with sur­plus fod­der would, in other years, keep cat­tle fed in­doors into mid-May.

Com­ment­ing on the flat-price buy­ing by the fac­to­ries, ICMSA’s live­stock chair­man Des Mor­ri­son claimed it ren­dered the beef grid ir­rel­e­vant.

“The fac­to­ries cut prices last Janu- ary and left farm­ers with no profit and sub­stan­tial feed bills.

“Those same fac­to­ries are now per­fectly happy to buy an­i­mals — and age doesn’t seem to be a par­tic­u­lar fac­tor — at flat prices agreed off the grid,” Mr Mor­ri­son added.

“What this demon­strates yet again is that the cur­rent beef grid is ac­tu­ally it­self past its ‘sell-by’ date.

“We’ve shown re­peat­edly that the grid has taken mil­lions from farm­ers since its in­tro­duc­tion which ICMSA alone op­posed,” he claimed.

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