Hopes for beef price bounce washed away by flood of cat­tle

How to keep the diet feeder go­ing this win­ter P24&25 Air of de­spon­dency among farm­ers as fac­to­ries claim fridges are full and dry cow prices drop €180/hd


THE chances of a pre-Christ­mas bounce in beef prices evap­o­rated this week, with the fac­to­ries con­tin­u­ing to face a flood of cat­tle.

Fac­tory sources pre­dict that the kill will breach the 40,000-head mark for the fourth week in a row by Fri­day, with lit­tle sign of an eas­ing in sup­plies.

Bul­lock and heifer prices held at the low lev­els of the last few weeks, but the cow trade has taken a hit from the in­creased num­bers, with quotes back 10c/kg.

Prices for in-spec prime cat­tle held at €3.75/kg for bul­locks, with heifers 10c/kg above this at €3.85/kg.

How­ever, quotes for R-grade cull cows have fallen to the €3.00/kg mark, with O grades on €2.80 and those grad­ing P+3 at €2.60-2.80/kg.

This rep­re­sents a fall in cow re­turns of €130-150/hd over the last six weeks. This down­turn has also been re­flected in the marts, where dry cow prices are back €140-180/hd.

Farm­ers re­port lit­tle ap­petite for cows from fac­tory buy­ers. The word be­ing put about is that fridges are full and the trade for man­u­fac­tur­ing beef is slow. This was con­firmed by Cor­mac Healy of Meat In­dus­try Ire­land (MII).

“The com­bi­na­tion of strong beef out­put across Eu­rope, cou­pled with higher EU beef im­ports, up 14pc this year, and a fall in EU beef ex­ports has put pres­sure on mar­ket re­turns,” Mr Healy said. “Stock lev­els be­ing held by the in­dus­try are ris­ing, re­flect­ing the poorer de­mand out there.

“Cow beef out­put in the EU is up 4pc, which is re­flect­ing in the weaker man­u­fac­tur­ing beef trade at present.”

Farm­ers are ‘bro­ken’

The ap­petite for bulls isn’t too great ei­ther, with quotes back 5c/kg yes­ter­day. Quotes for U-grade bulls ranged from €3.80/kg to €3.90/kg, with R grades around the €3.70/kg mark, while O grades were com­ing in at €3.50-3.60/kg.

There is now lit­tle chance of the tra­di­tional pre-Christ­mas lift in cat­tle prices at this stage, given the high stock lev­els fac­to­ries are hold­ing and the con­tin­u­ing flood of cat­tle be­ing killed each week.

Mart man­agers re­port an air of to­tal de­spon­dency among farm­ers at the wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion in the beef trade.

One west of Ire­land mart man­ager said that he had never be­fore seen farm­ers as “bro­ken” as they are at the mo­ment.

Jim Bushe of New Ross Mart con­curred. He said it was too late to talk of sav­ing the suck­ler sec­tor in the south-east be­cause “it’s al­ready gone”.

Mean­while, the Brexit deal agreed be­tween the UK and EU could cre­ate an Ir­ish loop­hole around pro­pos­als in Bri­tain to ban live ex­ports.

Cam­paign­ers who want to see an end to live ex­ports be­lieve the UK’s with­drawal agree­ment may make a ban im­pos­si­ble.

En­vi­ron­ment sec­re­tary Michael Gove said that once Bri­tain leaves the EU, the coun­try could ban the ex­port of thou­sands of live farm an­i­mals to main­land Eu­rope.

The pol­icy, which will likely be op­posed by farm­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, would en­joy sup­port from cam­paign groups push­ing for a broad ban.

But cam­paign­ers who have stud­ied the draft Brexit agree­ment, pub­lished last week, say the doc­u­ment could un­der­mine plans for a to­tal ban.

The North’s back­stop pro­to­col states: “Quan­ti­ta­tive re­stric­tions on ex­ports and im­ports shall be pro­hib­ited be­tween the [Euro­pean] Union and North­ern Ire­land” — ef­fec­tively in­sist­ing on free move­ment of goods.

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