Factories have shown complete disregard for beef finishers’ spiralling costs this week and have continued to apply pressure to beef quotes.

Traditionally, factories would have waiting until after the National Ploughing Championships to pull prices, but have moved early this week to apply pressure.

Industry sources have said that factories are reeling from higher energy prices in the last month and are now on the offensive to lower their costs, starting with the purchase of raw material.

While a few factories threatened to buy bullocks last week at €4.70/kg, when the push came, a lot of these agents ended up buying these bullocks at €4.75/kg.

This week, it’s a different story with very few budging off €4.70/kg base price for bullocks.

Heifers have also dropped this week to €4.75/kg from last week’s quote of €4.80/kg in a lot of cases.

Aberdeen Angus bonuses remain at 20c to 30c/kg, while Hereford bonuses are working off 10c to 15c/kg.

Bulls are being quoted at €4.80/kg to €4.85/kg for R and U grading bulls, with a few regular, bigger suppliers still squeezing €4.90/kg for U grading bulls.

Friesian bulls are being quoted at €4.50/kg to €4.60/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover. Under-16-month bulls are generally working off a base of €4.80/kg.

Cow trade

Cows continue to be the highlight of the trade, with U grading cows coming in at €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg.

R grading cows are being quoted at €4.70/kg to €4.75/kg. However, those with numbers have been able to strike deals 5c to 10c/kg higher than the official quoted prices.

The manufacturing trade continues to perform very strongly and this has meant cows have maintained their strong price relative to prime cattle.

The current move flies in the face of what Ireland’s main exporting destinations are seeing in terms of the beef trade.

UK trade

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is reporting a very steady beef trade across the UK, with prices moving upwards across the last few weeks.

Taking a look at Irish price compared to the UK and EU prices, the Irish R3 bullock price is now 31c/kg behind the UK price and is currently 20c/kg behind the EU price.

Speaking at a Teagasc/IFA-organised event in Kilkenny last week, Kepak agri-director Jonathan Forbes was positive for the late spring of 2023, when he expects cattle supplies to remain tight and beef quotes to reflect that.

While the talk that night was encouraging to hear from a winter finisher’s point of view, this week’s move tells a different story, with quotes moving in the wrong direction ahead of a winter which will be one of the most expensive on record to finish cattle.

Speaking at the Irish Farmers Journal breakfast briefing at the National Ploughing Championships on Wednesday morning, Bord Bia interim CEO Michael Murphy said he was concerned at the impact that inflation could have on the beef trade and the ability of the market to deliver the price required for prime cuts over the next few months given where cattle price is at the moment.

NI comment

The beef trade is holding firm north of the border with supplies reasonably tight.

Base quotes for U-3 animals remain on 426p/kg (€5.10/kg inc VAT).

Most reports put steers on 440p/kg (€5.27/kg) with good quality heifers securing 2p to 4p/kg more.

Young bulls are generally moving at 432p/kg (€5.17/kg). Cull cows are a firm trade with R3 animals on a base of 365p/kg (€4.37/kg) with deals of 380p/kg (€4.55/kg) available.