Pressure is mounting on factories to return price increases being seen in many of Ireland’s main beef markets.
A €200/head gap has opened up between cattle slaughtered in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (NI).
NI beef finishers are being paid between €5.30/kg and €5.40/kg this week for R3 heifers, while the average R3 heifer killed in the south is coming in at €4.82/kg, a 50c to 60c/kg difference or close to €200/head of a differential.
Further afield, the Polish beef price is currently sitting almost 50c/kg ahead of the Irish price, with France now €1/kg ahead. The Argentinian beef price has also passed the Irish price and is currently 14c/kg ahead.
The next two to three weeks will see factories concentrate on retail supplies, as retailers prepare to stock shelves ahead of the Christmas shopping period.
With peak footfall in the first three weeks of December, it means November is the busiest month in factories preparing for the surge in demand.
Beef prices around Europe have kicked on in recent weeks, with the Bord Bia beef market tracker showing a 50c/kg difference in the Irish beef price and the EU price.
Bullocks are being quoted €4.60/kg to €4.75/kg, with heifers working off €4.65/kg to €4.80/kg, with more and more deals being done at the higher end of these ranges
Some factories are introducing sweeteners on other aspects such as transport and breed bonuses rather than increase base prices.
These base quotes are excluding the in-spec bonus of 20c/kg and also excluding any breed bonuses, which are currently running between 20c and 25c/kg, depending on traditional breed of animal that is being sold. Foyle Meats, Donegal, is also paying a 10c/kg bonus on carcases killing out between 300kg and 400kg.
Bulls have also seen an increased demand this week, with some processors increasing quotes.
General quotes range from €4.75/kg to €4.85/kg for U and R grading bulls, with one processor buying larger numbers of U grading bulls at €5/kg this week.
O grading bulls are back at €4.50/kg to €4.60/kg, with under-16-month young bulls being quoted at €4.55/kg to €4.65/kg on the grid.
Cows are a firmer trade to last week, with good R grading suckler cows still up at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg.
O grading cows are being quoted at €4.30/kg, with some being sold at a higher price when included in a load of R grading cows.
P grading dairy cows are the hardest sold, with as low as €3.80/kg on offer, with some factories applying heavy penalties to very light cows.
Last week’s cow kill came in at record levels of 10,945 head, the highest cow kill since December 2004.
The huge cow kill is on the back of a strong manufacturing trade and increased demand ahead of the World Cup commencing next week, when burger demand is set to rocket across the UK and EU.
It’s a different story with prime cattle, with the kill dropping almost 2,000 head on the last full week’s kill two weeks ago.
Factory agents are showing greater appetite for stock in Northern Ireland this week, with some signs of numbers being harder to come by as weekly throughput has set two record high points inside the last month.
Quotes remain on 428p/kg (€5.13/kg inc VAT) for U3 animals. However, steers are making 440p to 442p/kg (€5.27/kg to €5.29/kg), with heifers making 446p/kg (€5.34/kg).
Cows are a mixed trade, with higher prices available on younger, suckler-bred animals.