Beef factories are continuing to erode confidence in the winter finishing sector, with further pressure being applied to the trade this week.

Factories are pushing to get base prices for bullocks back to €5/kg, but are meeting some resistance on the ground with their plan.

Most cattle purchased this week were bought at last week’s prices of €5.10/kg for bullocks and €5.15/kg for heifers.

The cow kill remains high and that’s playing into factories’ hands filling their manufacturing beef contracts.

Teagasc calculated that a winter finisher purchasing a 530kg bullock in October 2023 and finishing him in the middle of March 2024 would require a beef price of €5.80/kg to breakeven.

If you added another €100/head to cover labour and margin that price comes to €6.18/kg.

An R+ continental in spec quality-assured bullock is coming into €5.36/kg this week, 82c/kg short of where the price needs to be for a small margin.

It’s 44c/kg behind the Teagasc breakeven price, which excludes labour, so that means that winter finishers are currently losing close to €200/head on their autumn store purchases or €4,000 on a shed of 20 bullocks.

IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan said: “The Bord Bia prime export benchmark price strengthened again in the past week, which is a clear indication of the market opportunities for Irish beef and very much at odds with the irresponsible opportunism of meat factories here.”