Factories have moved to take control of the beef market and have dropped quotes this week to €3.70/kg for bullocks and €3.75/kg or heifers.

Some factories are working off €3.75/kg for both bullocks and heifers and there are a few factories still looking after larger clients paying €3.80/kg to €3.85/kg for heifers.

Foyle Meats in Donegal is still paying a 10c/kg bonus for animals killing out between 300kg and 380kg.

Breed bonuses have been cut across the board, with some factories now quoting no bonus for Hereford animals.

Industry sources would suggest that the current bump in the road will be short-lived

The Aberdeen Angus bonus has gone from 25c/kg three weeks ago to 10c/kg this week.

Weight limits have also came back into the fray, with factories warning that penalties will be applied to overweight carcases this week.

Cow prices

Cows have held in price, with very little movement over the last few days, with P+3+ cows being quoted around €3.00/kg to €3.10/kg.

O grading cows are being quoted at €3.10/kg to €3.15/kg, while R grading cows are generally moving at €3.30/kg to €3.45/kg.

The bull trade is also relatively unchanged, with €3.70/kg being quoted for R grading bulls and €3.80/kg for U grading bulls.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €3.75/kg on the grid.

Factory appetite

Factory appetite has waned in recent days, with many opting to reduce throughput and cut back to three-day kills to avail of the Government's COVID-19 employee wage subsidy scheme.

Industry sources would suggest that the current bump in the road will be short-lived.

A few factories have said that they shifted a lot of product across the water prior to Christmas and customers are currently working through this product which had a shelf life of 60 to 70 days.

This would indicate that the current impasse will only last a few weeks and normal market conditions should return by the end of February.

No pressure to sell

Farmers are advised to take stock of the situation and under no circumstances should feel under pressure to sell.

The national kill is hovering around 30,000 head weekly and speaking to factory agents, there is no great flush of cattle to come out.

While cattle need to be marketed when they are ready, the current issues could rectify themselves in two to three weeks.

It’s a real kick in the teeth for winter finishers, who need somewhere between €4.30/kg and €4.50/kg to get out for cattle being finished at the moment.

At Monday’s quotes, that means that close to €300/head is currently being lost on cattle purchased last autumn.

Criticism from organisations

Farm organisations have criticised the move.

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham said: “There is no logical reason for these cuts. Farmers are entitled to an explanation as to what is going on and factories must be held to account.”

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “The supermarket price for beef in the UK has strengthened in the past week and sales remain strong.

“Beef prices in the UK are strong and steady, rising over 7p/kg since the beginning of January and with sterling strengthening by 3% over the same period to 87.5p:€1, market conditions for Irish meat factories are favourable.

“The prime export benchmark price for the latest week has increased by 5c/kg, with the Irish price not keeping pace, only increasing by 2c/kg over the same period.”