The beef trade has steadied a little this week after a difficult two weeks trading.

Quotes for bullocks and heifers are between €3.70-€3.80/kg base price, some €0.70-€0.80/kg behind the breakeven price for winter finishers.

Farmer sentiment has also changed this week, with many farmers refusing to sell at lower quotes.

This has forced factories to source their own feedlots and feedlot suppliers in the last few days to maintain throughput.

All the current market signals would suggest that the market should be ahead of where it is.

There has been very little movement in the UK market, with the equivalent of €4.62/kg including VAT being paid. Sterling has strengthened to 87p/€1, which also strengthens Irish exporters’ hands.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Bord Bia’s Joe Burke said: “While there have been difficulties in the UK and European markets, we have seen some positive movements in the EU markets in recent days. The UK retail trade is also performing very well and we are expecting that to pick up more in the coming weeks.”

Thomas O’Connor, Co Kildare, beef finisher

“From a young person’s point of view, I can’t see where the future people to finish cattle are going to come out of. The treatment finishers are getting at the moment is nothing short of a disgrace. Meanwhile, they get to apply for a €100m Brexit fund. You couldn’t write it.

In the same week that meal prices go up, they pull the price up to €0.20/kg. It shows the complete lack of respect they have for us. From a winter finishers point of view, the recent cuts are detrimental to confidence. With research showing that €4.50/kg is breakeven cost of production, the only future of this system will be a guaranteed price for producers, which means that beef will be available for the retail demand.”

Brendan Delaney, Co Laois, sucklers and dairy beef

Brendan Delaney.

“It’s an awful kick in the teeth to get in the month of February. Winter finishers deserve a premium and they aren’t getting it. We are back at square one again with trust and working with factories. There was no signals given to beef finishers for these cuts. They have come out and blamed Brexit and COVID-19. We had these issues in January as well and no price cuts, so I think it’s a stunt to get cheaper stores. Sterling is strong and the English market is way ahead of us, there was no justification for this.”

Shay Galvin, Croom, Co Limerick, beef finisher

Shay Galvin.

“The last two weeks have just highlighted the issues we have in the beef industry. Factories spinning stories about markets and we don’t know who to believe. It could be true, but we just don’t know. It comes back to the complete lack of transparency in our industry. It’s a sad day when you see smaller finishers exiting the business, but that’s the way it’s gone. Factories are looking after the feedlots and letting everybody else head for the wall. It needs reform, we can’t keep on investing money and farming in the dark.”

Brendan Golden, Co Mayo, beef finisher and IFA livestock chair

Brendan Golden.

“All the market signals suggest to me that the current price cuts are a stunt by factories to regain control of the market.

The latest published supermarket sales of beef in the UK, to the end of January, show continued growth for beef sales both in terms of volume and price.

Supplies of suitable finished cattle are tight – when last week’s kill is corrected for finished cattle, the kill was 29,780, which is over 7,000 less than the corresponding week in 2020. The corrected kill to-date is almost 19,000 below the same period last year.”