Winter beef finishers have been left counting their losses yet again as factories have slashed quotes in the last few days.

Factories cut quotes by 10c/kg to 15c/kg, citing poor UK demand and also reduced demand in the European food service trade.

Bullocks are generally being quoted at €3.70/kg while heifers are working off €3.75/kg. That’s 60c/kg to 70c/kg behind what is needed for winter finishers to break even. Winter finishers are currently looking at losses of somewhere between €200 and €300/head at current costs.

One of the most frustrating aspects for farmers is the performance of the British market.

A 380kg R4L bullock killed in the UK this week will come into the equivalent of €4.62/kg including VAT. That’s 72c/kg ahead of the Irish price or €274/head more.

However, factory-aligned feedlots are still very active in marts for forward store cattle, which could signal an improvement in the market up ahead with strong retail sales expected in the run up to Easter.

Meat Industry Ireland (MII) director Cormac Healy told the Irish Farmers Journal there are multiple changes happening in the market.

“Recent lockdowns across Europe have meant food service sales have taken a huge hit. Food service accounts for 60% of our steak sales so it’s having a big impact,” he said.

“We are also seeing UK customers work through some of the Brexit contingency stocks that were shipped to the UK before Christmas in advance of a potential no-deal Brexit. This has meant a reduction in demand for fresh product. How quickly we come out of this depends on how quickly food service can pick up again.”

Healy also pointed to the absence of the Chinese market as being a lost opportunity to grow international sales in place of other markets.