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Cattle Trade & Prices

Cattle Trade & Prices

Cattle & Beef

Cattle supplies at export meat plants totaled 31,258 head during the week ended June 5th with overall supply increasing by 182 head on the previous week.  Prime cattle throughput increased by 921 head on the previous week, with overall supplies of prime cattle to-date currently running 6.7% lower than they were 12 months ago. Cattle throughput in week 22 was similar to the same week 12 months ago, with 188 extra head sent for processing compared to week 22 in 2020.

A total of 689,508 head of cattle have been processed so far this year. This figure represents a decline of 37,229 head on the corresponding period in 2020 (-5.1%). Heifer throughput has decreased by 8.45%, whilst steer throughput is back 2.6% on the same period 12 months ago. Cow throughput this year has increased by 6.4% on the same level in 2020. 

Quotes for finished cattle remained unchanged for the past week once again around the country, with export meat plants still actively seeking out quality in-spec cattle. Base prices remain steady for prime cattle, with all factories continuing to offer a base price of €4.10/kg for steers, and €4.15/kg for heifers. Producers with larger numbers and regular supply are securing deals slightly above these levels.

The number of cull cows sent for processing declined by over 600 last week, with prices seeing no change around the country. General demand for better-quality, well-fleshed cows remains firm. Quotes for P grade cows are ranging between €3.30-€3.40/kg, with good quality O grade cows achieving prices of €3.55-€3.65/kg. R grade quality cows are receiving quotes of up to €3.65-€3.75/kg from most plants. 

The average prices paid for prime cattle for week ending June 5th as recorded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, were €4.13/kg for R3 steers, and €4.17/kg for R3 heifers. Note that these prices exclude VAT but would include all bonuses such as for breed-based producer groups. The average price paid for steers and heifers in 2021 is 9% higher than prices paid in 2020. Average 2021 price for R3 steers is €3.91/kg, whilst R3 heifers are averaging €3.96/kg for the year to date.

For week ending June 5th, average prices paid in Northern Ireland saw a slight increase, with the R3 grade steer price increasing to £3.88/kg (€4.51/kg), whilst the R3 heifer price is now at £3.90/kg, which was equivalent to €4.53/kg, excluding VAT. 

Prices paid for R3 prime cattle in Britain slipped by £0.01/kg in the past week, with R3 steers averaging £3.98/kg. In euro terms, this was equivalent to €4.63/kg, excluding VAT. (€1=£0.8601) 

Across Europe, average R3 young bull prices improved slightly, to €3.86/kg excluding VAT, which is 27c/kg lower than the Irish R3 steer price. 

Looking at the Irish R3 steer price paid for the same week two years ago (week ending June 8th 2019), we can see that current prices are 28c/kg higher than they were then. The current R3 steer price is 51c/kg higher than 12 months ago, highlighting the impact that the Covid-19 lockdown had on sales of Irish beef in the main export markets.

The Irish composite cattle price for week ending June 5th was €3.89/kg deadweight excluding VAT, compared with the Export benchmark price of €3.82/kg.

Live Exports

For the week ending 22nd May, live cattle exports reached 6,719 head according to the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. This takes total live cattle exports for the first 20 weeks of the year to 161,577 head which is a 7.7 per cent increase on the corresponding period in 2020.

Calf exports held fairly steady last week at 5,182 head, taking the total for the year to date to 118,467 head. This is marginally ahead of the same period last year when 116,495 calves were exported however is significantly behind the 162,483 calves exported in the same period in 2019. While calf exports to Spain, Italy and Northern Ireland have all increased during 2021 to date the level of exports to the Netherlands has recorded a decline to 40,844 head. This is back 1 per cent from 2020 levels and 47 per cent behind the peak levels of export recorded in 2019.

Northern Ireland has continued to be the stand out market for Irish cattle in terms of volume growth. There were 1,212 Irish cattle exported to the region last week taking the total for the year to date to 34,146 head, a notable increase from 16,403 cattle in the same period last year. Approximately two thirds of cattle exported to Northern Ireland are destined for further breeding/production with the balance being exported for direct slaughter.  So far this year, over 6,300 cattle have been sent for direct slaughter, which is up 51% on the same period in 2020.

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