Cattle & Beef
Throughput: Up until the week ending October 29th 2023, cattle throughput in DAFM approved plants totalled 1,462,398 head, a 3% decrease from the corresponding period last year. Prime cattle have been presented for slaughter a few weeks later that normal this autumn due to poorer performance at grass however throughout is expected to increase as we move into the final quarter of the year.
Cow availability has declined in recent weeks however with many producers starting to house cattle across the country the numbers being processed is expected to pick and operate to similar levels as 2022 in the run up to Christmas. Year-to-date cow-slaughtering’s are running 2,047 head behind of record 2022 levels. Prices for cows have also eased in recent weeks, reflecting a weaker trade in Europe for manufacturing beef. For the week ending October 29th 2023, a total of 40,458 head of cattle were processed, which represented a decrease of <1% or 483 head on the equivalent week last year.
Prices: Tighter cattle supplies and lighter carcase weights have reduced the availability of beef for export in recent months however this lower level of supply has been met with lower consumption volumes across our key European markets. This has left the supply of cattle and the demand for beef finely balanced with quotes holding relatively steady as a result. Base quotes for steers this week have mostly ranged from €4.60 and €4.65/kg, while quotes for heifers have largely worked off a base of €4.65/kg.
Regarding cull cow prices, well-fleshed O-grades are typically selling for between €4.00 and €4.10/kg with finished P-grade cows making between €3.80 and €3.90/kg. Prices paid for better R-grade cull cows have been between €4.20 and €4.40/kg. For the week ending October 29th 2023, the average price paid by Irish beef processors for R3 steers remained steady to be €4.58/kg. This was 6c/kg higher as the corresponding week in 2022. The average Irish R3 heifer price increased by 1c/kg to €4.63/kg for the same week. Note that reported prices exclude VAT but include all bonus payments such as in-spec bonus, breed-based producer groups etc.
EU and UK prices: European young bull prices have largely recorded increases over the latest few weeks with the EU average price for R3 grading young bulls remained steady last week at €4.89/kg (excluding VAT). On average, UK R3 steer prices decreased by 2c/kg also to €5.49 kg (equivalent to £4.77/kg) for the week ending October 29th 2023.
Quotes: Base quotes for lambs from the major processors have held steady this week with 600-610c/kg (plus QA bonus) available. Market demand for lamb continues to be subdued in key export markets with inflation, higher levels of imports from non-EU markets and competition from other proteins continuing to impact the sector.
Prices: The reported deadweight price improved late last month and have remained steady to be €6.26/kg last week. In the same week in 2022 the reported price was €6.13/kg. Deadweight prices Great Britain remained steady to be €6.54/kg last week while prices in Northern Ireland decreased by 6c/kg to €5.91/kg. Southern Hemisphere prices remain well below European prices with an average heavy lamb price in Australia and New Zealand last week of €3.03/kg and €3.77/kg, respectively.
Throughput: Last week’s lamb kill to total 48,934 head. This takes spring lamb throughput for the year to date to 1,102,805 head. This is a decline of approx. 80,722 head from the same period in 2022. Some of this decline can be attributed to a reduction in the number of early lambing flocks and lower litter sizes early in the lambing season this year. However, the indications are that significantly higher numbers of lambs remained on Irish farms this summer due to the challenging production conditions impacting lamb thrive.
After a strong start to the year the ewe kill in DAFM approved plants has also been operating at lower levels in recent weeks with cull sheep throughput for the year to date totalling 268,681 head, 7% lower than 2022 levels.
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