The tightening of supplies of factory-fit cattle and strong market demand has forced factories to increase prices this week, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) livestock chair Declan Hanrahan has said.

“The tide has now turned, following a number of weeks of factories taking advantage of stronger than expected supplies of cattle to reduce prices due to the weather difficulties faced by farmers,” he said.

He said factory agents have been instructed this week to leave no cattle behind, as the anticipated tightening of numbers of suitably fleshed cattle starts to materialise, leaving factories struggling to fill lucrative contracts.

Firm demand

Agents are freely offering €5.10/kg and €5.15/kg base prices for steers and heifers respectively, with higher prices for larger and specialist lots. Demand for cows has remained firm, with prices ranging from €4.30/kg to over €5.00/kg depending on grade, according to the IFA.

“Prices paid by factory agents in marts for finished cattle and cows are regularly well above what some are quoting.

"The mart trade is very much a credible alternative outlet for farmers, particularly those selling smaller numbers to secure higher prices,” he said.

Further increases expected

The IFA livestock chair said demand is set to increase further over the coming weeks and months, boosted by the seasonal demand for beef and the bounce from the upcoming Euro 2024 championships in Germany.

He said the average prime Irish composite price to date this year is 7c/kg below last year’s levels, while the average prime export benchmark price is up 6c/kg.

UK prices to date are 23c/kg above last year’s average price and are currently over 70c/kg above our price.

Declan Hanrahan said that based on Bord Bia projections, there will be 70,000 fewer cattle between now and year-end available to factories, with supplies also predicted to be tight in the UK and EU markets over the coming months.

He said beef prices must move on to reflect the reality of the market place and crucially the production costs on farms.