Base quotes for in-spec U-3 grading prime cattle began “showing signs of recovery” in Northern Ireland the week before last and continued to improve last week, according to the Livestock and Meat Commission.
It said that while the improvement in beef prices in NI is welcomed, it is worth noting that prices are recovering from a very low base and are well below previous years.
Quotes from major plants now vary from 320-326p/kg with some reports indicating that higher prices are available, particularly for cattle that meet market specifications.
“With supplies of grass cattle now finished, the availability of cattle for slaughter has started to tighten.” The Livestock and Meat Commission outlined.
The latest APHIS figures have indicated that there were 184,624 cattle for beef production aged between 18-24 months on NI farms at the end of October 2019 - back by almost 6% or 11,420 head from the same time last year.
The average R3 steer price in NI the week before week was 325.2p/kg, up marginally from the week before; this was the second consecutive week in which the R3 steer price has recorded a recovery after a prolonged period of decline.
The LMC noted that there was also an improvement in the deadweight cattle trade in GB with the R3 steer price last week increasing by half a penny to 331.7p/kg, putting the differential between NI and GB at 6.5p/kg.
Republic of Ireland
The LMC stated that while the NI and GB has shown some early signs of improvement, the trade in ROI continues to “come under pressure”.
“Strong supplies of prime cattle for slaughter in the region, combined with a weakening euro against sterling, have resulted in a notable decline in reported prices in sterling terms during the last few weeks.”
The R3 steer price in ROI last week was the equivalent of 298.4p/kg which is the “lowest recorded price in the region in sterling terms since February 2016”.
Recovery in prices
Deadweight prices for R3 steers in NI in recent weeks have been at their lowest recorded level since May 2016.
With an average R3 steer price of 325.2p/kg in NI last week, the value of a 350kg carcase was £1,138; this, according to the LMC, was £124 less than the corresponding week last year when the equivalent animal was worth £1,249.