Cows are flavour of the month at the moment. Manufacturing beef sales have been very strong over the month of December and that, coupled with very good prime cut sales, has meant that chills have been pretty much emptied.

This has meant factories have been very eager for supplies in the last 10 days.

The fact that marts have been closed and some very small sales taking place over the last week has meant that some factories have had to up their quotes to get supplies of cows.

Some factories have upped the R grading cow quote to €4.00/kg where numbers are involved, with O+ grading cows also moving up to €3.85/kg to €3.90/kg.

Cows in marts snapped up

O- grading cows are back at €3.70/kg to €3.80/kg, with a P+3 cow coming in at €3.60/kg to €3.65/kg depending on weight and type.

There have been small numbers of cows appearing in marts, but agents have been very quick to snap them up. Some prices being paid over the last few days would need to be seeing a cow price of €4.40/kg to get out.

Prime cattle are holding solid, with €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg still on the table for bullocks, with the higher of these quotes going to regular sellers or those with numbers.

Heifers are also a similar story this week, with €4.35/kg at the top of the market for in-spec heifers, but €4.30/kg is the base price that a lot of factories are holding to.

COVID issues

While factories are very anxious for cattle, some have had to curtail throughput over the last few days due to COVID-19 problems in plants.

Like any other business, there have been high absence rates in some plants, which has restricted capacity in boning halls in particular.

While the issues aren’t expected to cause any major disruption, it has tempered activity on some sites.

Winter finishing costs

Winter finishers are enduring yet another feed price hike this week, with some mills putting the price of finishing rations up by €20/t.

At current meal prices, it means a winter finisher finishing bullocks on 7kg meal/head/day would need €0.23/kg extra compared with last year just to cover feed prices alone.

Irish Farmers Journal analysis completed in September last year demonstrated that €5/kg was needed for winter finishers to break even, with meal at €250/t.

With meal price gone up almost €100/t, this adds 23c/kg on to the breakeven price, which brings it up to €5.23/kg.