When you ask what drove factory prices this year, the generally oversimplified response is that supply is tight and demand is strong.
The figures used to support this argument are usually taken from the Department’s weekly meat market reports, which are based on figures slaughtered at our main export operations.
These consistently showed that this year’s cumulative kill was 8-11 percent ahead of last year.
For example, for the week ended August 21, the report records 34,778 kills this week, bringing this year’s total to 1,104,010, versus 1,018,985 for the same period in 2021, an increase of 85,025, or 8 percent.
But how much beef do these kill numbers actually produce? Questions in the Dáil last year determined that such data did not exist for the public record.
Many suspect that the volumes coming out of the boning halls have decreased over the last year.
Data from the Central Statistical Office clearly show that the average total carcass weight of all cattle slaughtered in this country has plummeted over the past two years.
Analysis by the Independent Farming shows that this year’s average slaughter weight so far of 323 kg is 6.77 kg down on the 329.77 kg recorded in the first seven months of 2021.
However, the weight difference in the first seven months of 2020 compared to this year is a whopping 48.5 kg: back then it was 371.5 kg.
Factory officials and representatives were reluctant to comment on these figures or their impact on Ireland’s ability to supply our export markets.
However, factory suppliers pointed to three factors that have influenced the decline in the amount of beef produced: the depletion of both the bull meat and suckler cow sectors; the proliferation of the Angus breed maturing at a younger age but lighter weights; and the increase in the number of lighter dairy herds being slaughtered.
While the numbers don’t really tell us how much salable beef the sector is producing, they do give a clear indication that processors need to slaughter more cattle today to get the same weight of beef as they will in 2020.
And that, along with demand, has to be a major factor in where factories set their prices.
In terms of prices, both steers and heifers remain on a €4.80-4.85/kg basis.
While base prices remain firm, factories manage to cap those with numbers down to just 5c/kg, meaning the base cap is no better than €4.90/kg – and that’s just how I have it available on the heifer site.
With grass scarce due to drought, feed costs for flour prohibitive, and round bales potentially worth more to sell than forage, these average weights are not going to get much better in the short term.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/beef/beef-prices/declining-carcase-weights-are-playing-a-major-part-in-factories-price-calculations-41945326.html Falling carcass weights play a large part in factory pricing