Beef Cattle Prices: Are We at the Peak or Heading for a New High?

"Beef Prices Hold Steady Over Last Three Months, Offering Stability for Cattle Finishers: Irish Market Analysis"

Beef prices in Ireland have remained relatively stable over the past three months, with factory steer quotes deviating by about 5c/kg above and below €5.20/kg since late January. This is in contrast to the same period last year, when bullock prices increased by 75c/kg. However, prices bottomed out at €4.50/kg in late October before surging back to €5.00/kg in the final days of December.

2022 was marked by substantial price volatility in the beef trade, but the first third of 2023 has seen prices stabilize. While many farmers had expected prices to rise again this year, processors claim that prices have already peaked. However, a cattle supply outlook suggests otherwise. Finished cattle supplies are projected to fall across Europe this year, with Ireland experiencing a difficult start to the grazing season due to prolonged rainfall.

Wet and cold weather has subdued beef cattle performance on grass, which may delay their arrival at factory lairages this year. Weekly beef kills in Ireland are running well below last year, with 30,500 fewer cattle slaughtered in the first four months of this year compared to the same period last year. Cattle supply in Ireland is projected to fall by 60,000 head this year, primarily in the first half of the year.

Most processors are only operating at about 80% capacity or less, but this is due to supply rather than demand. Assuming weekly kills fall further, competition for finished cattle supplies between factories could increase significantly, and a substantial uplift in beef prices cannot be entirely ruled out in the coming eight weeks.

The Irish beef industry is a vital part of the country’s economy, with exports to over 70 countries worldwide. In 2022, the industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with disruptions to supply chains and a fall in demand for beef products. However, the industry has shown resilience in the face of these challenges and is poised for growth in the coming years.

One area of growth for the Irish beef industry is in the production of grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is becoming increasingly popular with consumers who are looking for healthier and more sustainable meat options. Ireland’s mild climate and abundant grasslands make it an ideal location for grass-fed beef production.

In addition to its natural advantages, Ireland has a strong tradition of beef farming and a well-established infrastructure for beef production. The Irish government has also been supportive of the industry, providing funding for research and development and promoting Irish beef products abroad.

Despite the challenges facing the industry, there is reason for optimism in the Irish beef trade. With stable prices and a projected fall in cattle supply, farmers and processors alike can look forward to a more profitable year ahead. As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, demand for beef products is expected to rise, providing new opportunities for growth and innovation in the Irish beef industry.

Categories: Agriculture