The last six weeks have seen a considerable upward shift in prices paid for prime beef.
At the end of May there was much concern that beef had built up in cold stores and slow market demand was making it difficult to sell. This was further hampered with the weakness of the Euro which was making it difficult to sell excess supplies into the wider EU market.
While the Euro remains both weak and unpredictable in nature, the fundamental driver in improving prices over the last six weeks has been a shortage of numbers not only in the UK but also in ROI.
Where ROI finished 150,000 more cattle in 2014 than they did in 2013, the reverse has happened in 2015 with Bord Bia forecasting a reduction in ROI slaughterings of over 100,000 for this year.
The increased supply of cattle last year had a big influence on prices from the spring through to October and while there have been difficulties experienced during April, May and early June this year, the shortage of numbers recently has put producers back on the front foot as can be seen from the UFU Beef Watch.
While quotes in the first two weeks of June were at an unsatisfactory level for producers, prices paid for NI steers were on average well in excess of the quotes offered. This perhaps would suggest that processors were beginning to become concerned about numbers in the pipeline and were offering more to some producers in the hope that it would guarantee them further supplies in the following weeks.
The market has continued to improve in the last few weeks with quotes now at 336p-344p/kg (13/07/15) and indeed it is interesting to note that the biggest rise has been in the prices paid on P+3 cattle which have increased from 266p/kg to 300p/kg during this six week period.
With such a wide spread in the quotes it may pay producers to check with a number of plants before parting with cattle which at the very least could help barter a better price with your preferred processor.