Beef prices have steadied slightly in the past week after several weeks of continuous rises. The latest official beef price reported by the Livestock and Meat Commission is 274p per kg with 8p per kg bonus available for cattle that kill out in spec.
With Scotland prices running around 30p per kg higher than NI prices for a number of weeks, the gap closed slightly last week. That was because U3 steer and heifer prices in N.I. were up 5.1per kg and 4.4p per kgs respectively. In Scotland there was just a rise of 2.6p per kg for steers and 0.7p per kg for heifers.
In Scotland, U3 steers were realising 296.2 per kg, comparied with N.I. of 274p; and 288p pe kg for Northern England.
It is thought that meat plants have been going back to producers who had cattle allocated to them but did not bring them out because of the icy conditions over the previous two weeks. This has had the effect of holding back a few cattle. There are reports of some finishers, probably those sending regular supplies, commanding much higher prices than those offically reported.
The LMC said that the exchange rate between the Euro and Sterling has an effect on prices of all types of cattle.
During the autumn, the euro peaked at a value of 89p having slumped to 81p during the summer. But in recent weeks, the euro has been in gradual decline to around 84p.
The LMC says that the value of the euro holds particular relevance to the live trade with dealers on both sides of the border taking advantage of currency shifts to procure cattle and sheep at a lower price.
“Over the last two years, there has been a significant increase in the volume of ROI store cattle being shipped into Northern Ireland for finishing. This is in part of a consequence of the tightening availability of cattle on the ground in Northern Ireland. However this is a price driven trade and when the euro declines in value, the cost of buying these stores is reduced for NI buyers.
“A steady decline in the value of the euro in 2011 could lead to more of these store cattle being imported to NI.
Sheep prices are little changed or marginally down with plants paying up to 390p per kg with some plants subject to bonuses for in-spec lambs. This is as a result of better availability of lambs because of better weather conditions and improved roads.
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