Market report: NI bonus scheme boosts beef values

Northern Irish beef prices have risen this week, following the implementation of a new pricing structure to encourage more in-specification animals.

Average steer and heifer prices improved by 2p/kg, with R4L, R3 and O+3 carcass grades rising by 2-4p/kg, said the Livestock and Meat Commission’s latest bulletin.

The new pricing structure means most plants pay an 8p/kg bonus for stock weighing in at 280-380kg deadweight which are under 30 months old (or 16 months old for bulls), while penalising overweight or older cattle by 6-10p/kg.

“The proportion of over-30-months steers and heifers has been creeping up along with the volume of heavier cattle over the past year,” said the report. These heavier, older cattle did not meet supermarket requirements, were more costly to process and were often unsuitable for retail packing.

“On balance, producers are benefiting from this development,” it added. However, average young bull prices had fallen by about 2p/kg, because only one plant was paying a bonus for young bulls. A wider gap had also emerged between U3 steer and heifer prices, probably because heifers were finished at lighter weights and were more likely to attract the bonus.