Looking at the factories individually and their combined positions, we get an immediate insight into what their preference is when buying cattle. This is best illustrated by Jennings, which has the most top positions, all of which are spread across steers and heifers. However, it is at the opposite end of the table on young bulls and cows, in some of these categories not reporting prices for any cattle at all in 2016.

Jenning’s has six top three positions overall and most tops at five, followed by Kepak Clonee with five top threes and two table-toppers. ABP Nenagh also has five top threes with just one category topping the table.

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Analysis of groups and independents

1. ABP

The scale of ABP’s business and customer base is reflected in its strong top end of the table performance across all factories for top-quality supermarket-spec steers and heifers, excluding Nenagh on steers where it is mid-table. Plainer cattle are cut and apart from the Clones and Waterford factories, are down the table on cows. Slaney is now controlled jointly by ABP and Northern Ireland co-op Fane Valley and, as has been the case previously, is a top 10 performer across several categories.

2. Dawn Meats

Dawn is almost the reverse of ABP, with its strongest performance across cows and plainer cattle. This reflects its huge manufacturing business, with the McDonald’s burger contract as its backbone.

3. Kepak

Kepak are solid performers across a number of categories, with the Clonee factory showing particularly strong performance in heifers and young bulls, which has been their speciality for several years. Steers and cows on the other hand are well down the table in Clonee, and overall cow prices in Kepak are in the bottom half of the table.

4. Independents

Jennings steals the show for table-topping positions, being really strong buyers of steers and heifers but having no interest in cows or young bulls. Like some ABP plants, the company’s strong focus on sourcing Angus and Hereford cattle, which command a price premium, is helping to propel Jennings up the price ladder. Foyle remains strong on steers and cows and more mid-table on young bulls and heifers. Dunbia is towards the top on cows, with Kildare and Moyvalley in the top 10 on cows but well down the table on the other categories. Liffey, which with three locations could be categorised as a group itself, has most of its top 10 places in the cow category and a table topper with P+3 young bulls. Otherwise its steer, heifer and young bull prices are in the lower half of the table, as is the case with Eurofarm across all categories except R=3= young bulls which makes it into the top ten in seventh place.

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Beef prices: how does your factory compare?