Farmers remain in the driving seat for this week’s beef trade, with heifers working off a €3.80/kg base minimum this week.

There is more available for those with higher numbers, including producer groups.

Bullocks are generally trading off the same, with €3.75/kg to €3.80/kg going again, depending on type and numbers.

Factory agents have been issued clear instructions this week to leave no cattle behind.

Finished cattle are in tight supply on the ground and agents have been very active sourcing finished cattle.

Healthy retail demand

Very healthy retail demand has meant some factories have increased the bonuses being paid on Aberdeen Angus and Hereford progeny, with as high as 25c/kg being paid by some factories to secure supplies.

Having Aberdeen Angus or Hereford progeny as part of a load to kill has become a real bargaining chip for farmers selling cattle in recent weeks.

Under-24-month bulls are generally working off €3.70/kg to €3.75/kg for R grading bulls, with as high as €3.85/kg being paid for U grading bulls. Under-16-months moving off a base of €3.70/kg to €3.75/kg.

Cow trade

Cows are still in demand, with quotes up another 5c/kg this week.

As high as €3.10/kg to €3.15/kg is being paid by some factories for well-fleshed P grading cows.

O grading cows are generally trading at €3.15/kg to €3.20/kg, with good-quality R grading cows trading at €3.40/kg.

As high as €3.60/kg is being paid for good, young U grading cows.

Finished cattle supplies

Factory agents have also been very active on the ground in marts around the country hoovering up supplies of finished cattle.

They are also paying way in excess of what these animals are worth to kill.

Watching the dry cow sale on Saturday in Central Auctions in Roscrea on Martbids, prices for top-quality dry cows were hitting €2.20/kg liveweight.

That translates into a beef price for cows of over €4/kg deadweight, so farmers should do the sums on the mart option.

Factories seem to be happy to source these cattle themselves sooner than lift finished cattle prices, so the mart option has become a real player in getting the highest price for your animals.

Farmers are reminded that the increase to 5.6% in the flat rate VAT is the equivalent of almost 1c/kg on beef price at current levels and farmers should insist on this change being reflected in increased beef quotes from factories.

The beleaguered BEAM scheme is still to the forefront of many finishers' minds, with many farmers being curtailed as to what can be purchased in the next few months.

There is still a huge amount of confusion out there on where farmers stand in relation to stocking rate.

Department of Agriculture letters issued to BEAM participants has added further confusion to the issue.