The beef trade remains in a very positive position this week as factories, particularly in the northern half of the country, come under increased pressure to source cattle for the weekly kill.
A number of processors are experiencing real difficulty getting sufficient numbers of cattle to kill this week. The strategy some have been using over the last couple of weeks is to send agents to marts or buy cattle themselves online.
These cattle are being bought at prices way over what they are worth to a farmer to kill but factories seem to see paying high prices for cattle in marts almost anonymously as a better option than printing €5.10/kg on a docket for a U grade cow.
Agents have been given a free hand when buying cattle and have been issued strict instructions not to leave any cattle behind them.
There is more bite in the trade in the northern half of the country, with Foyle Meats Donegal ruffling a few feathers with base quotes of €5.10/kg for heifers and €5.05/kg for bullocks.
This has forced many northern-based processors to move quotes to within 5c/kg of the Donegal quote.
Donegal has made some ground in the midlands and northeast in recent months and this is aggravating a few of the established operators who are losing some good finishers to the northwestern processor.
Further south, €5.00-€5.05 is the general run of base prices for heifers, with bullocks trading 5c/kg below that. Flat prices for Aberdeen Angus heifers range in price from €5.30/kg to €5.50/kg depending on quality.
Factories will buy cattle anyway at the moment just to get them into the lairage. There are reports of €5.15/kg flat being paid for mixes of O and P grading bullocks. That’s the equivalent of a base price heading for €5.30/kg when grid deductions are taken into account.
U grading cows are still hitting €4.90/kg to €4.95/kg, with those with high numbers of good cows able to squeeze a little more out of the market.
R grading cows are trading for as high as €4.80/kg, with good O grading cows coming in at €4.70/kg.
Well-fleshed P+3 cows have been paid out at €4.50/kg this week just to secure other cattle as part of a load.
Factory agents are regularly paying in excess of €2.90/kg for heavy well-fleshed cows which is in excess of €5/kg carcase weight. The mart is still the place to go with small numbers of cows.
Bulls are also in demand, with U grading bulls now up at €5.10/kg in a couple of factories with €5.20/kg being paid to a few large feeders this week. R grading bulls are working off €5.00/kg to €5.05/kg depending on flesh cover. Deals are being done at €5/kg for mixes of Rs and Us
Young bulls are working off €5.00-€5.10/kg, with good demand from most factories.
Last week’s kill came in at 31,599, a drop of almost 5,000 on the week before on account of the bank holiday. This is still up 3,300 on the same week in 2021. The 2022 kill Is now running 65,000 animals ahead of the 2021 kill with the cow kill seeing the biggest lift, up over 25,000 cows on last year’s kill.
Cattle agents remain competitive for all types of stock in Northern Ireland and prices are still creeping upwards. Base quotes for U-3 grading steers and heifers are up 2p to 426p/kg (€5.35/kg inc VAT). Price deals on steers are generally around 440p/kg (€5.52/kg). Heifers are making 442p to 446p/kg (€5.55 to €5.60/kg) with the higher prices easier to come by on bigger numbers. Young bulls are making 430p to 438p (€5.40 to €5.50/kg). Cull cows are a flying trade with prices starting around 380p/kg (€4.77/kg) for R3 grading animals, rising to 400p/kg (€5.02/kg) at the top of the market.