The beef trade remains stuck in gear again this week, with quotes relatively unchanged from last week.

Bullocks are generally being quoted at €3.70/kg base price before any breed bonuses or in-spec bonuses are applied.

This means an R= bullock is coming into €3.90/kg if he hits all the specs, including coming from a quality assured (QA) herd. Breed bonuses are then added in if applicable.

Currently, R grading Aberdeen Angus-sired bonuses are generally being paid at 10c/kg, while the Hereford Prime bonus is currently 10c/kg on O grading animals and 12c/kg on R grading animals, provided they kill out within carcase weight specifications.

Heifer prices

Heifers are generally working off €3.75/kg, with a few factories quoting €3.70/kg, but generally paying €3.75/kg to get the cattle.

While the English price has dropped back by a few pence per kg in the last few days, the price differential of over €200/head still remains between an R grading bullock killed in Ireland versus England.

Sterling strengthening to 86p:€1 also strengthens the hands of Irish exporters moving product to the UK.

Finished supplies

There has been a notable drop-off in finished cattle supplies in marts over the last few days and factories are still issuing instructions to hoover up any supplies in marts.

Factories have also been on the phone to their larger, trusted suppliers to supply cattle in the next two weeks as numbers tighten.

Agents are reporting very few cattle being fed in sheds for finish in the next one or two months, with many farmers choosing to turn cattle back to grass for an early summer finish.

Many finishers I spoke to in the last few days are happy to sit it out until quotes improve.

Bull trade

The bull trade remains similar to last week, with €3.70/kg being paid for R grading bulls and €3.80/kg for U grading bulls.

Under-16-month bulls are working off €3.70/kg to €3.75/kg.

Cow trade

Cows continue to be a solid trade, with good factory interest in quality cows.

P grading cows are working off €2.95/kg to €3.05/kg, O grading cows are working off €3.05/kg to €3.15/kg, while R grading cows are working off €3.30/kg.

Some specialist cow purchasers are paying up to €3.40/kg for heavy suckler cows.

IFA comment

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “Supplies of finished cattle are extremely tight. UK slaughter-fit cattle are predicted to be back 5% this year and sterling has continued to strengthen since the end of January. It’s currently at 86p, creating positive market conditions for Irish beef.

"The IFA recently met MII and we left MII in no doubt in our meeting that undermining of the market place by meat factories will not be tolerated and beef prices must reflect the full value of our key markets.

"Factories must reverse the price drops of recent weeks and reflect the full value of the market place in cattle prices," he said.