One of the big three players is trying to apply some pressure to the beef trade with a 5c/kg cut to the heifer quotes this week.

Most other factories remain unchanged, with €3.80/kg being quoted for bullocks and €3.85/kg for heifers.

Another factory in the northwest has also pulled quotes by 5c/kg for heifers.

They were working off a €3.90/kg base when a 10c/kg bonus for cattle slaughtered between 300kg and 380kg was counted in, so are still generally on a par with the rest of the country.

Young bulls are working off a base of €3.70/kg to €3.75/kg, with older bulls working off €3.80/kg for R grading bulls and €3.90/kg for U grading bulls.

Good demand for cows

Cows continue to be in good demand, with P grading cows moving at €3.10/kg to €3.15/kg and O grades moving to €3.15/kg to €3.20/kg.

Top-quality well-finished suckler cows are reaching as high as €3.60/kg in some factories.

Farmers should weigh up the value of selling in marts versus factories, as factory agents remain very active in marts around the country.

Surging retail market

There is some talk in the trade about the most recent EU lockdowns having affected the food service trade.

However, a surging retail market should be able to cancel some of this out.

Sterling is also pretty stable at 88p:€1, which is good for factories exporting beef to the UK.

The UK price difference continues to be €224/head on a 350kg bullock, which leaves major scope in the market for Irish factories to increase prices being paid to Irish finishers.

Factory agents remain very active on the ground and in marts trying to fill orders

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “Despite some factories attempting to dampen the trade this week, factory agents remain very active on the ground and in marts trying to fill orders.

"Prices in GB and NI are strong and steady, reflecting the demand in UK supermarkets where beef sales continue to perform strongly.

The latest R4L price for steers in GB is the VAT-inclusive equivalent of €4.64/kg. The latest prime Irish composite price is 5c/kg above the export benchmark price.”

UK meat sector outlook

Across the water, the AHDB outlined its outlook for the UK meat sector last week and is forecasting a 5% fall in beef and veal production in 2021, due to tighter cattle availability.

It is also looking at a 3% fall in domestic consumption, due to easing retail sales; a 4% growth in imports, assuming food service demand improves as COVID restrictions ease; and a 3% fall in exports, largely due to lower domestic production.

Interestingly, it is also forecasting beef exports to the EU to be continued to be hampered by UK-EU trade friction and a slow recovery of EU food service outlets.