Factories remain on the hunt for finished cattle, with increased demand continuing to add more bite to the trade.

Procurement managers have never been more friendly, putting in some early morning calls to anybody they might think has cattle anywhere near being slaughter-fit.

Talking to agents on the ground, numbers of finished cattle continue to remain very tight, with all shed cattle flushed out as this stage.

One agent joked this week that while farmers may have been praying for rain last week, factories were hoping for more dry weather to see could it apply more pressure to the trade with slower grass growth, especially in the south of the country.

The rains came down and the grass came up and factories remain on the hunt for cattle.

Heifers remain perched at the top, with €4.40/kg available in a few factories. There are some factories still able to buy heifers at €4.30 to €4.35/kg.

Angus or Hereford heifers remain a real sweetener to close a deal, with between 10c and 25c/kg being paid on top of base prices for suitable Angus and Hereford finished animals.

Bullocks are not as hot as heifers, but quotes have still improved, with a top of €4.35 being paid this week by Foyle Meats for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 380kg carcase.

Further south, bullocks are a little easier bought, with €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg being quoted, but with the latter being more common this week when it comes to paying out.

Cows are still the standout performer, with U grading cows now hitting €4.00/kg in a number of factories.

R grading cows are moving at €3.75/kg to €3.85/kg, with O grading cows generally being bought at €3.65/kg to €3.75/kg in some factories.

P grading cows are generally being bought at €3.50/kg to €3.65/kg, depending on flesh.

The young bull trade also remains in a positive position, with good factory demand for finished bulls.

Top of the quotes here is €4.40/kg for U grading bulls, with R grading bulls generally coming in at €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg.

Under-16-month bulls continue to work off a base of €4.15/kg to €4.25/kg. There is a wide variation in quotes for young bulls and farmers are advised to shop around when selling bulls.

Last week’s kill came in at 31,079, up 820 head on last week. The biggest rise came in the steer category, with an extra 732 steers killed last week.

The young bull kill continues to fall, with 2,455 young bulls killed last week, down from 2,470 bulls the week before.

This is the fifth week of falling numbers in the young bull category.

The increase in animals killed last week is likely a result of grass pressure in the south and with the pressure off grass supplies for now, numbers are expected to tighten again.

Across the water, retail demand for beef continues to be very strong. The AHDB reported last week that total beef volume sales are up 7.2% on 2019 levels for the period of the 12 weeks up to 12 June.

The beef price across the water has also continued to improve with R4L steers coming in at €5.00/kg incl VAT.

NI comment

Beef prices in Northern Ireland are still rising.

Base quotes have increased by 6p/kg, with the top end of quotes now on 392p/kg (€4.80/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

Farmers with in-spec cattle to sell are in a strong position to bargain on price and most indicate that 398p/kg (€4.88/kg) is widely available as a starting price.

Others with bigger numbers to offload report deals from 404p to 410p/kg (€4.95 to €5.02/kg), with 415p/kg (€5.08/kg) at the top end of the market, bringing NI prices in line with those in Britain.

Cows are on a base of 300p/kg (€3.67/kg) for R3 animals, but deals of 320p to 350p/kg (€3.92 to €4.29/kg) are available.