Beef quotes are moving up another notch this week, with most factories improving quotes on last week’s offerings.

Bullocks are now moving at €3.85/kg across the board, with a few €3.90/kg quotes starting to appear. Speaking to farmers with cattle to sell this week, the thinking is that they will hold out for €4/kg base.

Foyle Meats in Donegal is quoting €3.90/kg for bullocks plus a 10c/kg bonus for carcases killing out between 300kg and 380kg.

Heifers are moving at €3.90/kg across the board, with some factories having to move to €3.95/kg for heifers to secure supplies, but €4/kg has been paid this week where larger loads of heifers are involved.

Foyle is quoting €3.95/kg for heifers ,with a 10c/kg bonus for 300kg to 380kg carcases.

That means a quality assured R- grading heifer killing out at 300kg carcase weight is coming into €4.25/kg paid price. Flat deals are also being paid by some smaller operators for Angus and Hereford dairy-cross stock, with €4.10 to €4.20/kg being paid for O grading heifers with no deductions on the grid.

Factories also appear to be on the hunt for Friesian bullocks, with flat all-in deals of €4/kg and higher being paid off the grid.

R grading bulls are working off €3.90 to €3.95/kg, while U grading bulls are moving at €4.00/kg.

Under-16-month bulls are being quoted at €3.85/kg to €3.90/kg base. P grading cows are being quoted at €3.20/kg in some factories, with more going if there are numbers of well-fleshed cows involved.

O grading cows are on €3.25/kg to €3.35/kg for good O grades. R grades are being quoted between €3.50/kg and €3.70/kg for good-quality well-fleshed suckler-bred cows.

Factories have further ramped up activity this week in marts, hoovering up factory-fit cattle and also cattle requiring a short 40- to 70-day finish.

This would point to further shortages coming down the line, with procurement managers currently navigating the seasonally tight period of May and June. With numbers of young bulls dropping to very low levels of slaughtering, this will likely increase demand for finished cattle in the coming months.

In the first 13 weeks of 2021, there have been 56,414 fewer cattle killed compared with the same period in 2020.

It’s remarkable, given the lower numbers, that factories have been able to manage supply and avoid any major price rises over the last few weeks.

Last week’s cattle kill came in at 30,253 excluding veal – a drop of 570 head on the week previous to that. It’s also a drop of 2,500 head on the same week in 2020.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “The stronger market demand that will be created by the reopening of the UK food service sector next week must translate into further price increases.”

Northern comment

The beef trade in Northern Ireland is rising, as tighter supplies and growing demand in Britain boosts the trade.

Factory quotes have risen to 380p/kg (€4.71/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals this week.

There are plenty of cattle being bought at 386p to 388p/kg (€4.79 to €4.81/kg), with more regular sellers reporting deals of 390p (€4.84/kg) being widely available.

At the upper end, bigger finishers report deals as high as 398p/kg (€4.93/kg) with supply bonuses included.

Cull cows are on a base of 290p/kg (€3.60/kg) for R3 lots, but deals continue to offered around the 310p/kg mark (€3.85/kg).