Despite all the negative talk from factories, beef quotes appear to have steadied a little this week.

Factories have tried their best to talk the trade down but this is being met with some resistance on the ground.

All the market sentiment outside the factory procurement offices appears to be positive.

Our main markets are performing well, supplies of finished cattle remain on the tighter side, and so farmers are asking what the problem is.

In the last two weeks, factories have been looking after their bigger feedlot suppliers and reducing quotes to the smaller finisher.

For the ordinary finishing farmer, heifers are working off €4.20/kg in most plants this week. Bullocks are coming in at €4.15-€4.20/kg depending on numbers being moved. Aberdeen Angus cattle are still commanding up to 20 c/kg bonuses, with Hereford cattle coming in at a 10c/kg bonus.

Issues around COVID-19 in boning halls and getting people to work in factories are starting to bite in some locations, with some factories shifting beef up and down the country to get it boned out. Similar issues in Britain this week have seen some factories and food service establishments cut supply to manage labour issues.

There is another school of thought out there that factories need to get the price back now before it starts to kick on again when supplies get tight again at the back end of the year. This would also take some heat out of the store market, which would help them replenish supplies in feedlots at upcoming autumn sales.

Young bulls have also been dealt a cut, with €4.15/kg being paid for R grading bulls and U grading bulls coming in at €4.25/kg. Under-16-month bulls are working off a base of €4.15/kg in most factories.

Cows remain a very solid trade. R grading cows are still coming at €3.85-€3.90/kg, with U grading cows coming in at 5-10c/kg higher. O grading cows are coming in at €3.70-€3.80/kg for good-quality suckler types. P grading cows are still trading at €3.55-€3.65/kg depending on flesh cover and type.

In Britain, the beef price has kicked on this week. Tight supplies have meant British factories have had to increase prices for R4L steers up to 420p/kg (€5.21 incl VAT), coming close to breaking records for British beef prices. That’s up 2c/kg on the week before.

Bord Bia data on the price for offal products shows that the price/kg has more than doubled in the last 12 months.

Bord Bia uses data from the USDA to benchmark where international prices for offal are at and it shows that the price of offal or what is sometimes referred to as the “fifth quarter” has risen from 21c/kg in August 2020 to 43c/kg in August 2021.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “Factories know supplies will be extremely tight for the year. Demand for Irish beef will be strong and prices must reflect this favourable market situation. Grass supplies are good, cattle are performing well and cattle should only be moved as they become fit to ensure farmers keep control of the supply-demand balance.”

NI comment

Finished cattle prices are holding firm in Northern Ireland. Base quotes on U3 animals remain on 394p/kg (€4.89/kg incl VAT) which falls short of the price deals on offer. Most cattle are being bought from a base of 400p/kg (€4.96/kg), with steers generally moving from 402 to 406p/kg (€4.98 to €5.03/kg). Heifers are faring slightly better, with deals of 410p/kg (€5.08/kg) at the upper end of the market for regular finishers. Cull cows remain on a base of 312p/kg (€3.87/kg) for R3 animals although deals are more typically upwards of 330p/kg (€4.09/kg).