The beef trade continues at a steady pace for the final two weeks of the year.

Most factories are killing three to four days this week, with another three days’ killing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week planned.

All cattle have been bought for next week at this stage and there is no real shift in price for next week.

Bullocks are being quoted at €4.25/kg with a few factories “full of Christmas spirit”, moving to €4.30/kg for bigger loads of cattle.

Heifers are working off €4.30/kg across the board, with a few factories moving to €4.35/kg to secure supplies.

Donegal Meats is still top of the factory league with its base quote of €4.45/kg for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg and €4.40/kg for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg.

Bull quotes have remained similar to last week, with €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg being paid for under-24-month R grading bulls, with an extra 5c/kg to 10c/kg being paid for U grading bulls.

Bigger suppliers have better bargaining power and have been able to squeeze a little more out of the market in the last two weeks. O grading bulls are working off €4.10/kg to €4.15/kg.

Good cow demand

Cows are also in good demand. Good R grading suckler cows are now up at €3.85/kg to €3.90/kg, with 10c/kg to 15c/kg more being paid for U grading cows.

P+3 cows are working off €3.45/kg to €3.50/kg, with heavier P grading cows coming into 340kg to 350kg carcase weight managing €3.55/kg.

O grading Friesian cows are coming in at €3.55/kg, while O grading suckler cows are able to squeeze €3.65/kg out of the market.

Last week’s kill came in at 34,223 head, a drop of just over 500 head on the previous week’s kill.

The young bull kill is taking an interesting twist at the end of 2021.

For the eighth week in a row, the young bull kill has increased, with 3,500 young bulls killed last week. This is up 500 head on the same week in 2020.

Speaking to agents, it’s understood that some farmers and feedlot feeders have got the nod again for bulls in recent months.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “All our main markets remain very positive and factories need to step it up a gear in paying farmers a price that covers the cost of winter finishing.

“We are coming into one of the most expensive times of the year for feeding cattle and factories need to realise this and pass on the increased price that they are getting to the primary producer.”

Numbers exported for direct slaughter to Northern Ireland crossed the 20,000 head mark this week.

Just over 300 head were sent north for direct slaughter last week. Just over 50,000 head have also been exported to farms for further feeding up to 18 December 2021.

That brings the total export figure to NI to just over 70,000 head, up from 60,000 head for the same period in 2020.

NI comment

Prices on finished cattle are relatively steady at northern plants with base quotes on 394p/kg (€4.89/kg inc VAT) for U-3 animals. Steers are generally moving at 406p/kg (€5.03/kg). Heifers are an easier sell with deals of 410p/kg (€5.08/kg) common for in spec animals. Cull cows are moving from a base of 290p/kg (€3.60/kg).