Factories are scrambling for stock this week, as numbers of finished cattle have dried up.

Shed cattle in farmers’ yards are all gone and grass cattle are only starting to get going in terms of weight gain.

This leaves an uncertain three months ahead in terms of factory supplies.

Looking at Department of Agriculture figures this week, factories obviously saw the shortage coming, with the number of animals slaughtered from controlled finishing units up a massive 27,500 head for the first four months of 2022 to 135,000 head.

There were 35,500 cattle slaughtered out of feedlots in April, up 7,500 head on April 2021 figures.

Foyle Meats, Donegal, is still ahead of the pack, with its base price quote of €5.40/kg for heifers and €5.35/kg base price for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg. That leaves an in-spec quality assured (QA) U+ heifer coming in at a price of €5.84/kg this week in Donegal. At a 400kg carcase weight, she comes into €2,336.

The general run of bullock base quotes is ranging from €5.15/kg to €5.25/kg, with heifer base quotes working off €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg.

Strong position

Numbers of cattle are tightening at the moment and anybody with a load of finished cattle is in a very strong position in terms of negotiating a price. All sorts of deals are being completed outside of these official quotes, with farmers advised to bargain hard on everything from breed bonuses to haulage.

Flat prices of as high as €5.75/kg to €5.85/kg are being paid at the moment for mixes of Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle.

Cow prices

U grading cows are still hitting €5/kg to €5.10/kg, with those with high numbers of good cows able to squeeze a little more out of the market.

R grading cows are trading for as high as €4.90/kg to €4.95/kg, with good O grading cows coming in at €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg.

Well-fleshed P+3 cows are being quoted at €4.70/kg, but flat deals are available to those with higher numbers.

Agents have a lot of leeway at the moment in cattle purchasing, with strict instructions from procurement managers not to lose any cattle in the coming weeks.

Factory agents are regularly paying in excess of €3.30/kg for heavy well-fleshed cows, which is in excess of €5.60/kg beef price. The mart is still the place to go with small numbers of cows.


Bulls are also in demand, with U grading bulls now up at €5.50/kg in a couple of factories.

R grading bulls are working off €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg, depending on flesh cover. Deals are being done at €5.25/kg for mixes of Rs and Us.

Young bulls are working off €5.25/kg to €5.35/kg, with good demand from most factories.

Last week’s kill came in at 33,140, a drop of 2,585 head on the week before.

This is the biggest drop the cattle kill has seen so far in 2022 when bank holidays are taken out.

The heifer kill saw the biggest drop, with 1,418 fewer heifers killed last week. The young bull kill remains steady at 3,176 head.

NI comment

Supplies of finished cattle are showing signs of tightening in Northern Ireland and factory agents are much more active in sourcing stock.

Base quotes are on 428p/kg (€5.30/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

However, few cattle are moving at this level.

Good-quality heifers are generally making 448p/kg (€5.55/kg), with more on offer for bigger finishers.

Steers are moving around 444p/kg (€5.51/kg), with the best price for young bulls around 2p/kg below this.

Cull cows are on a base of 370p/kg (€4.59/kg) for R3 animals, with price deals upwards to 400p/kg (€4.96/kg).