Factories continue to apply as much pressure as possible to the beef trade, with almost all processors reducing quotes this week by 5c/kg.

It’s a really cynical move, with winter finishers now left reeling with high store prices, high feed prices and a reducing beef price.

Factories have a lot of contracted cattle on hand at the moment and the focus is on killing these animals.

This has left some smaller finishers facing delays of five to seven days in getting animals killed.

For some under-16-month bull finishers, this is placing them in situations where agents are almost doing them a favour in getting cattle killed. This has meant there is zero negotiation on price, with the power back in the factories’ hands.

Bullocks are being bought at €5.15/kg, with €5.20/kg now being the exception. Heifers are being quoted at €5.20/kg, but €5.25/kg is a little easier to come by, as opposed to getting extra money for bullocks.

In-spec Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle continue to be paid bonuses of 15c to 30c/kg. Some factories have begun to grumble again about weights and reducing quotes for out-of-spec cattle.

Factories continue to manage tighter numbers to precision, with many operating at reduced capacity.

Hit to quotes

Bulls have also taken a hit, with some factories reducing quotes to €5.20/kg for U grading bulls on Monday morning. Some regular customers have managed to get €5.30/kg for U grading bulls.

Quotes of €5.30/kg to €5.40/kg were still available last week for bulls, but agents have been quick to move to the lower quotes for this week’s purchases.

P and O grades are moving in the main from €4.90/kg to €5.00/kg and €5.00/kg to €5.10/kg respectively.

Young bulls

Under-16-month bulls have been left reeling, with a lot of spring-born bulls coming close to 16 months old over the next three months. They are being quoted from €5.15/kg to €5.20/kg on the grid, excluding the in-spec QA bonus of 12c/kg.

Cow prices

Cows have also taken a dent to quotes, with prices down 5c to 10c/kg across the board based on quotes over the last two weeks.

U grading cows are trading anywhere from €4.90/kg to €5.00/kg, with plants most active for top-quality cows continuing to show a keen appetite for the right stock.

R grading cows are trading from €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg. O grading cows are at €4.60/kg to €4.70/kg, with P grading cows coming in at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg.

Wholesalers continue to be active in marts for good-quality cows, with better value in the mart ring for those with smaller numbers.

Last week’s kill came in at 31,640, which was a similar kill to the previous week’s kill.

When compared with the same week in 2022, it’s back over 4,000 head, with about 1,000 fewer cattle being killed across the young bull, cow, heifer and bullock categories.

Trade across the water in Britain also remains very firm, with good processor demand for a reducing supply of finished cattle.

R4L heifers hit £5.15/kg (€6.25/kg excl VAT) in Scotland this week, with the Scottish beef price improving by 2p/kg week on week.

NI comment

Factory prices are generally steady this week, but there are attempts to talk things down.

Quotes on U-3 steers and heifers sit at 480p/kg (€5.82/kg inc VAT), although the majority of deals offered are around the 500p/kg (€6.06/kg) mark for in-spec animals. Young bulls are a sticky trade, with farmers having less scope to negotiate on price. Most deals sit around 490p/kg (€5.93/kg) for U grading animals.