Last week’s beef kill was recorded at 36,577 head.

This represents an increase of 609 head on the previous year and, amazingly, the first time in 2021 that the kill surpassed the 36,000 head mark.

This sheds some light on the tightness of cattle supplies throughout 2021, with throughput of 1.32m head running 70,357 head behind the corresponding period in 2020.

Factories are more than willing to handle the higher numbers coming on stream and were anxious at the end of last week and over the weekend to keep numbers moving, with the brief upturn in weather reducing the pressure on producers to move stock.

At this stage of the year, it is apparent that there will be no major glut of cattle coming on to the market. The strong demand is keeping a strong floor under the trade.

Bullocks are moving in general off a base of €4.15/kg, while heifers are moving in the main off a base of €4.20/kg.

Producers with greater negotiating power have had more success in securing a base of €4.25/kg, with the appetite growing for Angus cattle as numbers start to ease back.

There is more scope to negotiate a base of €4.25/kg for heifers than there is to negotiate a base of €4.20/kg for bullocks.

Bullock throughput has eased back marginally in recent weeks and was recorded last week at 17,007 head, a reduction of 184 on the previous week. Heifer throughput of 10,115 increased by 145 head on the previous week.

The greatest movement in numbers on the week has been young bulls, with throughput rising by 379 head to reach 1,711 head.

R grading bulls are trading in the main from €4.15/kg to €4.20/kg, while U grading bulls are moving for 5c/kg to 10c/kg higher.

O grading bulls are selling back to €4.00/kg, with fat score and carcase weight key factors in determining the final price.

Bulls less than 16 months are being quoted a base price of €4.10/kg in the main, with specialist finishers handling high numbers and possessing greater selling power in cases securing a base of €4.15/kg.

The only category of stock where there has possibly been a slight weakening in the trade is for poor-quality dairy cows coming direct from the parlour and lacking flesh.

Farmers with such cows should query potential cuts before moving cows, as there are reports of up to €1/kg lower being paid for light-carcase P grading cows killing fat score 1.

General prices for P+3 grading cows range from €3.35/kg to €3.55/kg.

The general trade for cows remains robust, with O grading cows from €3.60/kg to €3.80/kg, depending on negotiating power.

R grades range from €3.80/kg to €3.90/kg and U grades from €3.90/kg to €4.00/kg.

The trade in marts remains firm for top-quality beef cows, with this a good alternative outlet to consider for farmers struggling to negotiate with factories.

Northern buyers remain active in mart sales for top-quality cows and heifers in particular, but numbers moving north have been lower than normal over the last three weeks.

There were 348 head exported for direct slaughter last week compared with 464 in the previous week and almost 600 head for the corresponding week in 2020.

Northern Ireland

Supplies of finished cattle in Northern Ireland are strong at present, which is keeping a lid on the trade, despite factories sourcing numbers for the Christmas kill.

Base quotes remain on 394p/kg (€4.94/kg inc VAT), although deals on offer are still opening on 400p/kg (€5.01/kg), with the majority of in-spec cattle being bought around 404p/kg (€5.08)/kg.

Only specialist finishers on a regular killing schedule are securing higher prices.

Cull cows are a harder trade, as numbers coming on the market rise. Quotes for R3 cows start on 310p/kg (€3.88/kg), with deals over 320p/kg (€4.01/kg) on offer.