Heifer quotes have edged upwards this week, with quotes moving to €4.30/kg across the board in all locations and €4.35/kg being paid to those with numbers and bigger, regular suppliers of finished cattle.

Bullocks have been a little slower to move, with some factories stubbornly sticking to €4.20/kg, while others have had to move to €4.25/kg to get cattle, with only a select few suppliers on €4.30/kg.

Donegal remains top of the pile with a quote of €4.40 for bullocks and €4.45/kg for heifers. This includes the 10c/kg bonus for carcasses between 300kg and 400kg deadweight.

Factories are also willing to provide leeway on grades and fat covers required to hit the in-spec bonus payments.

There is also no problem with heavy carcases in the last few weeks.

Aberdeen Angus bonuses range from 20c/kg to 25c/kg, while Hereford bonuses range from 10c/kg to 15c/kg.

Bull quotes have remained similar to last week, with €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg being paid for under-24-month 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 €4.15/kg to €4.20/kg.

Cows in demand

Cows are in good demand, with an increase of 5c/kg evident in cow quotes across a number of locations this week.

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.

Smaller independent factories are very active around mart rings for cattle and in some cases are paying in excess of €4.20/kg deadweight for heavy, well-fleshed, young continental cows.

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 dropped to 35,355 head, which is 200 back on the previous week.

The main movers were bullocks, which were back just under 1,200 head on the week before. Cows were up over 600 head, while heifers and bulls remained pretty similar to the previous week.

More dairy cows have come on stream in the south of the country and this has led to the increased kill of cows last week. More appetite from factories and increased quotes has also attracted more cows out.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said UK supplies are extremely tight, with the weekly kill running 10% below last year’s levels, creating increased demand for Irish beef.

Pointing to the strength of our key markets as justification for further beef price increases, Golden said: “The EU young bull price and the UK steer price are above our current prices, creating an unacceptable and unjustified price gap of 17c/kg in the benchmark price.”

Prices across the water in England, Scotland and Wales have remained steady over the last week, with the average R4L steer price coming in at €5.14/kg.

Beef prices in Britain are up 50c/kg last week when compared with the same week in 2020.

NI comment

The beef trade in Northern Ireland has steadied, as some plants ease throughput after finishing up Christmas orders.

Base quotes on U-3 grading cattle are holding at 394p/kg (€4.89/kg inc VAT), with most plants working from a starting price of 400p/kg (€4.96/kg).

Deals of 404p to 410p/kg (€5.01 to €5.08/kg) are on offer for in-spec steers and heifers, with few cattle moving off farm above the upper price limit.

Quotes on R3 cows are also holding firm at 290p/kg (€3.60/kg), with deals running well above this level, with reports of 320p/kg (€3.97/kg) for good-quality suckler types.