It’s a case of ‘steady as she goes’ in the beef trade this week, with quotes remaining the same as last week in most cases.

Heifers are generally working off €4.30/kg, with Donegal Meats still at the top of the league with its base quote of €4.45/kg for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg.

Some farmers dealing with numbers have managed to squeeze €4.35/kg for heifers.

Bullocks are working off €4.25/kg, with €4.30/kg going to some of the bigger players and also where heifers are involved in a deal.

Donegal is also top of the league for its quote for bullocks at €4.40/kg once they kill out between 300kg and 400kg deadweight.

Aberdeen Angus and Hereford stock remain in big demand, with bonuses of as high as 25c/kg being paid for in-spec Aberdeen Angus cattle and 10c/kg to 15c/kg being paid for Hereford cattle.

I have also heard of flat deals of as high as €4.75/kg for a mixture of O and R grade Aberdeen Angus heifers.

Bull quotes have remained pretty 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. O grading bulls are working off €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg.

Under-16-month bulls are being quoted at €4.15/kg to €4.20/kg in most locations.

Cows remain in good demand. Good R grading suckler cows are now up at €3.90/kg to €4.00/kg, with 10c/kg more being paid for U grading cows.

O grading cows are coming in at €3.60/kg to €3.65/kg, depending on flesh cover.

P+3 cows are working off €3.50/kg to €3.55/kg, with heavier P grading cows with a good level of finish coming into 340kg to 350kg carcase weight managing €3.60/kg.

Last week’s kill came in at 34,730 head, a drop of 568 on the previous week and around 300 ahead of the kill for the same week in 2020.

Most categories of stock saw a fall over the last week, with the exception of heifers and young bulls seeing a rise.

There were 10,475 heifers killed last week, 11,497 steers and 8,987 cows.

The young bull kill has seen a steady increase for the last eight weeks, coming from a low of 1,422 killed in the last week of October to 3,349 young bulls killed last week.

Autumn-born bulls are coming 16 months in December and January and are being slaughtered at the moment.

Agents are reporting that farmers are moving stock the minute they become fit to cut back on meal feeding, so this is also likely propping up numbers a little.

The kill is expected to drop again this week and will be well back next week on Christmas week.

Most factories are killing four days next week, with some dropping back to three days.

Most factories are also prioritising prime cattle next week, with less appetite for cows in some locations.

This year’s kill is currently running just under 73,000 head behind last year’s kill.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “Our market in the UK and across Europe is performing very well and the Bord Bia prime Irish composite price is 14c/kg behind the prime export benchmark price, which shows that our markets are delivering more than factories are paying to Irish finishers.

“Winter finishers are dealing with higher feed costs and need beef prices to improve in order to break even.”

NI comment

Another week passes without any movement in beef price on finished cattle in Northern Ireland.

Base quotes for U-3 grading cattle remain on 394p/kg (€4.89/kg inc VAT). Plants continue to work from a starting price of 400p/kg (€4.96/kg).

Deals of 404p to 410p/kg (€5.01 to €5.08/kg) remain on offer for prime steers and heifers.

The cow trade is also steady, with R3 quotes on 290p/kg (€3.60/kg), but deals of 320p/kg (€3.96/kg) are being offered for good-quality suckler types.