Seldom does September bring good news for the beef trade, but September 2021 has done that, with quotes improving this week for bullocks and heifers.

It’s been a near-perfect back end so far in terms of grass growth and ground conditions and this has really taken off the pressure for farmers to sell animals in the last few weeks.

I’m told there are procurement managers doing daily rain dances, but, so far, nobody has listened.

Donegal Meats was the first factory to break ranks last Friday to move quotes up by 5c/kg across the board.

This brings it to an on-the-grid base price of €4.25/kg for bullocks and €4.35/kg for heifers.

This move put pressure on northern-based factories to move and they duly followed suit, with most processors now working off €4.20/kg for bullocks and €4.25/kg for heifers. The bigger players are still working ahead of this.

This week’s general quotes mean an in-spec R- 3+ Aberdeen Angus heifer killing out at 300kg is coming into €1,395 (€4.65/kg), with a U=3= continental heifer killing out at 330kg coming into €1,528/head (€4.63/kg).

Factory demand is brisk, with agents very active both in yards and marts over the last few days.

UK demand has increased and a number of the smaller operators are also contract-killing for NI-based wholesalers, which is tightening the net further on the pool of cattle available to the big three processors.

Flat prices for dairy-bred stock have also improved, with as high as €4.70/kg being paid this week to secure a load of O/R grading Aberdeen Angus cattle.

Bull trade

Bulls are working off €4.10/kg to €4.15/kg for R grading bulls, with 5c to 10c/kg extra going for U grading bulls.

Younger under-16-month bulls are working off €4.10/kg to €4.15/kg on the grid.

Cow trade

The cow trade remains steady, with R grading cows still hitting €3.85/kg to €3.90/kg and U grading cows making 5c to 10c/kg more.

O grading cows are also still strong, with €3.70/kg to €3.80/kg being paid for fleshed cows. P grading cows are generally being bought at €3.55/kg to €3.65/kg.

Last week’s kill came in at 34,226, which is 200 head fewer than the previous week’s kill.

Bear in mind that we are into peak 30-month age limit territory in terms of age limits.

Animals born in mid-March are coming on 30 months this week. There were 17,277 bullocks killed last week, a drop of over 300 on the previous week. The cow kill also reduced by over 200 last week.

Across the water prices, continue to move in a positive direction, with the ADHB reporting that R4L heifers improved by 1.2p/kg last week.

Heifers are now being bought at £4.21p/kg (€5.21/kg incl VAT).

The weekly kill in the UK continues to contract and with British beef prices rising, it will likely turn more food service customers to the Irish trade.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “Processor demand has increased and cattle supplies are getting tighter. I’m hearing reports of empty factory lairages all across the country and farmers need to use this to their advantage and sell hard.”

NI trade

Beef prices in Northern Ireland are holding at levels similar to previous weeks.

Base quotes on U-3 animals are sticking on 394p/kg (€4.89/kg inc VAT), although cattle are moving off farm well above this level.

Steers are making 402p to 404p/kg (€4.98 to €5.01/kg), while heifers are moving at similar levels with up to 406p/kg (€5.04/kg) on offer to regular finishers.

Demand for cull cows is firm, with quotes holding on 312p/kg (€3.87/kg) for R3 animals but more typically 330p to 340p/kg (€4.09 to €4.22/kg).