Factory agents are scrambling for stock, with huge retail orders pouring in from the UK in the last week to Irish factories.
Factories are working around the clock filling Christmas contracts.
Christmas demand has seen beef markets lift in Britain and many of Ireland’s main European export markets.
In light of this demand and a tightening in supply of finished cattle, some factories have had to increase quotes this week. Factories are doing everything in their power to keep a lid on prices.
Agents are back in marts scooping up anything near fit for immediate slaughter in factories the day after purchase.
Some factories remain stubborn in moving on base price, but instead they are throwing in sweeteners, such as free haulage, no weight limits on bulls, leniency on grades and fat scores to hit all bonuses and increased Aberdeen Angus and Hereford bonuses.
The majority of heifers are being bought this week at €4.20/kg to €4.25/kg.
I have heard of a factory paying €4.30/kg to secure a large number of heifers and Donegal Meats is paying €4.35/kg base price for heifers killing between 300kg and 400kg.
Bullocks are moving at €4.15/kg to €4.20/kg, with Donegal Meats again out in front with a quote of €4.25/kg for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg.
Young bulls haven’t changed, with a €4.15/kg to €4.20/kg base price being quoted in most factories.
Under-24-month bulls are generally working off €4.15/kg for R grades and €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg for U grades.
The cow trade has also stayed pretty steady over the last week, despite some factories focusing on their prime cattle kill.
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.
O grading Friesian cows are coming in at €3.50/kg, while O grading suckler cows are able to squeeze €3.60/kg out of the market.
R grading cows continue to trade off €3.80/kg to €3.85/kg, while good-quality U grading cows are still capable of getting €4.00/kg and more.
Last week’s kill came in at 36,804, just over 600 head behind the previous week’s kill.
While factories seem to have been shying away from cows in the last two weeks, the cow kill was actually up just under 200 head last week to 8,449 cows.
The biggest drop was seen in the bullock category, with just over 1,200 fewer bullocks killed this week. This is the start of the predicted tightening in numbers and they will likely drop more in the coming weeks.
Across the world, beef markets have kicked on over the last two weeks.
Brazil, still dealing with a Chinese ban, has seen its beef price increase by 20c/kg over the last two weeks. It is currently trading at the equivalent of €3.20/kg.
Industry experts predict that this is in anticipation of an announcement of the reopening of the Chinese market to Brazilian beef in the very near future.
One country which has capitalised on the Brazilian ban is Australia. Its beef price has climbed in recent weeks to hit €5.00/kg including VAT. This is up from €4.15/kg for the same week in 2020.
The beef trade in Northern Ireland remains firm, with no movement on price.
Base quotes for U-3 grading animals remain on 394p/kg (€4.94/kg inc VAT). However, price deals are running 10p/kg over base, with in-spec steers generally on 404p/kg (€5.07/kg).
Heifers are a much easier sell and deals of 408p to 410p/kg (€5.12/kg to €5.14/kg) have been paid to regular finishers.
Cull cows are a harder sell, as numbers from the dairy herd increase. Quotes on R3 cows are 290p/kg (€3.64/kg), although deals of 320p/kg (€4.02/kg) are available.