This week’s beef trade can be best described as solid on the price front, with plenty of bite and competition between factory agents for stock.

Heifers are trading in the main from a base of €4.30/kg to €4.35/kg, with isolated deals completed at a 5c/kg higher base for large numbers at the top end of the market.

Angus heifers continue to command breed bonuses ranging in general from 10c/kg to 20c/kg, with flat-priced deals averaging around the €4.70/kg mark.

Bullock prices are also unchanged, with the lion’s share being purchased at a base of €4.25/kg and some deals at a base of €4.30/kg.

There is some talk in the south of the country where numbers coming on stream have strengthened off a base of €4.20/kg being offered, but producers have rightly resisted any notion of this coming into play.

Scope also remains to negotiate on higher weight limits without cuts being imposed.

The increase in numbers is reflected in last week’s kill increasing by 1,575 head to reach 33,601.

This was underpinned by the bullock kill rising by 1,140 head to reach 13,997 and cow throughput rising 941 head to reach 8,276.

These increases are normal with bullocks approaching the 30-month age bracket, while July is a big month for cow throughput.

However, even with these increases, the kill continues to run significantly behind 2020 levels, with the cow kill for the corresponding week in 2020 recorded at 9,524 head.

Excellent demand

Demand for cows remains excellent and producers continue to have the advantage of being able to alternate between a vibrant live trade in marts and strong factory demand.

The general run of prices is €3.60/kg to €3.70/kg for P grades, €3.70/kg to €3.75/kg for Os and anywhere from €3.90/kg to €4.00/kg for R grades, with U grades trading in smaller numbers also being offered a price of €4/kg.

Producers should study their options and the type of cows on hand, with mart prices running at the equivalent of €4.20/kg to as high as €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg for young U grading cows and quality cow-heifers.

Low kill

Getting back to the kill, throughput to date in 2021 of 874,806 head is running 67,126 head below the corresponding period in 2020 and at the lowest level for the last five years.

The kill is running almost 100,000 head lower peak throughput than in 2019 and there are some very notable differences in the category of animals slaughtered.

Young bull throughput of 79,846 head is running 14,044 behind 2020 and about 60,000 lower than in 2019.

The absence of these young bulls, many of which would typically be killed from May to July, has left supplies tighter and compounded delays in cattle coming fit off grass.

Meanwhile, heifer throughput is running 28,644 head lower than in 2020, with 14,414 fewer bullocks killed.

Stronger live exports in recent years and steady exports to Northern Ireland are also contributing to the lower kill figures.

Northern Ireland

Exports of cattle to Northern Ireland for direct slaughter in recent weeks have been running in the region of 550 to 600 head, with year-to-date exports about 1,000 head higher than 2020 levels.

Prices in the North are solid, with base quotes for U-3 cattle starting in the low-£3.90s, with the majority of stock ranging from £4.00/kg to £4.10/kg.

With factories closed for one to two days, last week’s throughput reduced by 1,529 head to 6,742. Within this, 5,220 were bullocks, heifers and young bulls, with the remainder cull cows and bulls.

Official quotes for R grading cows are £3.10/kg (€3.65/kg), but deals of £3.30/kg to £3.40/kg (€3.88/kg to €4.00/kg) are common for good cows.