Bullocks are working off €5.05/kg to €5.10/kg, while heifers are working off base prices of €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg.

Higher prices are being paid to bigger suppliers and regular sellers, with €5.20/kg being paid for bullocks this week, along with €5.30/kg for a load of heifers.

Factory agents have a different tone this week when it comes to booking cattle, with a more upbeat outlook than the last three weeks.

Factories continue to channel cattle through their own sustainability schemes. ABP has the ABP ‘Advantage programme’, while Kepak has the Kepak/Tirlán ‘2020 programme’.

An R= grading in-spec Aberdeen Angus heifer trading in these programmes this week is on a 20c/kg QA bonus, a 20c programme bonus and a 30c/kg breed bonus on top of the base price.

This means this heifer is being quoted at €5.80/kg paid price this week.

While the bonus of 20c is most welcome to beef finishers, there are huge benefits for factories to know what stock are coming to them on a weekly basis through these programmes.

It’s important for farmers to be very aware of the carcase weight limits associated with both programmes, as if you fall outside the box you will be hit hard with penalties.

Agents are reporting very tight numbers of finished cattle on the ground, with some scratching their heads as to where supplies are going to come from as we move through the month of March.

Bull trade

The young bull trade remains pretty steady, with €5.25/kg on the table for U grading young bulls in some of the factories specialising in bulls.

R grading bulls are moving at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg, while O and P grading bulls are being paid out at 10c to 20c/kg less.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg base price, with the 12c/kg in-spec bonus being added in along with grading for the final price.

Cull cows

Cull cows also remain a very solid trade, despite the increased number of cows coming on the market.

U grading suckler cows are still top of the market, with €4.70/kg to €4.80/kg being paid for good-quality young well-fleshed cows this week.

R grading cows are working off €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.30/kg, while P grading cows are working off €4.00/kg to €4.10/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.

Last week’s kill came in at 36,921, a drop of 765 head on the previous week’s kill of 37,686. The biggest drop came in the heifer category, which saw a drop of 862 head on the previous week.

The cow kill remains strong and was up almost 450 head last week, the majority of which were P1 dairy cows.

The weekly kill continues to run well ahead of the same week in 2023, with the current kill up over 4,000 head, with the big driver being cows which are up just under 2,000 head per week year on year.

The annual kill is currently running 17,000 head over what was killed during the same period in 2023.

The increased kill numbers bodes well for the rest of the year, with Bord Bia estimating that the kill could be down as much as 40,000 head in 2024. That’s a swing of almost 60,000 fewer cattle for the rest of 2024.

NI trade

After several weeks of price pressure, the beef trade has a brighter outlook, with signs of in-spec cattle tightening.

Quotes remain on 460p/kg (€5.63/kg inc VAT) for U-3 animals, but with factory agents working harder to get numbers, prices are on 480p to 486p/kg (€5.88 to €5.65/kg) with increasing regularity.

Young bulls are making 470p/kg (€5.76/kg) with cull cows firm on 360p to 380p/kg (€4.41 to €4.66/kg) and young cows a much easier sell.