Factory agents have been active over the weekend in trying to get their hands on increased numbers.

A number of mart managers have commented that they are witnessing greater competition among factory agents, with some looking to the live ring to bolster numbers and reduce the pressure to pay higher in direct farm sales.

Demand is strong for top-quality cows in marts and is in contrast to the seasonal trend where factories try to ease prices back.

Cow prices

Quotes for U grading cows range in a wide differential from as low as €4.80/kg to upwards of €5/kg. There is a 20c/kg differential between some plants for R grading cows, with prices ranging from €4.70/kg to upwards of €4.90/kg, with some flat-priced deals at €5/kg for top-quality U and R grading types.

Producers struggling to negotiate with factories should weigh up their options and also consider the live trade.

MartBids analysis shows prices for cows strengthening by an average of 16c/kg over the last week.

The top third of cows sold for an average of €2.43/kg, with the average price of €2.10/kg for all cows up over 15c/kg on the previous week, while the bottom third of cows were up over 10c/kg at an average of €1.68/kg.

Bullocks and heifers

There is a wider differential in prices paid for bullocks and heifers, with agents paying more to encourage producers with larger numbers to move stock.

This is leaving base prices for bullocks ranging anywhere from €5.10/kg to €5.20/kg, with the majority trading for upwards of €5.15/kg.

Heifers are trading, in the main, from €5.15/kg to €5.20/kg, with up to €5.25/kg paid at the top end of the market.

There is some grass cattle starting to appear, but in much lower numbers than is the norm for the time of year.