Prime cattle continue to be in short supply with a big drop in the prime cattle kill recorded over the last three weeks.

The prime bullock and heifer kill has fallen 2,223 head in the last four weeks, with a further tightening expected in the run-up to Christmas.

Factories have responded to the supply-demand shift, with some increasing quotes by 10c/kg this week.

Foyle Meats in Donegal moved its quote for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg to €4.75/kg this week, with the base price for bullocks moving to €4.70/kg.

The general run of bullock quotes is coming in at €4.60/kg to €4.65/kg this week.

Heifers are working off 5c to 10c/kg more, with most heifers being bought at €4.70/kg this week.

Regular customers and those with numbers have a stronger hand when selling and have been able to squeeze 5c to 10c/kg above quoted prices.

Bull trade

The bull trade remains pretty stable, with €4.80/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls this week in most factories.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €4.70/kg to €4.80/kg, with a little more going to regular suppliers and those with numbers.

O and P grading bulls are trading at 5c/kg to 10c/kg less than this.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off a base price of €4.60/kg to €4.70/kg.

Cow prices

Good, well-fleshed cows remain a solid trade, with factories eager to buy heavy cow this week.

Light P1 parlour cows remain under pressure, with many factories shying away from the poorer cows, with some quoting under €2/kg for parlour cows.

Well-fleshed P+3 cows continue to trade at €3.70/kg to €3.80/kg, depending on weight and quality.

O grading cows are working off €3.90/kg to €4.10/kg, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.10/kg to €4.30/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted at €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg.

Last week’s kill came in at 40,272 head of cattle, a similar figure to the last full week’s kill two weeks ago.

Taking a closer look tells a bigger story though, as we see a big drop in the bullock kill. The bullock kill peaked at 18,093 head three weeks ago and has now fallen to 15,438, a drop of 2,655 in four weeks.

The cow kill on the other hand continues to rise, with 11,302 cows killed last week - a lift of 1,223 compared with the last full week’s kill. A high proportion of these are P1 dairy-bred cows which are coming in with very light carcases.

EU outlook

The latest EU beef and sheep report is predicting a 3.1% fall in production of beef in the EU for 2023, with a further 1% fall in 2024.

Beef consumption is also expected to fall by 3.5% in 2023 with a further 1% contraction predicted for 2024.

The report also highlights that high EU domestic prices are expected to make the EU an attractive marketplace for imports in 2024, with the European Commission forecasting growth of 5%.

Looking further afield Brazil continues to grow its cattle numbers, with its cattle slaughter increasing by 11% in the third quarter of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022.

Cattle slaughtering in the Mato Grosso state, the state with the largest livestock population in Brazil, was up 38% in October. There were 552,000 cattle processed in the state in October 2023 - an increase of 153,000 head on October 2022.

Interestingly, Marfrig, one of the big beef processors in South America, increased its EU exports by 10% in quarter three of 2023.

Northern comment

The beef trade is steady in NI with prime cattle making 464p to 470p/kg (€5.68 to €5.76/kg including VAT).