The beef trade continues to move in the right direction, with factories starting off the new year very hungry for stock, with cows in particular seeing an increase in demand.

Bullocks are working off €5.05/kg to €5.10/kg, with heifers moving at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg.

Big numbers count for a lot at the moment and there is a big difference in getting quotes for three cattle and 30 cattle, with farmers with big numbers in the driving seat.

Factories are also coming to the table with more flat-price deals. Flat deals of as high as €5.45/kg have been paid for good well-fleshed Friesian bullocks this week.

Bull trade

The bull trade also remains solid, with €5.25/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls this week in some locations, up 5c/kg on last week’s quotes.

Those with numbers have also been able to squeeze €5.30/kg out of some processors.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €5.10/kg to €5.20/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 base prices of €5.05/kg to €5.10/kg.

Cow prices

Well-fleshed P+3 cows continue to trade at €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg, depending on weight and quality.

O grading cows are working off €4.20/kg to €4.30/kg, depending on the processor, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.30/kg to €4.50/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted at €4.50/kg to €4.70/kg. Young cows and good-quality fleshed suckler cows are being bought at higher prices than factories are quoting, with €4.80/kg paid for young once-calved heifers this week.

Factories are also very hungry for cows in marts this week, with any slaughter-fit or near slaughter-fit cows being bought by agents for next-day slaughter.

Cows are in very short supply across the water in Britain, with some processors increasing quotes by 20p/kg in the last week to get sufficient numbers of cows.

There is still a big gap between Irish prices and beef prices in Northern Ireland and across the water in Britain.

U3 bullocks and heifers are trading as high as £5.10/kg (€6.19/kg incl VAT) in Britain this week.

Some reports within the industry are sighting the Red Sea conflict as a possible cloud with a silver lining, as the current impasse will increase the cost of imported meat into the UK and European market.

Further afield, Brazilian beef exports crossed the two million tonne figure for the first time ever, with beef exports expected to increase in 2024.

Last week’s kill came in at 29,864 cattle. Compared with the same four-day week in 2023, it’s up 763 head. The number of bulls killed is back by over 900 head compared with the same week in 2023, while the number of cows killed is up almost 1,300 on the same week last year. The heifer and bullock kill remained similar.

Commenting on the trade, IFA national livestock chair Declan Hanrahan said: “Prices continue to move in the right direction and farmers should sell hard and not accept the first quote that they get from factories.”

NI comment

Finished cattle are in demand across NI, with prices creeping upwards.

Quotes sit on 458p/kg (€5.54/kg inc VAT) for U-3 animals, but, in reality, 480p/kg (€5.81/kg) is the going rate for prime cattle. Factories are keen to get extra numbers through the system with a four-day kill on the cards as meat inspectors take strike action next Thursday. Cows are an improving trade, with most deals starting on 340p/kg (€4.12/kg) with more on offer for good-quality lots.