Factories have taken a cynical move to apply pressure to the beef trade this week, with many trying to drop quotes by 5c/kg across both bullocks and heifers.

The move has been met with anger and frustration in winter finishing circles, many of whom are looking at cattle dying in debt at the moment.

A long winter has meant feed costs have remained high on winter-finishing farms and many took a gamble of a price rise to stay in business.

This is the second year in a row that factories are taking aim at winter finishers.

Factories have been moving winter cattle to specialist feedlots over the last number of years and have obviously built up enough cattle in their own feedlots and others to take them through the winter months.

Other contracted cattle in factory programmes are also giving factories a great foresight on numbers, which can then be used in decisions on pricing from one week to the next.

A lot of factories, while quoting lower, have paid at last week’s prices, with bullocks ranging in price from €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg.

Heifers are working off a base of €5.15/kg to €5.25/kg, with the higher end of quotes going to regular suppliers and those with numbers.

Some factories have also tried to apply pressure to breed bonuses, with some dropping bonuses by up to 10c/kg in the last week. Factories have also been a little slower to offer flat-priced deals this week, with some knocking 10c/kg of all-in quotes.

Farmers are advised to bargain hard when selling stock. Better weather at the end of this week will likely see farmers concentrate on getting stock outside and marketing cattle will take a back seat.

Current indications would suggest that factory finished cattle numbers will get very tight in May and into June.

The young bull trade remains in a better position, with €5.40/kg continuing to be on the table for U grading young bulls.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €5.25/kg to €5.35/kg, while O and P grading bulls are being paid out at 10c/kg less.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €5.15/kg to €5.20/kg base price, with the 12c/kg in-spec bonus being added in along with grading for the final price.


Cull cows also remain a very solid trade, with some factory agents actively looking for cows for next week’s kill.

U grading suckler cows are still top of the market, with €4.90/kg to €5.00/kg being paid for good-quality, young well-fleshed cows. Prices of €5.10/kg have been paid this week for U grading cows.

R grading cows are a similar trade to last week and are working off €4.70/kg to €4.80/kg, with O+ grading suckler cows coming in at €4.60/kg, while P grading cows are working off €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.

Last week’s kill came in at 33,425 head excluding calves. This was up from the previous week’s four-day kill of 30,504.

So far there have been 28,000 more cattle killed in 2024 compared with the same period in 2023.

Cows have seen the largest increase in kill numbers, with an extra 17,000 cows killed so far in 2024.

NI comment

Base quotes at NI plants have increased by 2p/kg to 466p/kg (€5.71/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

However, most plants continue to work from a starting price of 480p/kg (€5.88/kg), with regular finishers on deals of 484p to 486p/kg (€5.93 to €5.96/kg) for in-spec steers and heifers.

Young bulls are moving around 470p/kg (€5.76/kg).

Cull cows are a steady trade, with most deals for suckler types starting around 360p/kg (€4.41/kg), but higher prices are available for younger animals with better conformation.