The prime cattle kill continues to fall, with a massive 1,600 head drop in the bullock kill last week.

The tightening in prime cattle supplies is coming at the wrong time for factories as they scramble to fill Christmas contracts for the next two to three weeks.

The supply-demand shift has meant quotes have moved up in all factories this week, with agents issued strict instructions not to leave any cattle behind them when buying.

Bullock quotes have moved up to €4.70/kg to €4.75/kg, with heifers working off 5c to 10c/kg more and are being bought at €4.75/kg to €4.80/kg this week in most factories.

All sorts of extras are being thrown in to secure cattle. Free transport, leeway on grades to get bonuses and no issues with weights are all on the table this week.

Farmers with in-spec cattle are being advised to bargain hard for the next few weeks when factories are on the back foot looking for cattle.

Aberdeen Angus bonuses continue to be paid out at 20c to 30c/kg, while Hereford bonuses are being paid out at 10c to 20c/kg for in-spec heifers and bullocks.

Flat deals of €5.10/kg are available in some factories for in-spec Aberdeen Angus heifers.

Bull trade

The bull trade also took a positive turn this week, with €4.90/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls in most factories and a little more if you bargain hard.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €4.80/kg to €4.85/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 €4.70/kg to €4.75/kg.

Cow prices

Good, well-fleshed cows remain a solid trade, with factories eager to buy heavy cows this week for strong manufacturing trade contracts.

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 €3.80/kg to €4.00/kg, depending on weight and quality.

O grading cows are working off €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg.

Last week’s kill came in at 38,996 head, a drop of almost 300 on the previous week.

The real story this week is the massive drop in the prime cattle kill - almost 2,000 head in the last seven days.

The prime bullock and heifer kill has dropped 4,192 head in the last four weeks.

The cow kill hit the highest weekly number so far in 2023 coming in at 11,969, a 667 head increase on the previous week.

The 2023 cattle kill is currently running 52,000 head behind the same period in 2022.

Despite this week’s increase in quotes, Ireland remains one of lowest in the EU for beef quotes.

R3 Italian heifers are being paid out at €5.98/kg this week, while French heifers are at €5.81/kg this week.

R3 Polish heifers are currently 36c/kg ahead of Irish heifers.

The huge gap also remains between Ireland and Britain, with the current differential coming in at €1/kg or €350 on a 350kg carcase animal.

NI comment

Prices for prime cattle at northern plants are unchanged, with official quotes holding on 446p/kg (€5.40/kg inc VAT).

But where cattle meet retail specification on weight and conformation, prices are generally steady around the 464p/kg (€5.62/kg) mark.

Higher prices are reserved for specialist finishers. Strong numbers of cull cows coming on the market means the trade remains under pressure, with R3 on deals of 336p to 340p/kg (€4.07 to €4.12/kg).