Beef factories have maintained their grip on the trade this week, with some factories attempting to drop quotes to €5/kg for bullocks and €5.05/kg for heifers.

This hasn’t been as successful as they would have liked and some winter finishers have dug in their heels in protest at the latest cuts and not sold cattle at the lower quote.

Most factories continue to purchase bullocks at €5.10/kg and heifers at €5.15/kg, despite the push to drop quotes.

Winter finishers are frustrated and angry at the current drive by factories to push prices lower, while factory agents continue to pay big money for finished cattle in marts.

Ironically, some procurement managers have indicated a preference for Friesian bullocks over Aberdeen Angus bullocks this week, as the Friesian bullocks are coming into a lot less money when they go on grid and no breed bonus attached to them.

The thoughts within the industry is that the current stagnation in prices will be short lived and prices could turn around within two or three weeks, depending on supplies of cattle. The high cow kill is certainly adding pressure to the trade.

Bull trade

The young bull trade remains pretty steady, with €5.25/kg on the table for U grading young bulls in some of the factories specialising in bulls.

R grading bulls are moving at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg, while O and P grading bulls are being paid out at 10c to 20c/kg less.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg base price, with the 12c/kg in-spec bonus being added in along with grading for the final price.

Cull cows

Cull cows also remain a very solid trade, despite the increased number of cows coming on the market.

U grading suckler cows are still top of the market, with €4.70/kg to €4.80/kg being paid for good-quality young well-fleshed cows this week.

R grading cows are working off €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.30/kg, while P grading are working off €4.00/kg to €4.10/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.

Last week’s kill came in at 37,686, a rise of 100 head on last week’s kill. The young bull kill saw over 300 fewer bulls processed last week, with the heifer kill up just over 400 head and the bullock kill coming in just under 200 head higher than last week.

The cow kill came in at 9,181, a drop of almost 350 head on the previous week. While the cow kill dropped in the last seven days, it still remains strong for the time of year, with the kill just over 1,200 head higher than the same week in 2023.

The majority of these extra cows are P grading dairy cows.

The number of cattle being exported to NI for direct slaughter has remained steady over the last few weeks, with 408 cattle exported last week.

The number of calves being slaughtered took a big jump last week up to 1,682 head, up from 767 the week before. So far, there have been 2,735 calves slaughtered in 2024, down 6,503 head on the 2023 figure.

Speaking this week, IFA president Francie Gorman said: “This is typical of the factories to try and pull prices when cattle, which have been produced at the highest cost, are coming out of sheds. Farmers should push back hard, as factories need cattle and supplies are tight.”

NI comment

Base quotes have steadied at Northern Ireland plants on 460p/kg (€5.63/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

Factories are trying to keep a lid on the trade and buying cattle at 476p/kg (€5.83/kg), but regular finishers are managing to squeeze deals of 480p to 482p/kg (€5.88 to €5.91/kg) in return for a steady flow of in-spec animals.

Cows are also steady, with aged lots making 360p/kg (€4.41/kg), with younger animals at 380p/kg (€4.66/kg).