Factories have made a move this week to try to take a little heat out of the trade, with a general talking down on any potential increases from factory agents this week.

Some factories have even tried to pull quotes by 5c/kg, but when pressure is applied, the same money is being paid as was paid out last week.

Bullocks are generally being bought at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg this week, with heifers being purchased at €5.15/kg to €5.20/kg.

Other factories have tried to take away the fringe benefits such as weight and fat score flexibility to try to cut back on prices being paid.

Foyle Meats in Donegal continues to operate at the top end of the market, with its quote of €5.20/kg for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg and €5.25/kg base price for heifers killing out at the same weight.

Bull trade

The young bull trade also remains steady, with €5.50/kg on the table for U grading young bulls in some of the factories specialising in bulls.

R grading bulls are moving at €5.30/kg to €5.40/kg, while O and P grading bulls are being paid out at 5c to 10c/kg less.

Fat cover and weight are big determinants on price when it comes to bull quotes.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €5.15/kg to €5.25/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 in recent weeks.

U grading suckler cows are still at the 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 €4.60/kg, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.30/kg, while P grading are working off €3.90/kg to €4.00/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.

Kill figures

Last week’s kill came in at 33,774 head for a four-day week. The cow kill saw the biggest drop, back almost 1,500 head on the previous week.

The bullock kill was back over 1,200 head, while the heifer kill was back just over 700 head week on week.

Last week’s kill was a similar level to the same week in 2023.

Interestingly, the number of calves being slaughtered has taken a big drop for the first few weeks of 2024.

So far in 2024, there have been 287 calves slaughtered, back from 1,772 slaughtered during the same six-week period in 2023.

The Irish price has closed the gap with its main market prices according to the Bord Bia tracker.

The Irish composite price for the week ending 3 February was €4.90/kg excl VAT, compared with the export benchmark price coming in at €4.85/kg for the same week.

This could explain why factories are trying to apply pressure to prices.

Across the water in Britain, prices are holding steady, with R4L bullocks coming in at £5.07/kg ( €6.31/kg).

Moving further afield, the Red Sea conflict continues to affect imports of red meat into the EU and UK, with the extra 10-day shipping journey around Africa taking valuable shelf life off meat products.

NI comment

Northern Ireland factories have cut quotes 4p/kg to 464p/kg (€5.75/kg inc VAT) for U-3 cattle.

Farmers are finding it harder to bargain on price, but deals are broadly unchanged on 484p to 488p/kg (€6 to €6.05/kg) for in-spec steers and heifers, with the higher price easier to get where bigger numbers are available.

Cows remain a strong trade with deals on 370p/kg (€4.59/kg) for aged suckler types, with younger beef-bred animals on 400p/kg (€4.96/kg).