Factory agents are back out in marts this week sourcing finished animals.

Wholesalers are also very active around the cow rings, paying in excess of €3/kg for well-fleshed heavy cows, way in excess of what cows are making in factory lairages this week.

Agents have also been purchasing out-of-spec heavy bullocks and heifers for the manufacturing trade in marts this week.

Factories remain sluggish when it comes to quotes, with many dropping back to €5/kg base price for bullocks and a €5.05/kg base price for heifers this week.

There is a range and some factories have continued to pay €5.05/kg for bullocks and €5.10/kg for heifers.

There is also a range in breed bonuses being paid, with some factories working off a 20c/kg Aberdeen Angus bonus, while others continue to pay out 30c/kg for in-spec Aberdeen Angus bullocks and heifers.

Bull trade

Under-24-month bulls have also been hit, with bulls now working off €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg for U grading bulls. R grading bulls are being quoted at €5.15/kg to €5.20/kg in some factories.

O grading bulls are being quoted at €5.00/kg to €5.10/kg, while P grading bulls are still being bought at €4.90/kg to €5.00/kg in some factories this week and this depends on weight and fat score of these poorer-quality black and white bulls.

Under-16-month bulls are working off a €5.05/kg to €5.10/kg base price.

Factories are still anxious for cattle and there are few delays, if any, in getting cattle killed this week.

Cow trade

The cow trade continues to perform quite strongly, relative to the prime cattle trade, with €5.00/kg to €5.10/kg on the table in some outlets for well-fleshed U grading cows.

R grading cows are working off €4.70/kg to €4.90/kg in the main, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.50/kg to €4.60/kg, while O grading dairy cows are being bought at €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg.

P+3 cows are being bought at €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg in some locations. Manufacturing beef sales remain very strong and that is why the cow trade has held firm.

Demand is also set to increase as we enter into barbecue season and, with that, higher demand for beef cuts and mince. Cows are also in short supply in the UK and cow quotes continue to increase in the UK beef market.

Beef kill

Last week’s kill came in at 31,894, up just over 1,000 head on the previous week’s kill, which was a four-day week.

The kill is at the very same level as it was for the same week in 2023.

This year’s kill remains over 30,000 head above last year’s kill, with cows being the main driver of the increase, up over 20,000 head on the 2023 kill.

The biggest movers this week was the bull kill, which increased by over 500 head on the previous week.

An increased number of under-16-month bulls coming on stream is adding to the bull kill.

The latest Kantar retail sales data from the UK would indicate a good 12 weeks for beef sales.

Consumer retail spend on beef was up 6.6%, with volumes remaining stable. Steak sales in volume were up 5%, while roasting joints were up 4% in sales, along with mince being up 1%.

NI comment

Prime cattle are a solid trade in Northern Ireland, with no change to base quotes or deals offered to finishers.

Steers and heifers are on quotes of 468p/kg (€5.73/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grades, but, in reality, deals are running 20p/kg above this at 488p/kg (€5.98/kg).

Young bulls are making 480p/kg (€5.88/kg), with cull cows a strong trade as prices of 370p to 400p/kg (€4.53 to €4.90/kg) remain on offer.