It’s amazing what a few good days weather can do to lift the mood in farming circles and put a bit of confidence back into decision making again.

Last week, it looked like factories were going to have it all their own way in terms of applying pressure to the trade, but this week it’s a different story, with some agents beginning get anxious again about supplies and increasing quotes off last week’s base prices to get cattle.

The ball is at the farmers’ foot again and farmers are advised to price around and sell hard when selling cattle.

Last week’s base price quote of €5.10/kg is gone by the wayside, with no cattle being bought at this price this week. Now €5.15/kg is the floor for in-spec bullocks, with €5.20/kg being paid in some locations.

Heifers are working off €5.20/kg, with €5.25/kg on offer in some locations.

Flat prices of €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg are being paid for Friesian bullocks, with no quibble on weights and free transport being thrown into the bargain to secure the cattle.

Under-24-month bulls are working off €5.30/kg to €5.40/kg for U grading bulls. R grading bulls are being quoted at €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg.

O grading bulls are being quoted at €5.10/kg to €5.20/kg, while P grading bulls are being bought at €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 €5.15/kg base price. This is before the 12c/kg in-spec bonus is applied, along with any grading bonuses or penalties.

Cow trade

Cows continue to be the highlight of the 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 €4.80/kg in the main, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.60/kg, while O grading dairy cows are being bought at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg.

P+3 cows are being bought at €4.30/kg in some plants.

Last week’s kill came in at 32,904, which was a drop of just over 500 head on the previous week.

All categories of stock saw a drop in numbers last week, with bulls recording the biggest drop, falling by over 250 head in the last seven days.

Spring-born under-16-month bulls will start to come on stream in the next few weeks, with a number of factories having these bulls on contract for May and June.

The 2024 kill remains almost 30,000 head over the 2023 kill, with the increased kill in dairy cows being the main driver.

Industry sources would suggest that beef demand is pretty solid at the moment, with grilling and barbecue season ready to kick off in May.

This week marks the start of ‘Great British Beef Week’ across the water and is expected to drive demand in the UK in the next few weeks.

Markets across Europe have been sluggish in recent weeks, but are expected to improve as we move into May.

Prices eased a little in the UK over the last seven to 10 days, with shorter weeks due to Easter holidays playing into factories’ hands and tipping the supply-demand curve in their favour.

R4L bullocks are at £4.98p/kg (€6.12 incl VAT) in northern England this week, which is 77c/kg ahead of the Irish price. This equates into almost €300/head on a 380kg carcase.

NI comment

While base quotes are unchanged at 466p/kg (€5.71/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading steers and heifers, there is more life in the trade with factory agents chasing cattle as farmers focus on fieldwork.

Deals are slightly up on last week, with 484p to 490p/kg on offer (€5.93 to €6/kg) depending on numbers available.

Young bulls are making 470p to 480p/kg (€5.76 to €5.88/kg), with cull cows on 360p to 390p/kg (€4.41 to €4.78/kg) for suckler types.