Beef quotes remain steady this week, with supply and demand poised in a delicate balance.

Bullocks are working off a €5.15/kg base in almost all locations, while heifers are being quoted at €5.20/kg.

Those with numbers and regular customers are working off quotes 5c to 10c/kg higher than the standard quotes.

Donegal remains out in front with its base price of €5.25/kg for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg carcase weight.

It is also quoting €5.30/kg for heifers killing out in the same weight range.

Tight numbers

Numbers of finished cattle remain tight on the ground, with numbers expected to get very tight in the second and third week of May on the back of reduced numbers of farmers finishing young bulls.

This will likely push quotes up as we move through May, with summer demand kicking in.

Flat prices of €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg continue to be on the table this week for Friesian bullocks, with free transport being thrown into the bargain in some cases 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, with a lot depending 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 prime cattle kill came in at 32,417, a drop of almost 500 on the previous week. The cow kill saw the biggest drop of almost 400 head.

Next week’s four-day kill week is unlikely to affect factory demand as most factories are only killing four days anyway. Finished cattle supplies in the UK are expected to tighten from next week on.

IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan said: “Factories had to increase quotes by over 5c/kg last week, but this is not keeping pace with market prices and must increase further.

“Most factories are quoting €5.15/kg for steers and €5.20/kg for heifers.

“In reality, they are having to pay 5c to 15c/kg above these prices to secure cattle.

“Prices of up to €5.30/kg base price have been offered this week. This is a clear indication of the direction that beef prices must take over the coming weeks and months.”

Bord Bia is predicting a reduction of 30,000 to 40,000 cattle for the year.

Supplies will be extremely tight over the coming weeks and months. Some 70,000 fewer cattle will be available between now and year end, compared with 2023.

NI comment

Base quotes for prime cattle are unchanged going into the bank holiday weekend, as Northern Ireland plants are better placed to manage throughput for the week ahead. While quotes remain on 466p/kg (€5.71/kg including VAT) for U-3 grading animals, that doesn’t give a true reflection on the trade.

Prime cattle are in demand and factory agents are eager for in-spec animals, with deals of 486p/kg (€5.95/kg) common and regular finishers on 490p/kg (€6/kg), with cows making 370p to 390p/kg. (€4.53 to €4.78/kg).