Despite an almost 80c/kg gap between the Irish beef price and our nearest market in the UK, factories continue to try to talk down the trade this week.

An increase in numbers has seen some trying to buy bullocks at €4.55/kg this week, but very few have been purchased at this lower price, with the majority of bullocks bought this week at €4.60/kg.

Heifers continue to work off a €4.65/kg base price.

Dawn Meats has announced a new partnership with the Irish Hereford Cattle Society, which will see a bonus of 20c/kg being paid on eligible Hereford bullocks and heifers.

The bonus will be payable on bullocks and heifers aged between 18 and 30 months and weighing between 240kg and 380kg carcase weight.

They must also grade an O= or better, along with a fat score between 2+ and 4+. Animals must also come from a quality assured herd.

Bull trade

The bull trade remains pretty stable, with €4.80/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls this week.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €4.75/kg to €4.80/kg, with a little more going to regular suppliers and those with numbers.

O and P grading bulls are trading at 5c to 10c/kg less than this, with fat cover being a big determinant on price for some of the poorer-quality bulls.

Under-16-month bulls are in short supply and generally working off a base price of €4.60/kg to €4.65/kg.

Cow prices

Factory appetite for cows remains strong, with increased numbers of cows in marts and factories having no effect on the trade. The only exception to this is the very light P1 parlour cows, with very few factories having any appetite for these.

Well-fleshed P+3 cows continue to trade at €3.80/kg to €3.90/kg, depending on weight and quality.

O grading cows are working off €4.00/kg to €4.10/kg, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.20/kg to €4.40/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg in some factories this week.

Last week’s kill came in at 38,413, a jump of almost 1,700 cattle on the previous week.

Prime cattle numbers held steady, with a big increase in the number of cows killed in the last week.

There was 8,911 cows killed last week, an increase of 1,276 cows on the previous week.

A lot of the increase has come from dairy farmers offloading culls early this year and the higher number will have a negligible impact on volumes of beef traded.

Nevertheless, it has put some pressure on these lighter cows with some factories turning away cows this week.

Carcase weights fall

Carcase weights continue to fall, with the latest data released by Bord Bia showing that there has been a 4kg drop in bullock carcase weights so far in 2023 when compared with 2022 weights.

The average bullock carcase is coming in at 347kg, reflecting the difficult grass year and the growing percentage of dairy beef in the national kill.

Heifer weights are back 2kg to 311kg, while cow carcase weights are back 4kg to 298kg.

Young bull carcase weights are up 3kg to 379kg so far in 2023.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “It’s inconceivable for factories to be trying to apply pressure to the trade given the direction that our main export markets are heading in. Farmers are advised to sell hard and price around before selling cattle.”

NI comment

Finished cattle are a steady trade in Northern Ireland, although some plants have shaved quotes by 2p to 4p/kg. But 454p/kg (€5.56/kg inc VAT) remains on offer for U-3 grading animals.

There appears to be more animals coming on the market, keeping a lid on deals at 470p to 472p/kg (€5.76 to €5.79/kg) for in-spec steers and heifers.

Young bulls are making 460p/kg (€5.63/kg), with suckler cows on deals starting around 360p/kg (€4.41/kg) for R3 animals.