The beef trade continues to move in the right direction, with all processors improving quotes for Monday’s kill.

Factories remain under pressure to fill retail contracts and this has meant most have had to increase quotes this week in order to get cattle.

Demand is high for in-spec slaughter-fit cattle, with all processors very active when it comes to buying this week.

The general run of quotes is €4.90/kg to €4.95/kg for bullocks, with a little more going if you are willing to bargain hard.

Heifers are along the same lines, with lots of factories quoting €4.90/kg, but paying €5.00/kg when pressure is applied.

Higher quotes are also available for those dealing in numbers and regular customers, with a few farmers dealing in bigger numbers able to squeeze €5.15/kg base price this week for continental heifers.

Flat deals are also a big factor in the trade, with as high as €5.40/kg being paid for in-spec Aberdeen Angus heifers.

All sorts of extras are also being thrown in this week - haulage being paid for, no issues with weights, leeway on grades to hit bonus rates and reduced weights to hit breed bonuses.

Factory agents were very busy in marts over the weekend buying factory-fit cattle, with some big numbers moving north also on the back of tight numbers of slaughter-fit cattle north of the border.

Bull trade

The bull trade also remains solid, with €5.20/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls this week in some locations, up 10c/kg on last week’s quotes.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €5.00/kg to €5.10/kg, with a little more going to regular suppliers and those with numbers.

O and P grading bulls are trading at 5c/kg to 10c/kg less than this. Under-16-month bulls are generally working off base prices of €4.90/kg to €4.95/kg.

Cow prices

Well-fleshed P+3 cows continue to trade at €3.90/kg to €4.00/kg, depending on weight and quality, with a little more going to farmers with bigger numbers this week.

A big gap has opened up between well-fleshed dairy cows and those lacking flesh, with some factories still shying away from parlour cows.

O grading cows are working off €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg depending on the processor, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg, with more being paid by some processors specialising in cow slaughter.

Last week’s kill came in at 37,845 head, a similar figure to the previous week.

A further drop in the bullock kill to the tune of almost 600 head saw the prime cattle kill fall further last week.

Last week’s cow kill rose slightly to 11,670 head. The young bull kill was down slightly to 2,768 head, down from 2,852 in the previous week.

Factories are expected to work every day next week right up until 22 December, given the demand for beef that is there at the moment.

The overall kill is currently running 48,000 head behind the same period in 2022 and is expected to finish up around 50,000 fewer cattle slaughtered in 2023 compared with 2022 numbers.

NI comment

A scarcity of finished cattle in Northern Ireland is pushing factories to raise prices by 2p to 4p/kg on last week.

Factory quotes are up 4p/kg to 452p/kg (€5.53p/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals, but deals are freely available at 474p/kg (€5.80/kg) for in-spec steers and heifers.

Higher prices are on offer, but farmers need big numbers to move into this territory. The cow trade is hardening, with R3 animals on a base of 324p/kg (€3.97/kg) and deals of 340p/kg (€4.16/kg) on offer.