While the news that China has imposed a ban on Irish beef imports this week has dominated the headlines, the news on the beef trade is a little more positive.

Some factories have had to increase their quotes by 5c/kg this week to get cattle, with heifers in particular demand.

Bullocks are generally being bought at €4.55/kg to €4.65/kg, with more bullocks being trading at the higher end of this range this week.

Heifers have also moved up a gear, with a bigger proportion of heifers being bought at €4.70/kg this week. With feed costs still high, the current beef price is nowhere near where it needs to be for shed finishers.

Aberdeen Angus bonuses continue to be paid out at 30c/kg, while Hereford bonuses are at 10c to 20c/kg, depending on the factory.

While there is a lot of talk about the impact that the Chinese market will have, the reality is that volumes being exported to China were small and shouldn’t affect the trade in any way.

To put the trade into context, Irish beef exports to China amounted to €3.3m in value for August 2023 compared with €83m of Irish beef being exported to Britain in August 2023.

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 €4.70/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/kg to 10c/kg less than this.

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

Cow prices

Good, well-fleshed cows remain a solid trade. Light P1 parlour cows remain under pressure, with many factories shying away from the poorer cows this week, with some quoting under €2/kg for parlour cows.

Well-fleshed P+3 cows continue to trade at €3.70/kg to €3.80/kg, depending on weight and quality.

O grading cows are working off €3.90/kg to €4.10/kg, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.10/kg to €4.30/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted at €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg.

There appears to be a little more appetite in the trade this week for well-fleshed cows, with factories eager to fill manufacturing beef orders in the run-up to Christmas.

Last week’s kill was down due to a bank holiday Monday the previous week, but some factories ramped up production on other days and some worked on Saturday to cancel out the down day.

Last week’s kill came in at 34,840, with the biggest drop again being seen in the bullock kill.

There was over 2,000 fewer bullocks killed last week compared with the previous week. The cow kill was just over 9,000 head, while the heifer kill came in at 8,917 head.

Beef prices across the water continue to perform very strongly, with lower priced Irish imports being the only threat to the UK beef price at the moment.

R4L heifers were being paid out at £4.95/kg ( €6.07/kg incl VAT). That’s a difference of over €1/kg between the two countries or over €400 on a 380kg carcase. Supplies of finished cattle remain tight in the UK.

NI comment

Factories in Northern Ireland have resumed killing operations following last week’s strike disruption and it is full steam ahead to catch up with orders for the Christmas market.

While there is a backlog of cattle, quotes are unchanged at 448p/kg (€5.49/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading steers and heifers, but deals are being struck from 464p to 472p/kg (€5.68 to €5.78/kg) depending on numbers on offer.

Cows have steadied, with deals of 345p/kg (€4.22/kg) for suckler types.