The beef trade remains in a positive position this week, with factories still looking for finished cattle to meet demand.

Supplies of finished cattle are still tight, although last week’s kill saw an increase of 1,200 head.

This increase was most likely age-related, with March-born (2021) cattle now coming close to 30 months on farms.

Factory agents are anxious for cattle, with some willing to throw in the usual extras around free haulage and flexibility around weights.

Bullocks are working off a base of €4.70/kg this week, with some bullocks also being bought at €4.75/kg when part of a load.

Heifers are being quoted at €4.75/kg, but, again, a lot of heifers are being bought at €4.80/kg base price.

Flat prices of €5.10/kg for Aberdeen Angus bullocks and heifers are also available, while prices of over €5.10/kg are also on the table for cattle sold for direct slaughter to Northern Ireland.

Demand continues to exceed supply north of the border and NI agents are very strong both in marts and farmers’ yards this weeks for fit cattle.

Foyle Meats, Donegal, is on €4.85/kg base price for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg and €4.90/kg for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg.

Bull trade

The bull trade maintains its positive trend, with up to €5.00/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls this week.

R grading bulls are being quoted at €4.80/kg to €4.85/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.

Cow prices

The manufacturing trade also remains strong, with good demand for fleshed cows from all factories this week.

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 €4.10/kg to €4.20/kg, while good R grading cows are coming in at €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg.

U grading cows are being quoted as high as €4.50/kg to €4.60/kg in some factories.

Last week’s kill came in at 33,811 head, up 1,200 head on the previous week. Cows were up 300 head, while heifers saw the largest increase at 900 head.

In terms of year to date, the young bull kill has seen a big drop, back over 11,000 head on the same period in 2022. The cow kill is back about 8,000 head.

This week’s weather could increase supplies, but demand is very strong based on a UK tightening in supplies, so any increase in numbers shouldn’t have any impact on price

The Bord Bia market price tracker shows that the Irish prime composite price was sitting at €4.84/kg last week, some 32c/kg behind the prime export benchmark price.

Taking a look back at the same week in 2022, this gap was only 19c/kg.

Taking a look around Europe, beef prices remain pretty positive. U3 French bulls are currently making €5.55/kg this week, with R3 heifers coming in at €5.72/kg.

Italian R3 heifers are coming into €5.76/kg this week, that’s up 36c/kg on the September 2022 price.

The Irish price is currently tracking about 60c/kg behind the UK price and about 20c/kg behind most of our EU markets.

NI comment

Base quotes have jumped by 6p/kg at northern plants, with 452p/kg (€5.53/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

Price deals being paid to farmers are also on the up, with 470p/kg (€5.76/kg) widely available and 4p to 6p/kg more on offer to regular finishers.

Prices on cows are in the region of 370p to 380p/kg (€4.53 to €4.65/kg) for suckler types.