Factories continue to hunt for finished cattle supplies, with no signs of any let-up in the shortage that factories are currently experiencing in prime cattle supplies.

This week sees factories at full throttle in one of the busiest weeks of beef processing in the run-up to the Christmas market.

Supplies of prime cattle are in tight supply south of the border and in even tighter supply north of the border and further afield in the UK.

A number of procurement managers have taken to the road over the last number of days to source supplies for this week’s kill. This has meant some factories have had to improve quotes again this week.

The general run of quotes are €4.75/kg to €4.85/kg for bullocks. It’s worth noting that there are very few bullocks being bought at €4.75/kg. Factories are quoting€4.75/kg, but paying €4.80/kg in a lot of cases.

Heifers are along the same lines, with lots of factories quoting €4.80/kg, but paying €4.85/kg and even up to €4.90/kg where bigger loads of heifers are involved.

Flat deals are also a big factor in the trade, with as high as €5.30/kg being paid for in-spec Aberdeen Angus heifers this week.

All sorts of other arrangements are also available, including haulage, no weight cuts and leniency on fat cover, grades and minimum weights to get all bonuses available. The advice to farmers is to continue to sell hard and price around for the best deals.

Bull trade

The bull trade also remains solid, with €5.00/kg being paid for U grading under-24-month bulls this week, up 10c/kg on last week’s quotes.

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/kg to 10c/kg less than this. Under-16-month bulls are generally working off base prices of €4.70/kg to €4.75/kg.

Cow prices

Good, well-fleshed cows remain a solid trade. Light P1 parlour cows remain under pressure, with less than €2/kg being quoted for some of these cows and issues getting them killed in some cases.

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 €3.90/kg to €4.15/kg depending on the processor, 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.

Last week’s kill came in at 37,987 head, a further drop of 253 on the previous week.

Delving a little deeper into the figures tells a bigger story. The bullock kill continues to fall dramatically, with a further 872 wiped off last week’s kill bringing the bullock kill down to 12,747, the lowest weekly total since the end of June this year.

The heifer kill was also back by 233 head last week to 10,350. The prime cattle kill has been in freefall for the last six weeks, down from 28,658 bullocks and heifers killed in mid-October to just 23,097 head last week.

Numbers moving north for direct slaughter are also increasing, with 565 head of slaughter-fit cattle exported to NI last week.

NI comment

Cattle agents are chasing in-spec steers and heifers and having to up the ante on price to get numbers.

Base price is unchanged on 448p/kg (€5.42/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals, but this is well off the pace in terms of deals offered to farmers.

Most cattle are opening on 470p/kg (€5.69/kg) for prime steers and heifers with regular finishers managing to get 474p/kg (€5.74/kg).

Demand for cows is steady, with R3 animals making 336p/kg (€4.07/kg).