Its always a good sign when you see factory agents back out at mats, and it’s an even better sign when you see them falling out over buying cattle.

There were a few fall outs ringside this week with a number of agents, which always adds some bite to the buying.

Factory agents are really scratching their heads about the next few weeks’ supplies, with very little cattle coming available in the medium term.

Most factories are heavily relying on feedlot supplies. The latest figure from the Department of Agriculture shows that the numbers of cattle being killed out of controlled finishing units has increased in 2024 with 40,000 cattle killed out of feedlots in January and 39,000 cattle killed out of feedlots in February.

The 79,000 cattle killed out of feedlots in January and February marks the highest ever feedlot kill and up 6500 on the same period in 2023.

This week’s quotes remain similar to last week’s, with €5.05-€5.10/kg on the table for bullocks and €5.10-€5.20/kg being paid out on heifers.

Foyle Meats, Donegal are paying €5.25/kg base price for bullocks killing out between 300-400kg, while they are on €5.30/kg base price for heifers killing between 300-400kg.

Flat prices are also on the cards, with a flat price of €5.50/kg being quoted for over 30 month out of spec cattle this week.

Finished cattle supplies remain very tight on the ground, and farmers are advised to price around and bargain hard when selling cattle in the next few weeks.

The young bull trade remains pretty steady, with €5.30/kg back on the table for U grading young bulls in some of the factories specialising in bulls.

R grading bulls are moving at €5.10/kg to €5.20/kg, while O and P grading bulls are being paid out at 10c to 15c/kg less.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg base price, with the 12c/kg in-spec bonus being added in along with grading for the final price.

Cull cows

Cull cows also remain a very solid trade, despite the increased number of cows coming on the market.

U grading suckler cows are still top of the market, with €4.70/kg to €4.80/kg being paid for good-quality, young well-fleshed cows this week.

R grading cows are working off €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.30/kg, while P grading cows are working off €4.00/kg to €4.10/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.

Last week’s cattle kill excluding calves came in at 33,614, a drop of almost 600 head on the previous week.

The bullock kill saw the biggest fall, dropping almost 1,000 head to 11,880, one of the lowest weekly kills of bullocks this year.

The cow kill also continues to fall, with 8,691 cows killed last week. This year’s cattle kill is currently running almost 23,00 head of cattle ahead of 2023 numbers.

Across the water, the beef trade remains relatively stable with no change in quotes last week.

R4L bullocks continue to trade at £4.97/kg ( €6.03/kg). This leaves a 400kg R grading in spec bullock worth over €200/head more in the British market.

Numbers of finished cattle remain tight in the UK, with the forecast for finished numbers to drop further as we progress in 2024.

Northern Ireland

Quotes for prime cattle are unchanged at 460p/kg (€5.64/kg) for U-3 grading animals, although plants are working closer to 480p/kg (€5.88/kg) as an opening price for in-spec animals.

There are deals of 2p to 4p/kg more on offer for regular finishers handling bigger numbers.

Cows are steady on deals starting around 360p/kg (€4.41/kg) for good quality suckler types, with higher prices available for young lots possessing good conformation.