While numbers continue to trend downwards in marts this week, the trade has taken a swing in the positive direction over the last seven days.

Taking a look at this week’s Irish Farmers Journal Martbids analysis table, we see a lot of green arrows - always a good sign of the week’s mart trade.

Factory agents have added some energy to the heavy cattle rings this week, snapping up any slaughter-fit or near-slaughter-fit cattle this week for immediate killing to meet factory demand.

Prime cattle supplies continue to drop in factory lairages and this has happened at the wrong time for factories trying to meet peak Christmas demand in the next two weeks.

This has pushed many of them back ringside and online looking for cattle.

Bullocks saw a positive week’s trade. Top-quality bullocks in the 500kg to 600kg weight bracket were coming in at €2.97/kg this week, up 6c/kg on the previous week’s trading.

Average-quality bullocks in the same weight bracket came in at €2.59/kg this week.

Lighter bullocks in the 400kg to 500kg weight bracket came in at €2.98/kg, while average bullocks were back at €2.49/kg.

Heavy factory-fit bullocks were also up in price this week, with top-end bullocks in the 600kg-plus category selling at €2.88/kg - an increase of 6c/kg on the previous week.

The trade was even more lively in the heifer rings this week, with heavy slaughter-fit heifers faring out best. Top-end heavy heifers over 600kg came in at €3.12/kg this week, a big increase of 24c/kg on the previous week.

Average heifers

Average heifers in the same weight category were up 12c/kg to €2.70/kg. Lighter heifers in the 400kg to 500kg weight bracket came in at €2.85/kg for the top-end heifers, while average heifers in the same weight bracket were selling at €2.51/kg this week, up 7c/kg on last week’s price.

The weanling rings also saw increased activity this week, with exporters active again for weanling bulls.

Top-end weanling bulls in the 300kg to 400kg weight bracket came in at €3.35/kg this week, up 12c/kg on the previous week.

Average exporter-type bulls came in at €2.87/kg this week for 300kg to 400kg weanlings.

In the weanling heifer rings, it was also a positive story, with top-end weanlings up from 12c to 15c/kg this week. Average weanling heifers in the 300kg to 400kg weight bracket came in at €2.81/kg this week.

NI demand

Northern Ireland (NI) demand continues to be steady with NI agents still active in marts looking for heavy well-fleshed cattle.

Slaughter-fit cattle are also in short supply across NI, so this has pushed more custom south over the last few days.

There were 379 cattle exported to NI for direct slaughter last week.

Live exports to farms for further feeding or breeding to NI peaked at 4,526 in September this year. So far, there have been 48,852 cattle exported to NI in 2023, up 13% or 5,731 head on the same period in 2022.

The big gap in beef prices has helped to bolster demand for southern cattle in NI.