The store cattle trade continues to reach new heights this week, with Northern Ireland (NI) customers being the main driver behind the increased prices in the last few weeks.

A proposed £80 (€94) finisher payment has sparked a buying frenzy in some of the big feeder circles in NI and with store cattle in short supply north of the border, they have moved south in their bid to fill sheds for the winter months.

NI factories are also forecasting a tightness in supplies for later in the year and this has also steadied up confidence in finishing circles for the next few months.

While NI customers are helping the trade, they aren’t having it all their own way and southern demand is also very strong, especially for forward store cattle.

Lull in supplies

A lull in finished cattle supplies over the last three weeks has also buoyed up finished cattle demand in marts, with all of the major players in the beef processing game active in marts this week sourcing slaughter-fit cattle.

Dry cows continue to be an exceptional trade, with slaughter-fit cows being snapped up by a combination of NI agents, wholesale buyers and southern factory agents.

Good-quality young heavy cows are up in price in factories this week and this had the knock-on effect of lifting the cow trade. Good weather has meant cows haven’t came out in huge numbers yet and this is also helping the trade.

Good-quality heavy continental cows are trading for as high as €2.70/kg, while poorer-quality parlour Friesian cows are trading for as low as 80c/kg.

Taking a look at this week’s MartBids analysis table, we see that it was a tale of two halves in the mart trade this week.

Store cattle and heavy cattle held very firm with many of the categories up in price, especially in the bullock rings.

Weanlings didn’t fare as well this week with some changes in prices, albeit following on from a very high week’s trading the previous week.

Starting off with the store and forward heifer trade, there was very little change in prices this week, with all categories showing little price movement.

Top-quality heifers continue to trade close to €3/kg across most weight categories, with top 400kg to 500kg heifers coming in at €2.94/kg this week, pretty much the same as last week.

Average heifers in the same weight bracket traded at €2.58/kg, while poorer-quality dairy-crosses were back at €2.23/kg.

In the bullock rings, it was a similar story, with little movement in price.

Heavy bullocks in the top-quality bracket came in at €2.96/kg this week - an increase of 11c/kg on last week.

Average-quality bullocks in the 400kg to 500kg weight bracket came in at €2.53/kg, while the bottom-end bullock weighing between 400kg and 500kg came in at €2.02/kg.

These bottom-end bullocks, which would be mostly made up of Friesian bullocks, probably represent the best value in the market at the moment.

Weanling bulls were back a touch, but the top-end 300kg to 400kg bull weanling held firm at €3.67/kg this week.

Average-quality bull weanlings in the same weight bracket came in at €3.12/kg this week.