Despite processors operating on a shorter week with the May bank holiday, the beef trade remains on a firm footing.

Official quotes are unchanged, keeping the top end of base prices on 466p/kg for U-3 grading cattle, while at the opposite end of the scale, there are plants operating on quotes of 458p/kg.

However, with the exception of cattle sold through breed schemes, such as Aberdeen Angus, where bonus payment apply on top of official quotes, base prices fall well short of the actual prices paid.

Most reports indicate plants are working on an opening price of 484p/kg, but that 486p to 488p/kg is freely available on in-spec steers and heifers.

Farmers with bigger numbers to hand indicate that deals of 490p to 492p/kg are available, often with free haulage included into the bargain.

Supplies coming on the market are tightening on farms where finishers operate a birth to beef system, leaving factory agents increasingly reliant on cattle coming from large scale finishing units.

Young bulls

Young bulls are moving at prices in line with 484p/kg, provided animals meet certain conformation specifications and carcase weight limits.

Bulls exceeding carcase weight limits are moving around 10p/kg below this level, unless finishers have bigger numbers to trade or have a steady supply of heifers to offload.

Last week, the average price paid on steers and heifers of all grades increased by 2.4p to 475.88p/kg. On U3 cattle, steers rose by 1p to 487.1p/kg, with heifers up 2.1p to 489.7p/kg and bulls rising 2.4p to 477.1p/kg.

Cull cows

There are plenty of positives within the cow trade as numbers tighten and demand within the live trade continues to intensify.

Prices of 220p to 240p/kg are common across marts, equating to deadweight prices of 410p/kg to 440p/kg.

Factory prices are rising to keep pace with good-quality, young suckler types making 390p to 400p/kg and older lots between 370p and 380p/kg.

NI sheep: factories make further cuts to quotes

There is a slightly easier trade within the live ring for hoggets and lambs this week, although good stock with weight are hitting £180 to £190.

Factories have eased quotes to 720p and 730p/kg on hoggets, with lambs at 770p and 780p/kg, but there are higher-priced deals available.

In Gortin, a solid trade saw lambs topping £190, with £186 for 30kg and the main run from £160 to £182.

In Kilrea, 350 hoggets sold to 705p/kg, down 35p/kg on last week. Spring lambs were a strong trade, as 350 head sold to 855p/kg, up 55p on last week, with 22kg at £188 to £176 and 21.5kg at £165.

Markethill sold 190 hoggets from 720p to 791p/kg, with 25kg to £171, 23.8kg made £166 and 23.4kg at £159.

A show of 220 lambs sold from 720p to 782p/kg. Heavy lambs at 24kg made £177, 22kg made £174 and 20.5kg at £159.

Saintfield sold 260 hoggets from 640p to 700p/kg, down 20p/kg on last week. Hoggets at 29kg made £190, with 30kg at £179.

Spring lambs sold from 710p to 780p/kg, down 40p/kg, with top price at £194 for 30kg, 25kg at £182 and 26kg at £176. A big run made £150 to £176.

In Ballymena, hoggets at 24.5kg made £188, with 27kg to £183. Lambs at 25kg made £190, 22kg at £179 and 21kg at £178.

Fat ewes

A strong trade in Gortin saw ewes top £244, with a run from £170 to £200. In Kilrea, top was £278, while Markethill sold from £150 to a top of £232. Saintfield topped £217, with the main run from £170 to £210.

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