With the May bank holiday putting factories on a shorter working week, the outlook for cattle prices has been steady as she goes.
Supplies coming on to the market appear to be closely aligned to processing demand and, as such, all indicators point to little change for prices in the week ahead.
Some factory agents indicate they are finding it easier to source cattle, but that, overall, they remain extremely reliant on larger feedlots to maintain throughput at present.
Base quotes are unchanged at 482p/kg for U-3 grading animals. However, farmers indicate that the price deals on offer for in-spec animals are more or less on par with those made last week.
This means steers continue to open on 496p/kg to 498p/kg, although deals at 500p/kg are widely available.
Heifers are priced at similar levels to steers, with 500p/kg seemingly the going rate across the province.
Farmers handling bigger numbers of heifers or animals suited to the wholesale and butcher outlets indicate there is another 5p/kg to be had in return for a steady flow of cattle over the coming week.
The availability of young bulls is increasing going into May and there appears to be something of a two-tier trade developing.
Where farmers can supply bigger numbers of bulls within certain carcase weight limits below the 16-month age limit, there are deals being agreed from 490p to 496p/kg.
But where bulls exceed weight limits and are pushing close to the age limit, prices are capped around 486p/kg.
Last week, the average price paid on steers and heifers of all grades rose by 0.8p/kg to 485.14p/kg. Steers at U3 conformation eased by 0.3p/kg to 499.3p/kg, while heifers slipped 0.2p/kg to 500.4p/kg.
Quotes on R3 cows are unchanged at 390p/kg, but deals are generally being made from 415p/kg to 420p/kg. Higher prices are easier to secure where younger suckler-bred animals can be regularly supplied.
NI sheep: lamb prices rebound by 20p/kg
Last week’s price cuts failed to stick and factory quotes have increased again to entice farmers into selling.
Lamb quotes are up 20p/kg to 655p/kg, worth £137.55 at the 21kg weight limit, although there is 5p to 10p/kg more on offer to match the live trade.
Hogget quotes are up 15p/kg to 610p/kg, although 620p/kg is available, as are deals at a 23kg weight limit.
Marts have also seen higher prices. Kilrea sold 200 lambs, with 24.5kg at £148. Hoggets at 22kg made £130, 24kg made £138.50 and lighter sorts at 20kg sold to £116.50.
In Markethill, 410 lambs sold from 610p to 634p/kg, up 10p/kg for heavier sorts. In the hogget ring, lightweights sold to £123 for 21.5kg. Heavies sold to £147 for 28kg and £126 for 24kg.
In Saintfield, 205 lambs made 600p to 650p/kg, up 15p/kg to 25p/kg. Texels at 30kg made £158, with 25kg making £152. Most lots made from £130 to £150.
Saintfield sold 455 hoggets from 520p to 560p/kg, up 10p/kg for heavier sorts. Dorsets at 29kg made £146, as did Charollais at 30kg, with a big run from £130 to £145.
In Rathfriland, 200 lambs made 600p to 640p/kg, with the sale averaging 625p/kg, while 195 hoggets made 518p to 580p/kg, averaging 533p/kg.
In Ballymena on Wednesday morning, lambs at 22.5kg sold to £145, with 20.5kg at £130.
There is a strong and steady trade for fat ewes this week. Kilrea topped £200 and in Markethill, ewes also hit £200, with the main run from £120 to £195. In Saintfield, Texels sold to £225, with a big run from £130 to £198. In Rathfriland, ewes topped £190.