The beef trade has improved in recent weeks, but the uplift in demand has been slow to translate into higher prices for prime cattle.
However, there are positive moves on price this week with several factory agents conceding that cattle availability is much tighter.
Factory agents are also losing cattle to a buoyant live ring, where prices continue to strengthen and 280p to 300p/kg is widely available on good quality steers and heifers.
At 58% kill-out, this equates to deadweight prices above 480p/kg, which is some 20p/kg above the prices paid by local plants in recent weeks.
In Britain, beef price has been on an upward curve since late August and prime cattle are now well above the 480p/kg. Prices in Scotland are closing in on 490p/kg for U grading heifers.
However, local plants continue to hold base quotes at 440p to 446p/kg for U-3 animals, causing anger among farmers finishing cattle under breed schemes such as Aberdeen Angus, as bonus payments apply on top of official base price.
In contrast, reports indicate prices for conventional cattle are edging upwards, with 2p to 4p/kg more on offer for in-spec animals.
Deals on steers and heifers are generally 464p to 466p/kg, often with free transport included to keep a lid on prices. At the upper end of the trade, 470p/kg has been reported.
Prices for young bulls start around 456p/kg. But there are deals matching steer prices, provided animals meet certain carcase weight limits and conformation.
Last week, the average price paid on steers and heifers across all grades averaged 448.39p. Steers averaged 461.2p/kg for U3, with same-grade heifers on 460.5p/kg.
There is much more life in the cow trade, as demand for manufacturing beef grows. Quotes for R3 cows are 348p/kg, but bear no resemblance to price deals on offer which sit around 390p/kg. Last week, the average price paid on R3 cows rose by almost 25p/kg to 385.2p/kg.
NI sheep: lamb trade holding firm
Lamb throughput at marts has increased, but prices are generally steady, with some small increases recorded. Factory quotes are steady at 515p/kg, making lambs worth £108.15 at 21kg deadweight.
On Monday, Kilrea sold 950 lambs from 470p to 503p/kg, unchanged for the main run of lambs. The top price per head was £130 for 30kg, with 23.5kg at £110 (468p).
Gortin sold lambs to £116 for 30kg and 29kg, with £113.50 for 28kg. A big run of lambs made from £102 to £113 for 21kg to 26kg.
Markethill sold a big show of 1,270 lambs from 465p to 498p/kg, up 5p/kg for heavier lambs. Price of £120 was paid for 27kg, with £113 for 24kg to 26.2kg.
Quality middleweights were a good trade, making from 483p to 498p/kg, with 21.5kg at £107, 22.5kg at £111.50 and 21.2kg at £105.
Heavier stores were a strong trade, making 552p/kg for 19.2kg at £106, with 17kg at £91.50 and 529p for 17kg at £90.50.
There was a steady trade in Saintfield, where 740 lambs sold from 465p to 505p/kg. The top price saw Texels at 26kg making £120. Charollais also at 26kg made £117.
A run of Texels from 24kg to 27kg made £112.50 to £115. Lambs at 22kg sold to £105.50, with 21kg to £103. Charollais at 19kg made £92, with Texels at 18kg making £90.
The trade in fat ewes is slightly easier this week. In Kilrea, the top price was £187. In Gortin, ewes sold to £116, with a big run from £100 to £158. At Markethill, ewes sold from £100 to a top of £154. In Saintfield, the top was £190 with a run from £115 to £176.