Prime cattle supplies continue to see a dramatic drop in numbers with a further 1,100 cattle wiped off the prime bullock and heifer kill last week.

Last week’s combined bullock and heifer kill came to 23,097 head, down almost 5,500 head on the kill of 28,568 head six weeks ago. The reduction in numbers has left factories scrambling for in-spec under-30-month bullocks and heifers to fill lucrative Christmas contracts in the run-up to the holiday period.

The supply demand shift has left factories having to pay more for in-spec cattle this week with quotes increasing in a number of locations. Bullocks are generally being quoted at €4.80-4.85/kg while heifers are working off €4.85-€4.90/kg. Quoted prices and paid prices are two different items this week with factories having a lot of leeway to increase prices paid when pressure is applied. Meanwhile, beef quotes across the water continue to improve with the latest information from AHDB showing R4L heifers at £5/kg (€6.14/kg including VAT).

Prime cattle are also in short supply in Northern Ireland (NI) with quotes increasing to £4.74 (€5.82/kg including VAT). The tightness in supplies has sent NI agents south of the border looking for cattle with those agents very active in southern marts this week. There was also an increase in the number of cattle being exported for direct slaughter to NI this week with 565 head exported last week, up almost 200 head on the previous week.