Factories remain very hungry for cattle this week, with agents still very anxious to buy any cattle available on their travels.
Procurement managers have issued strict instructions not to miss any cattle in the next few weeks, as numbers continue to tighten.
There are some reports of €5.30/kg being paid for larger loads of heifers, but, in the main, most factories are quoting €5.20/kg for heifers this week.
Bullocks are being quoted at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg, also with reports of €5.20/kg being paid to secure larger loads of cattle.
Flat deals of as high as €5.65/kg are still on the table this week for Aberdeen Angus heifers.
With China the buzz word in the industry, some processors have indicated a 15c to 20 c/kg bonus for Chinese-eligible cattle when processing for the country commences.
The mart trade continues to outperform the factory trade in many instances, with factory agents willing to pay more to secure factory-fit lots ringside as opposed to purchasing in yards for factories.
The top price in the young bull market is €5.30/kg for U grading bulls, with €5.20/kg on the table for R grading bulls and as high as €5.10/kg being paid for mixes of black and white O and P grading bulls.
Under-16-month bulls are being bought at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg depending on the number involved.
R grading cows are generally being quoted at €4.75/kg to €4.80/kg, with U grading cows now moving to €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg, with €5/kg being paid to a few farmers for top-quality young cows this week.
P+3 cows are working off €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg, with O grading cows coming in at €4.55/kg to €4.60/kg, depending on the factory involved
Lots of deals are on the table to get good cows, with R grading cows being bought at U grading prices in some instances.
Farmers with small numbers are still advised that the mart is the better option at the moment, with several factory agents operating both online and ringside for suitable cows.
Last week’s prime cattle kill came in at 33,672. The young bull kill remains very strong, with 3,816 young bulls killed last week.
Bord Bia is estimating that there will be a 50,000 to 60,000 reduction in the kill for 2023, resulting in a 5% drop in supplies from January to March and a 6% drop in the numbers from April to June.
Taking a look at the latest prices across Europe and the UK, a Bord Bia report has said that the average Irish R3 bullock price is currently €5.30/kg, compared with the average EU R3 young bull price of €5.21/kg and also a UK R3 bullock price of €5.14/kg.
The latest update of the Bord Bia beef market tracker on 7 January puts the Irish composite beef price at €5.37/kg - 29c/kg ahead of the export benchmark price of €5.08/kg.
Across the water, according to the AHDB, beef prices rebounded just before Christmas to record a very positive end to 2022.
R3 heifers finished up at 448p/kg (€5.37/kg incl VAT) for the last week of 2022.
The total national UK cattle kill came in at 1.61 million head in 2023, one of the lowest kills since 2016.
The beef trade in Northern Ireland is also extremely positive, with quotes rising to 450p/kg (€5.39/kg inc VAT) for U-3 animals.
However, most deals start around 464p/kg (€5.56/kg) for in-spec animals, with growing reports of prices pushing upwards to 470p/kg (€5.63/kg) where bigger numbers can be offered.
Cull cows are a roaring trade, with quotes edging upwards to 370p/kg (€4.43/kg) for R3 animals, but deals are running 20p/kg to 40p/kg above this level.