This week’s beef trade is starting on a more positive note than recent weeks with quotes improving across the board for most categories of stock. Bullocks and heifers are being quoted at €3.75-€3.80/kg with a little more going to those that sell hard. Factories are also willing to do flat deals for poorer grading animals in the last few days. Deals on weight and haulage being paid are also coming back into conversations, a sure sign that the cattle are wanted and factories are willing to jump the hurdles to get them.

Foyle Meats in Donegal are now on €3.75/kg for heifers with an added bonus of €0.10/kg if cattle kill out between 300-380kg carcase weights. That means an R- heifer in spec quality assured heifer is being paid out at 4.05/kg when all bonuses are paid out. This excludes any potential breed bonuses being paid for traditional breeds.

Heifers are generally trading at €3.75/kg with a few hard sellers able to squeeze €3.80/kg where good-quality heifers are being killed. Bullocks are trading on the same at €3.75/kg with again a few reports of €3.80/kg being paid for mixed loads of bullocks and heifers.

Bulls are moving off €3.70 for R grading bulls and €3.80 for U grading bulls with some reports of 3.85/kg being paid by some processors to regular suppliers. Young bulls are generally moving off €3.75/kg on the grid.

Cows are still in demand with P grading cows improving a little since last week. P+3+ cows are now trading at €3.00-€3.05/kg with O grading cows moving to €3.10-€3.15/kg. Good-quality R grading cows are working off €3.30-€3.40/kg. Factories specialising in cull cows have also been very active in marts over the last few days sourcing heavy cows fit for slaughter. A number of active agents in marts for all types of factory-fit cattle means that for farmers selling small numbers, the mart ring could be the best option.

Sterling has strengthened again in the last few days trading at 86p/€1 which is further good news for Irish exporters. It has also meant NI customers should be stronger when bidding ringside with a stronger sterling. The price differential for R3 grading bullocks being killed in Northern Ireland vs southern Ireland now stands at €250/head.

Retail sales figures are still performing extremely well in the UK and Ireland. Up to 24 January 2021, UK consumers purchases for beef increased by 12.4% in volume, while the amount spent on beef purchases was up by 15.5%. Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s, the top three British supermarket chains all stock Irish beef alongside British beef. These strong sales figures are encouraging and while they haven’t made up for the full hit of lower foodservice demand they have helped maintain demand. The fact that Easter is occurring early this year on 4 April when lockdowns are still in place will mean consumers will again be dining at home over the holiday period. This will likely ramp up demand again in the coming weeks as retailers stock up for a busy run up to Easter.

Commenting on the current beef trade IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “The Bord Bia price tracker shows the prime export benchmark price increasing by 4c/kg to €3.80/kg, while the prime Irish composite price dropped by 3c/kg to €3.68/kg. This level of price differential and divergence is unjustified and factory prices must increase.”