The prospect of beef prices reaching 500p/kg for U-3 grades is close to reality as processing demand outstrips the supply of finished cattle coming to the market.

Prime steers and heifers are commanding prices between 490p/kg and 496p/kg this week for U-3 grading animals, well above official quotes of 470p/kg.

Higher prices are available, but generally reserved for specialist finishers who deliver large numbers on a weekly arrangement.

After a period when beef sales were slow, sources indicate that the market has picked up again ahead of Easter. Last week, official market data shows U3 steers rose by 4.5p/kg to average 491.9p/kg, while heifers increased by 6p to 493.3p/kg. The total kill was 9,406, just ahead of the weekly average so far in 2023.

Also underpinning the beef trade is a vibrant mart trade, where good-conformation quality finished cattle are already commanding returns which equate to factory prices well above the 500p/kg mark. Buying competition in the marts shows little sign of easing.

Tight supply

While factories are meeting throughput, agents are having to work hard to source adequate numbers. A number of farmers have said agents have been in daily contact and in some cases are pulling cattle forward to fill orders, potentially creating further shortages during April.

Where cattle are being brought forward for slaughter, deals are being struck that waive penalties on animals failing to meet target fat class and conformation.

Farmers also report deals that include free transport, flat rate prices and no cuts on animals exceeding weight limits.


Cull cows are highly sought after as sales of manufacturing beef remain robust. Prices for good-quality R grading cows start around 410p/kg and rise above 420p/kg for animals with higher conformation.


Beef prices in Britain have already broken the 500p/kg barrier in recent weeks, with U3 heifers, in particular, pushing upwards to 510p/kg in parts of England.

Factory prices for cull cows are also running significantly ahead of NI, with R grading animals making up to 430p/kg in Scotland.

Beef prices in NI up 60p/kg on 2022

Factory prices for prime cattle during the first quarter (Q1) of 2023 are running more than 60p/kg above their equivalent value last year.

Data compiled by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) shows U3 heifers averaged 477.3p/kg during Q1, with steers averaging 476.3p/kg.

During the same period in 2022, heifers averaged 414.7p/kg with steers on 412.5p/kg. At the outlined differential, a 360kg heifer carcase has increased in value by £225, while a 380kg steer is up £242.

Moving to R3 animals, steers and heifers both averaged 472.4p/kg during Q1, an increase of almost 63p/kg on the previous year. A similar differential exists for O grading animals.


The value of cull cows has increased even more than prime cattle. In Q1 of 2023 R3 grades have averaged 401.1p/kg, up over 70p/kg on the 330.8p/kg in the same period in 2022.

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