Staff shortages at processing plants is stifling any uplift in beef prices. With plants not able to operate to full capacity, they are better positioned to manage throughput.
Base quotes are holding at 392p to 394p/kg for U-3 grading animals, although some plants are officially quoting 384p/kg.
However, most reports put the vast majority of in-spec cattle moving off farm around 400p/kg. With a delay in getting animals processed, farmers killing cattle on a regular arrangement are faring best when it comes to negotiating for higher prices.
Steers are moving around the 402p to 404p/kg mark, with heifers moving around 404p to 406p/kg.
Prices above the outlined levels are harder to come by this week, unless bigger numbers of cattle are changing hands.
There are reports from the mart trade that farmers with smaller numbers and limited negotiating power continue to move prime animals through the live ring.
Prices in the live trade continue to exceed 230p/kg for good-quality animals with U grade conformation.
Young bulls are generally being priced around 396p to 398p/kg, although there are premiums being offered by some plants for meeting certain carcase weight limits.
While some farmers face delays to offload animals, imports of Irish cattle for direct slaughter at local plants have increased to their highest level for the year to date.
Last week, 667 animals were shipped north for processing, of which 514 were prime animals and 153 were cows. For the first time in three weeks, 39 cattle moved from NI to abattoirs in Britain. The average price paid on all grades of steers and heifers was 391.44p/kg last week. U3 steers averaged 402.6p/kg with same-grade heifers at 403.3p/kg.
Base quotes on cull cows are steady at 312p/kg for R3 grading animals, with O+3 cows on 302p/kg. Deals continue to run well ahead of base quotes, with official prices paid on R3 cows averaging 334.2p/kg.
NI sheep trade: Mart prices continue to rise
Smaller shows in the marts this week has resulted in prices rising by £1 to £3/head.
To keep pace, factory quotes have increased by 5p to 495p/kg, making a lamb worth £103.95 at the 21kg deadweight limit. However, price deals of 500p to 510p/kg are on offer.
In Kilrea, 550 lambs sold from 448p to 488p/kg, up 10p/kg for the main run of lambs.
Massereene sold 823 lambs from 440p to 483p/kg, up 4p to 9p/kg. Top prices for 21.5kg were £104.
Heavy lambs saw 29kg make £111, with a big run from £105 to £108.
The trade in Saintfield saw 615 lambs make 447p to 511p/kg, up 17p to 26p/kg. Prices paid reached £113 and £111 for very heavy lambs.
Lambs at 25kg made £108, 23kg to £106 and 22kg to £102. Store lambs at 18kg made £92.
Rathfriland sold 842 lambs from 435p to 519p/kg. The sale average of 465p/kg was up 4p/kg on last week.
In Ballymena Wednesday morning, 26kg lambs made £109, 23kg made £104, with 22.5kg making £105.50.
Demand remains strong for fat ewes. In Kilrea, top price was £164. In Massereene, Charollais ewes made £140, while Suffolks sold to £132, Mules to £100 and Blackface to £60.
In Saintfield, top prices were £183 and £155, with the main run from £120 to £150.