Supplies of finished cattle continue to tighten and processors are becoming much more active for stock.
There have been multiple reports from finishers stating they are being regularly contacted by agents working for different plants looking to lock in numbers for the next month.
While agents are reluctant to commit on price until such time as cattle are being offloaded for slaughter, the sense of urgency for stock puts farmers in a strong position to negotiate on price.
Base quotes have increased again by 2p/kg this week and now range from 364p to 374p/kg for U-3 grading animals.
Deals are also being made on weight limits and conformation, with processors waiving penalties on out-of-spec animals in order to secure supplies
However, this still falls well below the prices on offer as prime cattle are generally opening at 380p/kg.
Steers continue to move off farm around 382p to 384p/kg, with higher prices reserved for finishers with bigger numbers.
Supplies of in-spec heifers are extremely limited and competition between plants is intensifying. Deals range from 384p/kg to 388p/kg, but farmers selling on a regular basis are finding that factory agents are much more flexible when negotiating on price.
Deals are also being made on weight limits and conformation, with processors waiving penalties on out-of-spec animals in order to secure supplies.
In Britain, beef prices are also rising as supplies tail off and processing demand grows
Last week, the average price paid across steers and heifers of all grades jumped by 1.49p to 371.68p/kg.
For U3 grading steers, prices rose by 0.8p/kg to an average 381.9p/kg, while heifers at the same grade rose by a similar level to 383.2p/kg.
In Britain, beef prices are also rising as supplies tail off and processing demand grows. Last week, the average price for R4L steers rose by 6.7p to 397.2p/kg, with same grade heifers at a similar level.
The cow trade is also improving as numbers also begin to tighten. Base quotes remain on 270p/kg to 280p/kg for O+3 grading animals. However, deals of 300p to 320p/kg for good-quality beef cows continue to be offered to farmers.
The trade for fat hoggets has eased slightly at marts this week. Plants have moved quickly to pull quotes by 5p to 620p/kg payable to 22kg. One plant is still paying to 23kg, worth an extra £6/head. The first quotes for spring lamb open on 675p and 690p/kg for 21kg, while in the live ring, spring lambs are making 650p to 657p/kg halfweight.
Spring lambs at 21kg made £138 or 657p/kg
In Kilrea, hogget prices rose by 3p to 11p/kg, ranging from 585p to 652p/kg. Heavy lots at 34kg made £152.50 with 25kg at £145. Spring lambs at 24kg made £154.50, with 23kg at £150.
In Massereene, hoggets ranged from 550p to 610p/kg, down 10p/kg on the week.
Heavier lots were easier with 26kg and 30kg making £145 to £150. Hoggets at 24kg made £143 and £144.50. Spring lambs at 21kg made £138 or 657p/kg.
In Saintfield, the trade was easier with prices from 525p to 600p, down by 25p/kg on the week.
In Rathfriland, hoggets ranged from 500p to 610p/kg, with a sale average on 570p/kg. Spring lambs made 600p to 680p/kg, with a sale average on 650p/kg.
Fat ewes remain a strong trade, selling to £162 in Kilrea. In Massereene, Texels sold to £168, Charollais to £150, Suffolks to £140, Mules to £111 and Blackface to £61.
In Saintfield, ewes made £167 and in Rathfriland, top was £193.