The beef trade in Northern Ireland is holding reasonably steady, although there are some early signals that supplies of in-spec animals are beginning to tighten again.
With cattle agents starting to show greater appetite for stock, the recent slide in base prices has halted, with processors deciding to leave quotes unchanged at 364p to 370p/kg for U-3 grading animals this week.
Farmers finishing cattle indicate price deals are broadly similar to last week. This keeps steers on 380p to 384p/kg for farmers offloading animals on a regular basis or those offering bigger numbers.
Heifers are moving from 382p to 384p/kg, with deals of 386p/kg offered to regular finishers or those with butcher-type animals.
Higher prices are limited to specialist finishers and some cattle agents indicate they are heavily reliant on supplies from such units at present.
In contrast, there have been reports of farmers with limited numbers being paid 374p to 378p/kg for prime cattle.
Where farmers face difficulty negotiating for higher prices on in-spec cattle, the live ring remains a viable alternative outlet for herds not under movement restrictions.
At various marts within the past week, specialist finishers and wholesalers remain extremely active on heavy fleshed and finished cattle.
At the upper end of the market, cattle continue to command 220p to 240p/kg for animals with U grade conformation, which converts to a beef price equivalent of 386p to 421p/kg at 57% kill-out.
Last week, the average price paid across all grades of steers and heifers was 370.45p/kg, down 2.7p/kg on the week.
The average price paid on U3 steers fell by 3.2p to 381.2p/kg with U3 grading heifers down 2.6p to 384.4p/kg.
Demand for cull cows remains solid, with little movement on price. Base quotes remain on 275p/kg for R3 grading animals, with O+3 cows on 265p/kg. Deals for cows continue to range from 300p to 320p/kg depending on quality.
NI sheep: hogget quotes on the rise
Demand for finished hoggets continues to outstrip supply and mart prices have increased by 20p/kg.
To keep pace, plants have raised quotes to 570p/kg, making a hogget worth £125.40 at the 22kg weight limit. One plant is paying to 23kg, worth an extra £6/head.
In Kilrea, the trade was down slightly on the week. Prices ranged from 503p to 585p/kg. Heavy hoggets at 31kg made £131, 27kg at £132.50, 26kg made £128, 25kg at £130, 23.5kg at £129 and 22kg at £122. Store lambs sold to £100.
In Massereene, trade was strong, with prices of 540p to 600p/kg, up 20p/kg for heavier lambs. The top price for 21kg butchers’ lambs was £126. Heavy hoggets at 29kg made £136, 25kg to £135 and 23kg at £126.
Saintfield was very strong at 520p to 571p/kg, up by 20p/kg on last week. The top price was £136 for 27kg, with £130 to £135 for a big run at 25kg and 26kg. Hoggets at 22kg to 24kg made £121 to £128/head.
In Rathfriland, prices ranged from 510p to 595p/kg, with a sale average of 537p/kg, up 19p/kg on last week.
The trade in fat ewes is also strong, with Kilrea selling to £118 and Massereene peaking at £133.
In Saintfield, top price was £186, with a big run from £115 to £155. In Rathfriland, ewes topped out at £196.