Beef prices are holding firm, with more farmers reporting animals being offloaded above the 380p/kg mark.
There has been some movement on base prices, with some plants adding 2p/kg to quotes. This puts the range of base quotes for U-3 grading animals on 362p to 372p/kg.
Supplies of cattle are finely balanced with processing demand at present.
But with restrictions on restaurants and other food service outlets relaxing next month, there is growing expectations for a short-term surge in processing demand.
Where cattle are moving off farm this week, steers are generally being bought at 382p to 384p/kg, with heifers moving from 384p to 388p/kg, depending on numbers.
Higher prices are mainly reserved for finishers killing animals on a weekly schedule, although there are some plants paying premiums for animals under certain weight limits.
In Britain, cattle prices are edging upwards, particularly in Scotland, where the R4L beef price has risen by 18p/kg in two weeks.
Beef prices in the Republic of Ireland are slowly improving, with €3.80 to €3.85/kg being paid on R grading animals, but, ultimately, they lag well behind local prices at a sterling equivalent of 310p/kg.
At the outlined differential, northern buyers remain extremely active for southern cattle. Last week, the number of Irish cattle imported to local plants for direct slaughter rose by 150 head to 527.
Within this figure, 399 were prime cattle and 128 were cows, the highest import tally for the year to date for both types of stock.
Last week, the cattle kill for NI totalled 8,653 head, of which 6,667 were prime animals, with 1,751 cows processed.
Demand for cull cows is also sharper, as supplies of prime cattle tail off and demand for manufacturing beef strengthens. Farmers with good-quality suckler cows report 300p to 320p/kg being offered depending on conformation and supplies. Plainer cows are closer to base price at 270p to 280p/kg.
NI sheep – hogget prices driving on
The hogget trade in Northern Ireland is at record levels, as demand outstrips supply.
The mart trade is running well ahead of factory prices, with buyers for southern plants extremely competitive for stock.
Mart prices are up by £3 to £5/head this week, with heavy hoggets breaking the £150 barrier.
Factory prices are rising to keep pace with the live trade and 650p/kg was on offer midweek, although quotes are lagging well behind at 625p/kg.
At the 22kg weight limit, factory-fit hoggets are worth £143/head. However, deals are also being made at the 23kg carcase limit, bringing the value of heavier lots in line with the live ring.
On Saturday, hoggets met with a flying trade in Swatragh, with prices hitting £157 and multiple lots making £151 to £154. Hoggets at 22kg sold to £150.
On Monday, Kilrea sold hoggets to £156, with a big run making £150 to £154. The sale average rose by 25p/kg on the week to 651p/kg.
On Tuesday evening, Rathfriland sold hoggets to £149, with price per kilo peaking at 640p/kg for 21kg lots at £134.50.
Saintfield sold hoggets to £157, with sale prices up 25p/kg to 635p/kg.
Fat ewes are also a super trade, with £184 paid at Rathfriland and in Swatragh, ewes peaked at £186.