There is plenty of bite in the cattle trade this week as reports indicate supplies are showing significant signs of tightening.
Mart prices have picked up where they left off before Christmas.
Finished cattle are making 220p to 230p/kg, providing farmers with a good alternative outlet for cattle with higher conformation.
With cattle in demand, some plants have added 6p/kg to base quotes, which now stand at 376p/kg for U-3 grading animals.
This closes the gap to deals on offer and is much more reflective of starting prices for in-spec steers and heifers.
Deals generally start around the 380p/kg mark and there are plenty of animals moving off farm at this level
However, farmers with a good supply of in-spec cattle are in a strong position to bargain on price, as agents are eager to lock down supplies.
Deals generally start around the 380p/kg mark and there are plenty of animals moving off farm at this level.
Farmers selling bigger numbers on a more regular arrangement are faring better, with higher price deals being reported.
At the top end of the market, larger finishers have reported deals in the region of 390p to 392p/kg for butcher-type heifers, although these prices include premiums for supply agreements.
Last week, the average price paid across all grades of steers and heifers slipped by 2.2p to 369.26p/kg
Farmers selling Angus cattle report a base price of 370p to 374p/kg and when premiums are included, there are animals moving off farm above the 400p/kg mark.
Last week, the average price paid across all grades of steers and heifers slipped by 2.2p to 369.26p/kg.
Prices on U3 steers eased by 4.6p to 378.6p/kg, with heifers slipping 3p to 381.6p/kg.
The drop in average prices reflects a greater percentage of cattle sourced from small- and medium-sized herds last week, after a surge in throughput from specialist finishers in late December.
Processing demand for cull cows is increasing and 5p/kg has been added to base quotes, which now stand at 275p/kg for R3 grading animals, with O+3 cows on 265p/kg.
Deals above 300p/kg are widely available on good-quality beef-bred animals.
The trade for fat hoggets has jumped this week, with quotes up 50p to 530p/kg, making a hogget worth £116.60 at the weight limit, with more on offer depending on supply.
Mart prices are very strong, with Kilrea selling hoggets from 490p to 564p/kg, up 42p to 67p/kg on last week.
For some weights, prices increased by up to £20/head. Heavy hoggets at 27.5kg made £124.50.
Hoggets at 26kg made £124, with pens at 22kg making £114 to £117. Meal-finished hoggets at 21kg made £118.50. Stores at 16kg made £78.
In Massereene, prices ranged from 510p to 551p/kg, up 70p/kg on last week.
In Saintfield, prices ranged from 480p to 558p/kg, up 40p to 56p/kg, with a top price of £129 for 27kg. Hoggets at 24kg made £123, with 21kg at £120. Stores at 18kg made £104.
In Rathfriland, prices were 500p to 556p, with an average of 523p/kg, up £18/head on last week.
Texel stores in Ballymena made from £93 to £99, with Cheviots to £90.
The trade in fat ewes saw many lots making well over £100. Kilrea sold to £137, with Massereene to £164.
In Saintfield, top was £153, with the main run from £105 to £125. In Rathfriland, top was £179.