Beef prices are on the rise, as supplies of shed-finished cattle tail off at speed. The outlook for the coming weeks is that the trade should remain extremely robust, putting farmers with animals to sell in a strong position to negotiate for higher prices.
Farmers offloading cattle report that 396p/kg is widely available this week as a starting price. More regular finishers indicate that 400p/kg is more freely available, as factory agents are anxious to lock in numbers.
Higher prices are available, but mainly reserved for finishers on a weekly killing arrangement. Flat-rate deals are also on offer, as are deals on transport.
While there has been some movement on base quotes, they lag well short of where the trade currently sits.
Official quotes for U3 grading animals range from 362p to 382p/kg, with the lower quotes being used to curtail prices paid on cattle processed under premium schemes.
The live trade is also on an upward price curve
This continues to cause major frustration among finishers and there are reports of farmers opting to sell fleshed Angus cattle through the live ring and securing significantly higher prices compared to finishing.
The live trade is also on an upward price curve as factory agents and specialist finishers compete for limited numbers of finished and short-keep cattle.
Prices for U grading animals have strengthened to 230p/kg, with plainer types making 210p to 220p/kg.
The weekly kill saw a small reduction to 8,408 head, of which 6,501 were prime cattle and 1,705 were cull cows
Last week, the average price paid on prime cattle strengthened, with U3 steers rising 2p to 391.4p/kg and heifers at the same grade rising 2.5p to 393.4p/kg. Young bulls rose by 1.9p to 385.3p/kg.
The weekly kill saw a small reduction to 8,408 head, of which 6,501 were prime cattle and 1,705 were cull cows.
Demand for cull cows is also growing, although quotes on R3 animals are static on 290p/kg. However, deals start at 320p/kg and rise towards 340p and 350p/kg for good-quality beef-bred animals. Last week, R3 cows averaged 316.5p/kg.
NI sheep: factories pull quotes to 570p/kg
The lamb trade is more subdued this week, as mart prices ease by 11p to 20p/kg. Factory quotes are down 20p to 570p/kg, making a lamb worth £119.70 at the 21kg carcase limit.
In Kilrea, lambs made 544p to 581p/kg, down 11p/kg on the week. Lambs at 23.5kg made £125, with 22kg selling to £123.
In Massereene, lambs sold from 535p to 566p/kg, down 15p/kg on last week. Best price per kilo was £127.50 for 22.5kg. Lambs at 25kg made £137.
In Saintfield, a big show of 675 lambs made 525p to 590p/kg, down 20p/kg for heavier lots. Heavy lambs at 26kg to 28kg made £133, with 25kg making £134. Lambs at 23kg sold to £124, 22kg made £127 and 21kg to £118.
Lisahally had a firm trade and lambs at 23kg made £123. In Rathfriland, a show of 617 lambs made 510p to 570p/kg, with the sale average of 538p/kg down by 15p on last week.
The trade for fat ewes is holding firm, with a record top price of £196 in Saintfield.
Kilrea sold ewes to £189 and in Massereene, Rouge sold to £136, Suffolks to £134 and Mules to £126.
In Saintfield, the best ewes made £196, with better-quality lots from £125 to £170. In Rathfriland, top price was £175.