Base factory quotes for clean cattle have firmed again this week, with a number of factories adding 4p/kg, leaving quotes around the 374p/kg mark.
But the reality is that much more is available, with farmers reporting deals in the low- to mid-390s, with some specialist finishers now achieving prices of above 400p/kg for U-3 grades.
With retail demand continuing to be robust and finished cattle numbers tight, farmers are in a strong position to negotiate for higher prices over the coming weeks.
Locally, reports from the marts suggest that buyers who intend shipping to farms in Scotland are active for forward types, which adds to pressure for local factories to close the gap to prices in Britain.
Across steers and heifers, the difference in prices paid has widened out to over 20p/kg. The gap to Scottish prices is closer to 30p/kg.
Last week, across all steers in NI, prices averaged 379.17p/kg, up 2p/kg on the previous week. U3 steers averaged 390.3p/kg.
The average price paid for heifers was unchanged at 378.66p/kg, with U3 grades at 389.8p/kg.
Comparing with the same week in 2020, prices paid are up 60p/kg.
With the NI trade 50p/kg ahead of the Republic of Ireland, there continues to be an incentive to bring cattle to NI.
A total of 316 steers and heifers, plus 74 cows, came north for direct slaughter last week. Trade in the opposite direction was 60 head.
In the cow trade, quotes are up 20p at one plant.
The best quote for an R grade cow is at 290p and for an O+3 grade it is 280p/kg.
The prices paid for R3 cows last week increased by 2.5p to 308p/kg, while R4 cows crossed 310p/kg.
Farmers report that 320p/kg is available at the top of the market for well-fleshed suckler types this week.
Lamb and hogget trade
The trade in spring lambs and hoggets in the marts has pushed up further and the plants have increased their quotes to keep pace. Best quote is at 710p for springs and 650p for hoggets.
In Kilrea, spring lambs made from 675p to 695p/kg, with 20kg making £138. Hoggets sold from 585p to 625p/kg, with 32kg making £158.50 and 25.5kg making £152.
In Massereene, spring lambs sold from 640p to 700p/kg. Heavy lambs at 25kg made £160, while 22kg made £150. Hoggets ranged from 570p to 618p/kg, with 25kg making £152 and 21kg at £147.
In Saintfield on Tuesday, spring lambs sold from 652p to 700p/kg, with hoggets selling from 543p to 600p.
In Rathfriland, an excellent trade saw 200 spring lambs making 672p to 740p/kg and averaging 695p/kg, up by 3p on last week.
The trade in fat ewes is also strong. In Kilrea, the top was £192. In Massereene, the top was £180 for Texels, with £176 for Charollais, £134 for Suffolks, £123 for Mules and £78 for Blackface. In Saintfield, the top was £187 and in Rathfriland was £178.