A shortage of finished cattle in Britain and a surge in demand as restrictions on the food service sector relax have seen beef prices rising by close on 40p/kg over the last three weeks.
Base quotes on R4L cattle in Britain are typically 410p to 415p/kg this week with farmers in Scotland reporting 420p to 430p/kg paid for U grading animals.
Having tracked closely the prices paid in Britain for much of the last year, NI factories have fallen behind in recent weeks, but prices here are now on the rise.
Reports indicate that 390p to 394p/kg is now being offered to finishers killing cattle on a regular arrangement, with factory agents anxious for stock during April and keen to lock in numbers.
Cull cows are also in short supply as demand for manufacturing beef grows
Plainer and out-of-spec cattle are also benefitting on the back of higher prices. Farmers report deals being made at flat rate prices for bigger numbers, with no penalties on carcase weight.
Cull cows are also in short supply as demand for manufacturing beef grows, with prices around the 310p/kg mark regularly being offered for suckler types.
Imports of Irish cattle for direct slaughter at NI plants are also increasing with the majority of this beef destined for food service where country of origin labelling is less of an issue.
Last week, 553 cattle moved north for slaughter, the highest weekly import figure since early October.
The sheep market remains buoyant with 700p/kg paid for spring lambs, while hoggets are at 620p/kg.
Processors south of the Irish border are providing strong competition for local plants. But there is also growing demand from processors in Britain. Over the past week, there are reports that nearly 2,000 NI sheep have been exported to Britain for either direct slaughter or further feeding.