Factory agents are working hard to source extra cattle and stem the significant decline recorded in the beef kill over the last four to five weeks. They are trying to encourage numbers forward by increasing the base quote by another 5c/kg.

The general price being offered is a base of €4.70/kg for steers and €4.80/kg for heifers. Some agents are still trying to open negotiations on last week’s 5c/kg lower quote and are using a 5c/kg rise as a bargaining tool to try to close sales.

At the higher end of the market, sellers handling large numbers or trading in-spec cattle in the northwest of the country are securing 10c/kg higher.

Reports indicate that some specialist heifer producers have told agents not to call unless they are willing to pay a base of €5/kg.

Tight supplies

Supplies of traditionally bred cattle are also tight, which is not surprising for the time of year. These are in demand from all factories and wholesale suppliers filling contracts for the Christmas trade.

Breed bonuses range anywhere from 10c/kg to 25c/kg and sellers should price around before moving cattle, with plenty of buyers willing to pounce where they think there is an opportunity to grow numbers.

Many agents are slow to give way too much on price and some are prepared to try to do deals on transport costs or wave penalties on cattle previously deemed overweight or cattle possibly killing over- or under-fat.

Agents are also noticeably more active in marts and anyone concerned about potential cuts on weight, fat cover or age would be advised to weigh up if the mart or factory route is best for them.

More life in cows

The cow kill remains above normal, but is reducing from the highs seen in previous weeks.

Reports indicate that the flush of dairy cows coming on to the market could be quickly slowing, with some farmers encouraged to milk on cows destined for culling due to the higher milk price and confident that the recent easing in cow prices has abated.

Demand has also intensified for top-quality continental cows. There is variation of 20c/kg to 30c/kg between plants with a passing interest in cows and those most active in the market.

Quotes for R and U grading cows range on average from €4.40/kg to €4.60/kg, while fleshed O grading cows are selling in the main from €4.25/kg to €4.40/kg.

The important word in this sentence is fleshed, with potential cuts of upwards of €1/kg for lighter carcase cows lacking flesh.

This is particularly true of P grading cows, with fleshed cows topping €4.00/kg, while those lacking flesh are selling back to €3/kg to €3.30/kg.

Weight no issue on bulls

There is much less attention being placed on weights with bulls. The weight allowance afforded is strongly influenced by the producer-processor relationship, but deals of payment of 440kg to 470kg carcase weight without any cuts are common, with individual animals in a load rising in cases to 500kg without any substantial cuts.

Bulls are selling strongly, with U grading bulls selling from €4.85/kg to €5.00/kg. R grading bulls are 10c/kg back, but some producers are negotiating similar for mixed lots of mainly U and some R grading bulls.

O grading bulls are quoted from €4.55/kg to €4.65/kg, but higher has been paid for heavier-carcase (over 330kg) well-fleshed bulls.