Heifers have moved to €4.15/kg to €4.20/kg base quotes this week as factories remain under pressure for supplies.

Bullocks are working off €4.05/kg to €4.10/kg, with more going where heifers are involved or where larger loads are being sold.

Aberdeen Angus bonuses of 20c/kg are back on the table, with demand for Herefords also lifting in recent days.

Some factories are also offering flat deals of as high as €4.20/kg for mixtures of well-fleshed mainly O grading cattle.

The ball is now firmly in the farmer’s court, with several factories actively looking for cattle supplies, with some significant poaching taking place of each other’s customers in the last couple of weeks.

The cow trade has been the star performer this week, with price increases across the board on all grades of cows.

Good suckler-bred fleshed R grading cows are making €3.80/kg to €3.85/kg in some factories, with O grading cows lifting to €3.55/kg to €3.65/kg depending on quality and flesh.

P grading cows also saw a rise, with €3.30/kg to €3.40/kg being paid this week.

The bull trade is also brisk, with under-16-month bull quotes increasing to €4.10/kg base price on the grid.

Over-16-month U grading bulls are working off €4.10/kg, with R grading bulls coming in at €4.05/kg.

Last week’s kill came in at 30,136 head, up 527 on the previous week’s kill. Comparing the 2021 kill with the 2020 kill so far, we are currently running 9% behind the 2020 figures.

There was 536,578 head of cattle killed up to mid-April in 2020, compared with 488,175 head of cattle for the same period in 2021, a reduction of 48,403.

The biggest drop has come in the young bull category, with 15,325 fewer young bulls killed in 2021 compared with 2020 numbers.

Kill revision

Last week, Bord Bia revised down its figures for the estimated cattle kill in 2021.

It now expects that there could be 120,000 fewer cattle killed in 2021, which is hugely positive from a finisher’s perspective.

IFA livestock chair Brendan Golden said: “Cattle prices are continuing to rise, driven by tight supplies and very strong market conditions.

“Farmers should sell hard as factories struggle to match supplies with demand.”

Prices across the water in England and Scotland continued to improve last week.

R4L heifers are being paid at 414p/kg (€5.02/kg incl VAT), with R3 young bulls also improving last week to 406p/kg (€4.93/kg incl VAT).

The AHDB is forecasting the UK cattle kill to be back by 5% in 2021. It is also forecasting beef imports to the UK to be up by 4% to make up the difference.

NI comment

In Northern Ireland, the beef trade is holding firm on recent weeks.

Factory quotes have increased by 4p/kg and now sit at 378p/kg (€4.63/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

Prime cattle continue to make 396p to 400p/kg (€4.85 to €4.90/kg) for in-spec animals.

Factory agents appear reluctant to pay beyond 400p/kg. But in order to secure numbers, farmers are being offered deals on transport and a flat-rate price across cattle with lower conformation, as well as having penalties on carcase weight waived.

Cows are in demand, with deals of 320p/kg (€3.92/kg) on offer for good-quality suckler types.