It’s been yet another steady week for the beef trade, with no big movement in prices.
Prime cattle quotes haven’t really changed a lot in the week.
Bullocks are working off €4.80/kg to €4.95/kg with heifers working off a base of €4.90/kg to €5.00/kg.
Aberdeen Angus bonuses remain at 30c/kg in most factories and agents are willing to bend a lot of rules on weights and other in-spec requirements in order to secure cattle supplies
U grading cows are still hitting €4.70/kg to €4.90/kg, with those with high numbers of good cows able to squeeze a little more out of the market.
R grading cows are trading for as high as €4.60/kg, with good O grading cows coming in at €4.50/kg.
Well-fleshed P+3 cows have been paid out at €4.40/kg this week just to secure other cattle as part of a load.
Agents have a lot of leeway at the moment in cow purchasing, with many factories issuing instructions to pay what they like for cows if it means a load of prime cattle is coming their way.
Factory agents are regularly paying in excess of €2.80/kg for heavy well-fleshed cows, which is in excess of €5/kg. The mart is still the place to go with small numbers of cows.
Bulls are also in demand, with U grading bulls now up at €5/kg in a couple of factories, with €5.10/kg being paid to a few large feeders this week.
R grading bulls are working off €4.90/kg to €4.95/kg, depending on flesh cover. Deals are being done at €5/kg for mixes of R and U grades.
Young bulls are working off €4.85/kg to €4.90/kg, with good demand from most factories.
Last week’s kill came in at 32,924 head. The four-day week dropped numbers and it will be interesting to see how this week’s kill recovers.
The cow kill remains very strong, with 8,242 cows killed last week, compared with 6,753 cows killed on a five-day week for the same week in 2021.
The cow kill is currently running at record levels, up 21,000 head on the same period in 2021.
The word in the trade is that prices will continue to edge upwards for the next few weeks.
There is massive scope in the market for factories to be paying more to Irish finishers, with the Bord Bia market price tracker showing a 30c/kg price differential in what Irish factories are paying for cattle compared with the markets they are selling it into.
This means there is no immediate price pressure. The UK market is very strong and the EU beef market is flying.
Across the water, the AHDB reports an increase of 5p/kg across most categories of prime cattle in the week ending 16 April. This takes an R4L heifer to £4.46/kg (€5.60/kg incl VAT). The R3 young bull price is steady at €5.47/kg incl VAT.
The manufacturing beef trade is on fire, with May generally kick-starting barbecue season, which should fuel higher retail demand in the coming months.
Further afield, there is a little more caution in the world beef markets.
COVID is disrupting Chinese markets again, which is affecting demand.
The US has large stocks of beef on hand and the Brazilian beef price has come under pressure in the last two weeks due to currency fluctuations.
Cattle prices are holding firm this week, but farmers are finding cull cows are an easier sell.
Base quotes on R3 cows are stuck on 354p/kg (€4.50/kg inc VAT), but deals are generally running from 370p to 380p/kg (€4.70 to €4.83/kg) for good-quality beef-bred animals.
Quotes on prime cattle are also unchanged, with 420p/kg (€5.33/kg) on offer for U-3 grading animals.
However, deals are running well above this level, with steers making 434p/kg (€5.51/kg) and heifers on 436p/kg (€5.54/kg).