You wouldn’t have any cows about you followed by would you know where there’s any cows? That’s the conversation starter from many factory agents this week as they scramble for cow supplies.

Last week’s three-day kill took the pressure off for a few days, but agents are as hungry as ever this week, with cows top of the menu.

Donegal Meats has moved quotes up another 5c/kg this week in order to get cattle. That takes its base price to €4.90/kg for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg and €4.85/kg for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg.

The general run of quotes ranges from €4.65/kg to €4.75/kg for bullocks, with the lower end of the quotes in the south of the country.

Heifers are more in demand, with €4.70/kg to €4.85/kg base price being paid for in-spec heifers, again with the lower end of the quotes tending to be in the south of the country.

Anybody with numbers is now in a very strong position and factories have been looking at forward pricing systems for later on in the year to take some of the risk out of buying forward stores at the moment.

This is generally starting with a bonus of 20c/kg or higher, coupled with a minimum price based on finisher costs.

One factory group has moved in the last two weeks to take on extra yards and ramped up purchasing of forward cattle requiring a 70- to 100-day finishing period.

Flat-priced deals have become very common, with a lot of farmers with dairy-type stock opting to sell cattle flat in the last few weeks.

Deals have been hammered out for mixes of O and R grade Aberdeen Angus heifers at €5.30/kg this week.

Cows continue to be in big demand, with up to €4.60/kg being paid for U grade cows.

The general run of R grade cows are ranging from €4.30/kg to €4.50/kg, with O grading cows ranging from €4.20/kg to €4.30/kg. P grading cows are back at €4.10/kg, but more has been paid where there was a higher percentage of O grading cows on a load.

Factory agents remain very active for cows in marts around the country, with up to the equivalent of €4.80/kg deadweight being paid for some cows in mart rings.

Bulls are working off €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg for U grading under-24-month bulls, with €4.60/kg to €4.70/kg on offer for R grading bulls. Under-16-month bulls are working off €4.60/kg to €4.65/kg base price.

UK imports rise

Imports of beef into the UK were up 45%, according to HM Revenue and Customs.

The UK imported 20,900t of fresh and frozen beef during January 2022, up from 14,400t in January 2021.

January 2021 had lower imports due to the front loading of beef exports prior to the threat of a hard Brexit on 31 December 2021.

The average value of imported beef product to the UK was £4,800/t (€5,714/t).

Irish beef made up 80% of fresh beef imports at 9,364t of fresh beef.

Exports of frozen Irish beef to the UK stood at 5,749t for the month of January. This represents a doubling of the export figure for January 2021.

Further afield, I see Brazilian beef price and beef exports are hitting record levels. Brazilian steers hit €4.10/kg earlier this week on the back of strong export demand.

NI comment

Finished cattle prices are improving in Northern Ireland. Base quotes are up 6p to 10p/kg, with most plants on 410p/kg (€5.14/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals.

Price deals on steers range from 418p to 422p/kg (€5.24 to €5.30/kg), with heifers making 2p more on 424p/kg (€5.32/kg). Higher prices are reserved for regular sellers with bigger numbers.

Young bulls are moving in line with base quotes, but some deals at 416p/kg (€5.22/kg) are available.

Cows are a super trade, with quotes on 325p/kg (€4.08/kg) for R3 animals, but deals start from 340p/kg (€4.27/kg).