Cattle presenting for slaughter continue to power ahead of 2021 figures, with strong demand driving numbers.

External factors are also coming into play on a lot of finishing farms.

Some finishers have chosen to feed on cattle that would have normally been let out to grass and this has boosted numbers and will continue to do so in the next few months. This is positive news for the back end.

Bord Bia has estimated that slaughter numbers will increase by 80,000 to 90,000 head in 2022.

At the beginning of the year, there was a concern around a glut of cattle from August onwards, but with strong numbers being killed for the first three months of 2022, that threat has abated for now.

Last week’s kill remained steady at just over 36,000 head and that brings the kill for the first three months of 2022 some 38,000 cattle ahead of the same period in 2021.

This week’s beef quotes have edged up another notch, with the Donegal Meats base price for heifers now just 5c/kg off €5/kg at €4.95/kg base price.

A U+ quality assured heifer is now coming into €5.39/kg, which would see a 380kg heifer kill into just over €2,000 at €2,048/head.

Bullocks in Donegal are working off 5c less at a base price of €4.90/kg.

General quotes

The general run of quotes is €4.80/kg to €4.85/kg base price for heifers, while bullocks are working off €4.75/kg to €4.80/kg.

Meanwhile, €4.85/kg has been paid for mixes of good bullocks and heifers this week and those with numbers are in the driving seat, with factories very eager to do business with those with numbers.

Flat prices for R=R- Aberdeen Angus heifers are hitting as high as €5.35/kg this week. Many farmers with dairy-cross cattle are now selling flat to avoid any potential reductions in the QPS grid.

Cow prices

U grading cows are still hitting €4.60/kg to €4.70/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 €4.50/kg, with good O grading cows coming in at €4.40/kg.

Well-fleshed P+3 cows have been paid at €4.30/kg this week just to secure other cattle as part of a load.

Bulls in demand

Bulls are also in demand, with U grading bulls now up at €4.95/kg in a couple of factories. R grading bulls are working off €4.80/kg to €4.85/kg.

There remains a lot of uncertainty for later in the year and with the prospects of €3/kg stores, €50/bale silage and €500/t concentrates being fed to finishing cattle next winter, finishers need to be having long and hard conversations with factories about a contract beef price.

Across Europe, the beef trade is on fire, with U3 bulls in Germany hitting €6.08/kg this week. It’s a similar story all across Europe. Ireland remains at the bottom of the league.

A European Commission report shows that imports of beef into Europe were down 7.3% in 2021 and this reduced pressure from South American beef imports is having a lasting effect on the EU beef price.

NI comment

Base quotes are edging upwards on prime cattle, but cull cows are on fire with quotes up 14p/kg to 344p/kg (€4.36/kg inc VAT) for R3 grading animals.

However, good-quality cows are opening on 350p/kg (€4.44/kg), with deals of 360p/kg (€4.57/kg) available for animals with higher conformation or younger, suckler-bred cows.

Prime cattle are now on a base of 412p/kg (€5.23/kg) for U-3 grading animals. Most deals on steers are around 424p to 426p/kg (€5.38 to €5.42/kg), with prime heifers making 428p and 430p/kg (€5.44 to €5.47/kg). Higher prices are reserved for bigger finishers. Young bulls are on 410p to 418p/kg (€5.21 to €5.31/kg).