Prime cattle remain in good demand this week, with factory quotes remaining firm across the board.

Heifer quotes remain perched at the top, with most factories quoting between €4.30/kg and €4.35/kg, the higher quotes going to those with numbers.

Bullocks are also a similar story to last week, with €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg being paid.

Donegal Meats is still at the top of the table with its quote of €4.45/kg for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg and €4.40/kg for bullocks killing out at the same weight.

Aberdeen Angus stock are also highly sought after at the moment, with most factories paying a 25c/kg Angus bonus. Hereford cattle are being paid out at 10c to 15c/kg extra.

Cows have seen the most improvement in the last few weeks, but there is wide variation in prices in different factories.

A number of specialised cow operators have increased quotes to secure supplies, with €4.00/kg being paid for good R grading cows and 10c more for U grading cows.

O grading cows are coming in at €3.65/kg to €3.75/kg. Better suckler O grades are pushing into €3.80/kg if part of a load.

P+3 cows are being quoted at €3.55/kg to €3.65/kg, with lighter cows lacking flesh coming in at around €3.50/kg.

Top-quality heavy cows (over 800kg) are making the equivalent of €4.30/kg to €4.40/kg in marts, so factories obviously have more a lot more scope to increase prices.

Under-24-month bulls are being quoted at €4.35/kg to €4.40/kg for U grades, with R grading bulls coming in at €4.25/kg to €4.30/kg.

O grading dairy bulls are being bought at €4.10/kg to €4.15/kg. Under-16-months bulls are still working off €4.25/kg on the grid.

Stock bulls are coming in at €2.80/kg to -€3.00/kg, depending on age and flesh cover.

Factories are very anxious for cattle and with numbers on the tighter side, the advice is to sell hard when the ball is at the farmer’s foot.

Farmers have an opportunity to apply some pressure over the next few months and should use that to their advantage.

While COVID-19 was a concern in some factories, the news that vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts won’t have to self-isolate will ease staffing pressure in boning halls.

Factories’ agents have ramped up activity in marts again this week, with many given a free hand to secure stock.

Many factories are also ramping up activity by filling feedlots.

With strong store prices all autumn and winter, many of the bigger players stood off buying, but will now have to bite the bullet and fill feedlots again to be able to draft out during the critical period of March to May.

A number of factories are anxious for cattle for that period and have hammered out deals with a number of large feeders in the last few weeks.

Last week’s kill came in at 26,810, up 6,500 on the previous week.

This week’s kill is expected to get back to more normal numbers after the holiday period.

In other positive news, the Certified Irish Angus group has announced a new off-season bonus for its members this spring. The producer group will pay 30c/kg for animals slaughtered between 14 March and 16 May 2022. This is an increase of 10c/kg from the bonus paid for the same period in 2021.

Northern Ireland

Prices for finished cattle remain unchanged, with base quotes holding at 394p/kg (€5/kg inc VAT) for U-3 grading animals. However, deals continue to run well above this level for in-spec animals.

Most price reports put steers and heifers between 406p and 410p/kg (€5.15 to €5.21/kg), although higher prices are available to specialist finishers and those supplying butcher-type heifers. Cull cows are on a base of 290p/kg (€3.68/kg) for R3 conformation, but, again, deals of 320p/kg (€4.06/kg) are available.