Supply and processing demand are finely balanced within the beef trade, underpinning prices on offer for prime cattle.
Base quotes remain unchanged on 394p/kg for U-3 grading animals. However, as has been the case for several months, quotes falls well below the prices being paid for the majority of prime animals.
Lower base quotes are helping processors keep a lid on the prices paid for cattle supplied through premium breed schemes and continues to be a source of frustration for farmers offloading such animals.
Deals on conventional cattle remain at levels similar to previous weeks, with steers moving from 406p/kg up to 410p/kg for more regular finishers.
Heifers are moving at similar levels, with slightly more on offer for a good supply of butcher-type animals.
There are again reports of processors offering flat-rate prices and waiving penalties on cattle falling outside of specification for the retail market.
Processors indicate they are getting enough cattle to fill orders, but are again encountering problems keeping kill lines and boning halls adequately staffed.
This is limiting the number of animals that can be handled on both a daily and weekly basis.
Last week, the average price paid across all grades of steers and heifers was more or less static on 396.86p/kg.
For cattle at U3 conformation, steers averaged 407.1p/kg, which is down 1.5p/kg on the previous week.
Heifers averaged 408.5p/kg, down 1.7p/kg on the week, whereas young bulls averaged 392.1p/kg, a rise of 1.4p/kg.
Base quotes on cull cows is also holding steady at 290p/kg for R3 grading animals, while O+3 cows remain at 280p/kg.
As with prime cattle, base quotes for cows is falling well short of what is being paid.
Deals on offer for good-quality suckler types generally range from 310p to 320p/kg, with more on offer for animals with higher conformation.
NI Sheep: trade holding firm
There was a subdued mart trade for fat hoggets this week, with prices easing in several cases.
Factories moved to pull base quotes back to 560p/kg, making hoggets worth £123.20 for 22kg deadweight.
However, deals are still being made at 575p to 585p/kg this week.
Kilrea sold 620 hoggets from 502p to 556p/kg, down by 14p/kg for heavier lambs. Hoggets at 25kg to 27.5kg sold from £124 to £128, while 24.5kg sold to £121. Hoggets at 21.5kg made £110.
Massereene sold 614 hoggets from 500p to 525p/kg, no change on last week.
In Saintfield, 595 lambs sold in an easier trade from 488p to 552p/kg. Heavy hoggets at 28kg made £130, 25kg sold to £127 and 24kg to £119. Hoggets at 22kg made £113. Stores at 18kg made £97 with 17kg at £90.
In Rathfriland, a small show of 389 hoggets sold from 510p to 580p/kg and averaged 526p/kg, up by 8p/kg on last week.
In Ballymena, heavy hoggets at 28kg made £126.50, with 27kg at £124. Hoggets at 25.5kg made £122, with 21kg at £107.
Fat ewes remain a very firm trade. In Kilrea, ewes sold to £147 and in Massereene to £148. In Saintfield, the top was £225, with a big run from £122 to £197. In Rathfriland, the top price was £176.