The beef trade remains under pressure this week, with factories heaping pressure on winter finishers again.

Quotes have slipped another 5c/kg this week, with bullocks now working off €5.05/kg in most locations and heifers being bought at €5.10/kg.

There are mixed messages on supplies, with factories pedalling that they have loads of cattle coming on stream, but yet actively looking for cattle at the same time.

While factories are pedalling that there are demand issues in some of our main markets, the real issue is more likely that they have seen an opportunity to apply pressure on the price given the numbers they are seeing coming at them at the moment.

A tough spring has meant a proportion of cattle that would have normally been let outdoors were not and farmers opted to finish them out of the shed instead.

This brought forward the killing date by one to two months, so cattle that should have been destined for a mid-summer slaughter are coming on stream at the moment.

Bull trade

Under-24-month bulls have also seen a slight decrease in quotes, with bulls now working off €5.25/kg to €5.30/kg for U grading bulls. R grading bulls are being quoted at €5.20/kg to €5.30/kg in some factories.

O grading bulls are being quoted at €5.00/kg to €5.10/kg, while P grading bulls are still being bought at €4.90/kg to €5.00/kg in some factories this week and this depends on weight and fat score of these poorer-quality black and white bulls.

Under-16-month bulls are working off a €5.05/kg to €5.10/kg base price. This is before the 12c/kg in-spec bonus is applied, along with any grading bonuses or penalties.

The bull trade remains steady, with a few more under-16-month bulls coming out in the last week.

Cow trade

The cow trade is defying all the negative sentiment that’s out there in the beef trade, with €5.00/kg to €5.10/kg on the table in some outlets for well-fleshed U grading cows.

No pressure has been applied to the cow trade as of yet, as manufacturing markets continue to be very strong.

R grading cows are working off €4.70/kg to €4.80/kg in the main, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.60/kg, while O grading dairy cows are being bought at €4.40/kg to €4.50/kg.

P+3 cows are being bought at €4.30/kg in some locations.

Last week’s kill came in at 30,388, which was a strong kill for a four-day week.

There is some chat that numbers will begin to tighten from next week on. Factories have done a stellar job in managing to stretch supplies, with some delaying kills by a few days.

Irish Farmers’ Association livestock chair Declan Hanrahan said: “If the Bord Bia projections are correct for the remainder of the year, we are looking at over 70,000 fewer cattle between now and year end compared to last year.

“The strong performance of live exports this year will also reduce supplies for factories.

“Store and finished cattle exports to date this year are up 7,000 and predicted to grow further.

“Northern Irish buyers are currently very active in marts and are driving the trade for forward store and finished cattle. Farmers should strongly resist attempts by factories to reduce the price.

“Demand is strong and factories are very anxious for cattle despite the negative propaganda from the usual sources.”

NI comment

Base quotes increased by 2p/kg at NI plants, with 468p/kg (€5.74/kg inc VAT) on offer for U-3 animals, but, in reality, deals are generally 20p ahead of this at 488p/kg (€5.98/kg) for in-spec steers and heifers.

Deals for cows range from 370p to 400p/kg (€4.53 to €4.90/kg) depending on age, conformation and numbers available.