Beef quotes remain very steady this week, with all factories remaining on the same quotes as they were paying for animals last week.

Some agents are reporting a little cooling off, with fringe benefits such as haulage and other sweeteners a little harder to come by this week.

Bullocks are being quoted at €5.10/kg to €5.15/kg, while heifers are working off €5.15/kg to €5.20/kg.

Those with numbers and regular suppliers have been able to squeeze more out of the market, with some larger finishers getting €5.25/kg for bullocks and €5.30/kg for heifers this week.

Foyle Meats in Donegal remains in pole position with its quote of €5.25/kg base price for bullocks killing out between 300kg and 400kg and €5.30/kg for heifers killing out between 300kg and 400kg.

Factories are still anxious for cattle and are showing good interest in some out-of-spec cattle.

Up to €5.20/kg base price is being paid for cattle over 30 months. These are eligible for the smaller 8c/kg in-spec bonus once they are killed at under 36 months of age, but are still capable of coming into north of €5.30/kg when grading is applied.

Bonus

Flat prices of as high as €5.60/kg are still on the table for Aberdeen Angus heifers, with nearly all factories now paying a 25c/kg bonus on Aberdeen Angus animals and 20c/kg for Hereford animals, provided they meet the specifications for the relevant schemes.

The young bull trade also remains steady, with €5.50/kg on the table for U grading young bulls in some of the factories specialising in bulls.

R grading bulls are moving at €5.30/kg to €5.40/kg, while O and P grading bulls are being paid out 5c to 10c/kg less.

Fat cover and weight are big determinants on price when it comes to bull quotes.

Under-16-month bulls are generally working off €5.15/kg to €5.25/kg base price, with the 12c/kg in-spec bonus being added in along with grading for the final price.

Cull cows

Cull cows also remain a very solid trade, with the manufacturing beef market continuing to be very strong.

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U grading suckler cows are still at the top of the market, with €4.80/kg to €4.90/kg being paid for good-quality young well-fleshed cows.

R grading cows are working off €4.50/kg to €4.70/kg, with O grading suckler cows coming in at €4.40/kg, while P grading are working off €4.00/kg to €4.20/kg, depending on weight and flesh cover.

Last week’s kill came in at 37,296 head - an increase of over 1,000 head on the previous week.

Much of this increase came in the form of cows, with the cow kill breaching 10,000 head for the first time in 2024.

That’s over 1,000 cows more than was killed in the same week in 2023.

Last week’s kill is also running just over 1,000 head more than the same week in 2023.

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The bullock kill also saw an increase last week, coming in at 12,704 - a 1,000 head lift on the previous week.

Looking further afield, the US cattle herd is at its lowest level in 73 years. Hit by drought over the past two years, the US beef cattle herd has fallen to levels not seen since 1951, according to a survey by the US Department of Agriculture.

The annual report shows there were 87.2 million head of cattle and calves on US farms as of 1 January, the lowest level in 73 years.

NI comment

Supplies of cattle are easier to come by this week, which ultimately keeps price deals steady.

Base quotes are up 2p/kg to 468p/kg (€5.73p/kg inc VAT ) for U-3 grading animals, but 484p/kg is a (€5.93/kg) realistic base for steers and heifers.

Most deals are running 2p to 4p/kg above this level, while regular finishers with a good supply of animals are on 492p/kg (€6.03/kg).