While cattle prices have been increasing across the board over the past number of weeks, one of the most impressive performers on beef price has been cull cows.

Last week, some farmers secured as high as €4.60/kg for well-fleshed U-grade cows.

This time last year, a price like that could only have been dreamed of for prime beef heifers – let alone cull cows.

With a strong cull cow price available at the factory, it seems farmers are taking full advantage of this by culling more of their non-performing cows.

The number of cows processed up to and including the week ending Sunday, March 20, at Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine-controlled factories is running over 11,000 cows ahead of the same time period last year.

In the first 11 weeks of this year, the number of cows processed stood at 80,034 head. This year’s cow kill is running 11,464 head higher than the 68,570 cows that had been processed in the same time frame last year.

The increasing trend in the cow category can be seen all other categories too, as the overall throughput to date has increased by 25,992 head of cattle (excluding veal), according to department figures.

The total number of cattle processed in week 11 stood at 23,866 head (excluding veal). The throughput for week 11 was back significantly from the 34,971 cattle processed in week 10 due to the short working week as a result of St. Patrick’s Day, and the subsequent public holiday on Friday, March 18.

Throughput for week 12 will likely bounce back to somewhere around the 35,000 head mark.

Looking at the composition of the kill from week 11, department data shows that 50.1% of the 9,140 bullocks processed last week graded an O, and 45.1% of the 7,201 heifers processed last week also graded an O.

It will be interesting to see over the coming weeks if the surging feed costs will delay the finishing of some cattle, or if farmers have opted to push cattle on for a shed-finish despite surging costs.