Factory agents are hot on the hunt for finished cattle this week as beef supplies appear to have tightened significantly.

Most factories have planned for smaller kills this week as a result of a reduced supply, rather than reduced demand from markets.

It is not unusual for cattle supply to tighten around this time of the year, but the exceptional demand from markets for beef will leave processors more anxious to fill-out kill sheets – even if it means having to pay extra for finished cattle.

Agent activity was noticeably busier at marts last week, with factory procurement staff being described as ‘under pressure to secure cattle for this week’s kill’.

This week’s prices

This week’s prices have opened 10c/kg higher than last week, and most procurement staff have admitted there ‘could be a few cent more to be got’ where good cattle are forthcoming.

The top quote this week for heifers comes from Co. Donegal again, with Foyle Meats offering farmers €5.30/kg on the grid.

Steers are being quoted at €5.25/kg and a 10c/kg weight bonus is available on cattle with a carcass weight of between 300-400kg.

This would bring Foyle Meats’ offering for steers and heifers in this carcass weight-range to €5.35/kg and €5.40/kg on the grid respectively.

Breed bonuses of up to 30c/kg are available on in-spec Angus and Hereford cattle of up to 30c/kg.

There is a significant variation between processors’ quotes for prime cattle this week, and the lower-paying factories will likely pay more than their initial quotes to secure cattle from regular suppliers.

Looking at cow price now and €5.10/kg and €5.00/kg is available for quality, fleshed, U and R-grade cows respectively, this week.

Good, heavy cows grading O+ are being quoted at €4.90/kg, with €4.80/kg on offer for plainer, O-grade cows over 300kg and €4.80/kg for P-grade cows with a carcass weight over 300kg.

Cull cows are a savage trade at marts currently and factory agents are well aware of this and will likely pay a bit more per kilo after negotiations, rather than walk away from a batch in a farmer’s yard.

For under-24-month bulls, a flat price of €5.25-€5.35/kg is available for R-grade bulls between 300-400kg.

€5.35-€5.45/kg is being quoted for U-grade bulls and good O-grade bulls are being quoted at €5.10-€5.15/kg, with €5.00-€5.10/kg on offer for fleshed P-grade bulls that have a carcass weight over 300kg.

Finally, under-16-month bulls are being quoted at €5.10-€1.15/kg on the grid.

Farmers are advised to bargain hard on price before moving cattle on and where farmers are unhappy with the deal on offer from their factory agent, the strong mart trade is always an alternative sale route for their cattle.

Cattle are a strong trade currently and the advice is to move cattle on – be it to the factory or at the mart – as they come fit.