Following a period of erratic movement, factory cattle price has started to steady this week, with the stronger quotes edging back 5-10c/kg and the lower quotes last week holding for this week.

Procurement staff have attributed the reduced quotes to an easing in beef demand from EU markets. Some procurement staff seem confident that the cattle trade will ‘find its balance’ somewhere around the current prices, while others said it will depend on how beef sales perform in the coming weeks.

In the past three months, cattle price has increased by up to 65c/kg at many factories, and most beef farmers could live with the trade steadying for a while around the €5.20-€5.30/kg on-the-grid mark.

Heifer price this week is ranging from €5.25-€5.30/kg on the grid. Processors are still anxious for numbers of prime heifers and steers as week-on-week throughput numbers continue to fall.

For steers, €5.20-€5.25/kg on the grid is the general run of bullock quotes this week. Firm breed bonuses remain in place on in-spec Angus and Hereford heifers and steers of up to 30c/kg.

The trade for cows has eased back a touch, with processors quoting €5/kg for R-grade cows and €5.10/kg for U-grade cows.

O-grade cows are being quoted at €4.80/kg and P-grade cows at €4.70/kg.

Heavy, fleshed factory cows are in high demand and continue to command the highest prices/head at many marts, with a Limousin dry cow weighing 1,005kg selling for €3,160, or €3.14/kg in Ballymote last week, and a 850kg Belgian Blue cow (also suitable for breeding) selling for €3,600 at Carnaross Mart.

For under-24-month bulls, €5.25/kg is on offer for R-grades and €5.35/kg is on offer for U-grades.

O-grade bulls are being quoted at €5.15/kg and €5.05/kg is on offer for P-grade bulls.

Finally, under-16-month bulls are being quoted at €5.15-€5.20/kg on the grid.

While many farmers may be frustrated with the upward streak on cattle prices slowing, a steady trade bodes better in the long term for cattle price than one that is fluctuating erratically.

Irish factory prices on top

Latest figures show that for the week ending May 28, the average Irish R3 steer price was 7c/kg ahead of the UK beef price.

According to Bord Bia’s Cattle Price Dashboard, the last time Irish beef price surpassed UK price was in April 2011, when the Irish R3 steer price was €3.41/kg and the UK equivalent was €3.40/kg.

The reported prices exclude VAT but include all bonuses such as for breed-based producer groups.