Cattle supplies have remained relatively stable in recent weeks and, as a result, prices continue to harden in factories around the country.

Heifer prices have started to edge towards the 430c/kg mark, but a number of buyers are still starting negotiations with farmers at 425c/kg.

Buoyed by falling numbers, there has also been some improvement witnessed in the steer market. Most factories are now offering base prices of 415-420c/kg – a steep rise from the 370-375c/kg on offer earlier this year.

Much of this price increase has been driven by falling throughput numbers and a lack of grass cattle being available on the market.

Some 9,906 steers were slaughtered in Department of Agriculture approved beef export plants during the week ending May 28 – a fall of 124 head or 1.2% on the week before.

In addition, heifer numbers have eased in recent weeks. During the week ending May 28, some 8,102 heifers were slaughtered in approved export plants – a drop of 259 head or 3.1% on the previous week.

Week-on-week beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 4,482 head (+460 head or +11.4%).
  • Aged bulls: 579 head (-137 head or -19.1%).
  • Steers: 9,906 head (-124 head or -1.2%).
  • Cows: 8,481 head (+200 or +2.4%).
  • Heifers: 8,102 head (-259 head or -3.1%).
  • Total: 31,591 head (+102 head or +0.3%).

However, cow numbers have increased of late and an additional 200 head (+2.4%) were slaughtered during the week ending May 28.

But prices for these animals have remained stable, with R grades trading at 360c/kg, O grades making 3.40-3.50c/kg and farmers are being offered 3.30-3.40c/kg for P grade cows.

When looked at on a cumulative or total kill basis, figures from the Department of Agriculture show that an additional 22,827 head (+3.5%) of cattle have been slaughtered in beef plants this year.

This brings to cumulative beef kill to 671,157 head.

Year-on-year beef kill changes:
  • Young bulls: 87,304 head (-7,337 head or -7.8%).
  • Aged bulls: 10,870 head (-1,280 head or -10.5%).
  • Steers: 235,784 head (+7,694 head or +3.4%).
  • Cows: 141,729 head (+16,374 head or +13.1%).
  • Heifers: 189,601 head (+4,532 head or +2.4%).
  • Total: 671,157 head (+22,827 head or +3.5%).

Factory reported prices

The latest beef prices reported to the Department of Agriculture and presented by the AgriLand Beef Price Tool show that there has been a widespread increase in the returns issued to farmers.

As of the week ending May 28, base heifer prices were sitting at 437c/kg and farmers were paid an average price of 426c/kg for steers. Both of these prices included breed-specific and other bonuses.

There was also some improvement witnessed in the young bull (U=2+) category, while O=3= cow prices actually declined on the week before.

Main markets

According to Bord Bia, the positive gains seen in the British beef market in recent weeks continued into last week. This was due to stronger demand and an ease in supplies.

Prices from the AHDB (the British beef and lamb board) show that R4L steers made 368p/kg or the equivalent of 422c/kg last week.

Moving onto heifers, Northern Irish R3 heifers made 416c/kg and British heifers traded at 420c/kg.

In France, Bord Bia says, there was little change reported in the market last week. R3 young bull prices improved by 2c/kg to 373c/kg, while cow prices climbed to 327c/kg.