Surge in southern cattle being sent to factories in Northern Ireland

Imports of cattle from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Irish meat plants have surged in recent times with numbers up more than 450 head last week compared to the same week in 2019, according to Northern Ireland’s Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC).

In its weekly bulletin dated Saturday, June 20, the LMC noted that throughput of prime cattle in Northern Ireland last week totalled 6,733 head.

This was similar to the previous week and well above the 6,072 prime cattle processed in local plants during the corresponding week in 2019.

Cow throughput in Northern Ireland last week totalled 2,095 head, up 217 head from the previous week and higher than the 1,847 cows processed in the same week in 2019.

Prime cattle imports from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) for direct slaughter last week totalled 523 head and accounted for 7.8% of the total Northern Irish (NI) prime cattle kill. In the corresponding week last year, 65 prime cattle were imported from ROI for direct slaughter in Northern Ireland and accounted for just 1% of the total NI prime cattle kill.

This is an increase of 458 cattle year-on-year.

A further 291 cows were imported last week from ROI for direct slaughter in NI plants and accounted for 13.9% of the total cow kill, the commission reported.

Meanwhile, exports from NI to ROI last week consisted of one steer and 14 cows while for the 12th consecutive week reports indicate no cattle made the journey to Britain for direct slaughter, the LMC noted.

Northern Irish trade

The LMC highlighted that NI deadweight trade for cattle last week continued to improve in response to the tightening in cattle supplies. The majority of grades generally increased by 2 to 5p/kg from the previous week.

The average NI steer price increased by 2.8p/kg to 348.7p/kg (385c/kg) while the R3 steer price was up by 4p/kg to 358.7p/kg.

Last week the average NI heifer price and R3 heifer price both reported increases of 1.3p/kg to 351.4p/kg (388c/L) and 358.8p/kg (396c/L) respectively, the commission said.

The average NI young bull price last week was up by 3.8p/kg to 340.3p/kg (376c/kg) while the R3 young bull price increased by 4.6p/kg to 352p/kg (389c/L).

The average NI cow price last week was up by 2.5p/kg to 267.7p/kg (296c/L) with the O3 cow price up by 7.5p/kg to 286.1p/kg (316c/kg), it was added.

British and Irish trade

The deadweight trade for prime cattle also continued to strengthen in Britain last week, LMC said.

The average steer price increased by 5.5p/kg to 358.1p/kg (395c/kg) with the R3 steer price up by 4.5p/kg to 364.7p/kg (403c/kg).

The differential in the R3 steer price between Northern Ireland and Britain widened by half a penny to 6p/kg last week.

The average heifer price in Britain last week was up by 5.7p/kg to 359.7p/kg (397c/kg) while the R3 heifer price increased by 4.2p/kg to 364.9p/kg (403c/kg).

The differential in R3 heifer prices between Northern Ireland and Britain last week widened by just over 3p/kg to 6.1p/kg when compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, the LMC noted that the deadweight trade for prime cattle in ROI came under some pressure last week with a strong increase in prime cattle throughput recorded.

The R3 steer price last week decreased by 0.4p/kg to 324.7p/kg (358c/kg) with the R3 heifer price in ROI back by just over a penny to the equivalent of 328.6p/kg (363c/kg) – 30.2p/kg less than the same price in Northern Ireland.

The O3 cow price in ROI was back by 4.3p/kg to the equivalent of 243.7p/kg (269c/kg), 42.4p/kg below the O3 cow price in NI, the LMC concluded.