In early April, I reported a farmer telling me that "bulls should come into their own over the next few weeks". I wasn't sure whether it was more hope than expectation on his behalf, but in fairness to him, he generally calls it fairly right.
While it might not be in the same league as Tiger Woods' €1.2million comeback win over the weekend, the 450c/kg quote for U grades proves my friend's prediction true.
Bull prices have improved by 20c/kg in recent weeks, with much more positive interest from the factories. Some farmers with mixes are selling at 445c/kg flat. The quotes for the Rs are generally at 430-435c/kg with the Us at 440-450c/kg.
O grade quotes range from 415-426c/kg. Factories are very anxious for stock and last week's estimated kill of 26,550hd, which was down almost 2,000hd on the previous week, appears unable to satisfy their demand at the moment.
Most of the steers are selling at a base of 440c/kg with quite a few prices of 445c/kg being got. Reports also suggest that some finishers have secured base prices of up to 450c/kg. Heifer quotes vary from 460-465c/kg.
A few plants continue to mention 455c/kg, but finishers are not taking those figures seriously and I think that the processors appreciate this at the moment also. Hence, the base prices usually range from 460-465c/kg.
Hardened sellers have and are negotiating base prices of 470c/kg with a good geographical spread involved. Commenting on the beef trade, IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said that numbers have tightened significantly and that top base prices for steers and heifers had risen to 450c/kg and 470c/kg respectively with bulls making up to 450c/kg.
The well-fleshed cows continue to make upwards of €4/kg with as high as 425c/kg being bargained for where the cows are top quality or where a good number of cows are being sold.
Quotes and prices talked about for the Us vary from 400-425/kg with the Rs at 390-415c/kg. The O grades are making from 365-390c/kg. Prices for the Ps range from 350-370c/kg.
Base prices quoted for R grade steers under the Quality Payment System were making around €4.35-4.40/kg, while quotes for heifers were generally making between €4.55-4.60/kg.
However, the average price paid by export meat plants has increased as a result of the in-spec QA bonus being doubled from 6c/kg to 12c/kg. O grade cull cows are making between €3.55-3.70/kg.
To date this year, cattle supplies are running 41,200 head higher compared to last year's levels, with the majority of the increase in the steer and cow category.
In Britain, tight supplies continue to underpin the trade. Demand for round and steak cuts remains robust.
Trade for forequarter continues to be steady. R4L grade steers averaged 499c/kg including VAT deadweight.
In key export markets, demand is best for hindquarter product, with demand for steak cuts building in response to the improvement in weather conditions around Europe.
As the economic crisis in Spain deepens, beef demand continues to fall. The feedlot sector is suffering most with more cattle being exported live to the Lebanon and Libya in particular.
During 2012 Spanish livestock exports grew by 163pc or 159,000 head. Unsurprisingly, live cattle imports declined by 14pc or 59,000 head in 2012 compared to 2011.
The majority of cattle imported are calves weighing less than 80kg from France, Poland, Ireland, Germany and Romania. However, live cattle imports from Ireland have bucked 2012 trends during the first four months of 2013, with imports 172pc or 10,700 head higher in the first four months of 2013.
Most of this increase is evident in the calf category with increased numbers and lower prices.