One headline last week read "Taxman blitz on pensioners". Well, anywhere that there are finished cattle available, the same could be said of the factory agents. No matter who you talk to around the country the story is the same -- cattle are extremely scarce.
With the old adage of price being dictated by supply and demand, it follows that prices have continued to move in an upward direction.
Factory agents are more or less being told not to leave finished stock behind. The kill for last week was estimated at 24,000hd. Incidentally, the total kill for last year finished up at 1,568,465hd, which was 74,127 animals (4.5pc) down on the previous year.
Cull cows are generally seen as a good indicator of the trade. At top prices for heavy R and U grades of anywhere between 350c/kg and 375c/kg -- with more rumoured to be on offer -- then the trade is in a very healthy position at the moment.
Good U grades are making €3.64-3.75/kg, with well-fleshed Rs commanding upwards of 350c/kg. O grades are selling for 336-348c/kg, with O+ cows making up to 354c/kg in the northwest. P+ cows are making 319-336c/kg, while up to 342c/kg has also been paid.
The young bull trade has strengthened again with quite a few flat deals being done for Rs and Us at a minimum of 420c/kg. U grades are making 425c/kg, while the Rs are generally selling for 415-420c/kg. Prices for the O grades are at 400-410c/kg.
Many plants have increased their quotes for steers, and in some cases for heifers, by up to 10c/kg. This leaves the base for the steers at 410-412c/kg and the heifers at 420-425c/kg.
It is vital that you get in touch with a few plants or agents if you have stock to sell and bargain. The ball is very much in the sellers court.
The IFA's Michael Doran said that farmers must maximise the value of their stock as all costs associated with finishing cattle have soared over the past 12 months.
He added that farmers, especially around the midlands, were securing base prices of up to 415c/kg for their bullocks and 425c/kg for the heifers, with very keen competition for cull cows helping to drive on prices up to and over 365c/kg.
Trade for cattle improved last week, according too Bord Bia, reflecting ongoing solid demand for beef combined with current tight supplies on both the home market and some of the key export markets. The best trade reported was for in-spec quality assured cattle.
Quotes for R-grade steers increased under the Quality Payment System to average €4-4.08/kg. Heifer quotes were making €4.08-4.15/kg. These prices exclude the 6c on in-spec quality assured stock. O-grade cows were at €3.30-3.42/kg.
In Britain, trade was reportedly brisk following the Christmas break, with retail promotions in full swing. The briskest trade was for forequarter product, while demand for steak cuts was reportedly steady. However, some anecdotal reports indicate that demand for round cuts has begun to weaken.
Reported cattle prices from the AHDB eased, with GB R4L grade steers averaging Stg341.9p/kg deadweight (equivalent to 434c/kg including VAT deadweight) for the week ended December 31.
On the Continent, trade was steady across most of the key markets as consumers began to restock after Christmas.