All my sources used the same word to describe the state of the factory trade: "steady".
I'm more inclined to use the term "becalmed" as yet again yesterday quotes for bullocks ranged from €3.55-3.60/kg, with heifers continuing on €3.60/kg. Although €3.65-3.70/kg was paid by various plants over the last three weeks, I'm told those prices are becoming harder to achieve.
It's the same story on the cull cow side. R-grades are reported as being priced from €3.00-3.10/kg, with O-grades on €2.80-2.85/kg, while better Ps continue on €2.70-2.75/kg.
On the bull side prices are also unchanged at €3.60/kg for Us with Rs on €3.50 and better O-grades €3.40/kg.
With factory kill numbers now north of 32,000, supply and demand appear almost in balance. And while the reopening of various fast-food outlets and barbeque season have helped soak up those extra numbers, the trade awaits a further relaxation of Covid restrictions.
The question of how many fit cattle are in the system exercises the minds of farmers and factories constantly, particularly in June, July and August. One man I spoke with made a clear distinction between how well stock are thriving and the number of actual fit cattle in the system: "Everyone is talking about how well cattle are thriving but that's not the same as saying there are heaps of fit cattle around."
He also felt that as the Covid crisis bit, a lot of men who traditionally target stock for slaughter in the mid-summer months held off feeding meal.
"Now they have started but those cattle are probably still a month away from being finished."
The figures however tell a different story. The number of cattle slaughtered for the week ending June 7 was 32,281, indicating that factories are still getting a growing supply when compared to the 31,772 they got in the same week last year. The number of young bulls slaughtered was back 1,917 to 2,868 when compared to 2019 while the number of steers slaughtered at 11,029 was up 1,724.
As the drought-like conditions took hold, are some farmers weighing up their options and moving stock ahead of time?
The suspicion remains that numbers may yet steady and with the Covid restrictions easing, demand may continue to rise - exports for direct slaughter from the Republic to plants in Northern Ireland have risen dramatically in recent weeks.
Could it be that with beef prices in the UK well ahead of the Republic, the draw of cheaper raw material from the South is helping fill Northern orders that require the Union Jack to be stamped on the side of the delivery box?