This week is all about big fences with the two Grand Nationals, here and across the water. Cull cows have got a head start on the horses and have certainly cleared one major fence over the past week. Up to €4/kg has been paid on more than one occasion for good, heavy, well-fleshed Continentals that included R and U grades.
Prices also moved up a bit in the northwest, with the U grades now making 388c/kg. The Rs are at 380c/kg, O and O+ cows at 370c/kg and 376c/kg respectively, with the P+ grades at 364c/kg. Any cow with flesh is now making more than the 350c/kg regardless of grade.
Base quotes for the steers are generally at 405-410c/kg, with some finishers getting up to 415c/kg. On the heifer side, the base quote are at 410-420c/kg but, here again, as with the steers, hard sellers have negotiated base prices of up to 425c/kg. In-spec types killing out at 275-325c/kg are securing a price of 430c/kg on the grid.
Factories are very anxious for stock, with different plants keen on certain categories, so it is imperative for the farmer to shop around as it could prove very beneficial to sell steers to one processor and bulls or heifers to another.
For example, a plant in the southeast appears to be extremely interested in steers and not keen on bulls, while as you move a bit more up the country another plant is more anxious for bulls. Quite a few plants will do all they can to close the deal if there are heifers in the equation. The best I heard for the bulls was 420c/kg flat for a mix of mainly U grades, with some Rs included. That batch of bulls was not all under the 450kg deadweight either. Mixed prices for R and Us of 415c/kg seem to be common.
As far as quotes are concerned, the Us are at 415-420c/kg, with the Rs at 405-410c/kg. Quotes for the O grades vary at 390-400c/kg.
IFA livestock chairman Henry Burns said that the cattle trade was hardening, with the base price for steers having moved on to 410c/kg and the base for the heifers moving towards and beyond 420c/kg. He added that factories were having to pay 5-10c/kg above their quotes to get stock.
Bord Bia reported that the cattle trade remained steady over the past week as ongoing tight supplies continued to maintain price levels, with demand having settled down in the lead up to Easter. To date this year, cattle supplies are running almost 13pc (48,900hd) below last year's levels.
In Britain, the trade for beef was reportedly unchanged with market demand being matched by availability.
Demand for all parts of the carcass was reportedly steady. Reported cattle prices from the AHDB have firmed, with GB R4L grade steers averaging 346p/kg deadweight (equivalent to 441c/kg including VAT deadweight) for the week ended March 31.
On the continent, trade across most of the key markets has quietened down, with most orders for Easter being reportedly placed over the past fortnight.
With excellent weather conditions around most parts of Europe, trade for cuts such as eye rounds, ribs and fillets are showing the best performance.
Demand for forequarter product has subsided on the back of this development. In Italy, R3 young bull prices increased by 2/c to €4.28/kg, while O3 cows prices remain unchanged at €3.05/kg.
R3 young bull prices in Germany fell by 3c/kg to €3.95/kg, with O3 cow prices remaining unchanged at €3.35/kg.