A scarcity of prime stock and a kill figure of less than 27,000 are driving the beef trade and helping to improve the deals on offer to farmers at the moment.
And to back up my continuous argument of pricing around, bargaining and going where you can get the most, I see that, for the second week running, a significant price lift has occurred in Donegal. Coincidentally, I reported in this column a fortnight ago that large numbers of cattle were, unusually, leaving Co Donegal to be slaughtered elsewhere. At that time, the price on offer at Donegal Meats was 355c/kg for the in-spec R-grade steers.
Today, after two significant prices increases in two weeks, Donegal is paying 375c/kg for that same grade. There has been a similar 20c/kg increase across all grades and for heifers and young bulls. This is equivalent to an €80 improvement on a 400kg carcass, which stems from farmers voting with their feet and going to other plants.
Donegal's prices for O, O+, R and U-grade steers are 358c/kg, 368c/kg, 375c/kg and 383c/kg respectively, with the heifers 3c/kg higher. Bulls are at 347c/kg for the Os, 361c/kg for the O+ grades, 370c/kg for the Rs with the Us at 378c/kg.
The plant has also increased its cow prices and dropped the minimum weight from 320kg to 280kg. The U-grade cow is making 339c/kg, Rs are at 333c/kg, O+ at 328c/kg, Os at 322c/kg and the P-grades at 311c/kg.
For the other plants, steer quotes are generally in the 360-365c/kg range, with reports of up to 370c/kg being paid in places. Moyvalley quoted 358c/kg for the R grades.
Heifer quotes are around 360-370c/kg, with 375c/kg being secured by some farmers. If you have a large number of suitable heifers, then a flat price well in excess of this figure can and is being negotiated.
Quotes for U-grade bulls range from a low of 364c/kg in Moyvalley up to 370-378c/kg on offer from most of the other plants. The R grades range from 364-370c/kg, while the O grades are in the 347-350c/kg bracket.
The key point here is that farmers must shop around and bargain hard on price and extras. The ball is firmly in the farmers' court at the moment.
Commenting on the trade, IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran said tight supplies would be compounded this week by farmer attendance at the Galway Races and this should ensure that prices continue to remain strong.
Cull cow prices have also improved by at least 6c/kg. The best cows are making 314-339c/kg. Good R grades are at 314-333c/kg. Prices for the Os vary from 308-322c/kg, with the P+ grade at 290-302c/kg.
The cattle trade improved again last week, according to Bord Bia, as both domestic prime and cow supplies continued to tighten.
On a year-to-date basis, cattle supplies are running more than 4.3pc lower than the same period last year. This, combined with some tightening of supplies in some of the key export markets, has helped trade.
Quotes for R-grade steers under the Quality Payment System were €3.58-3.67/kg. Heifer quotes were €3.67-3.75/kg. These prices exclude the 6 c/kg on in-spec Quality Assured stock. The cow trade remained strong, with O-grade cows typically making €2.97-3.08/kg.
In the UK, trade remained unchanged during the past week as steers averaged Stg 315.2p/kg dw (around 374c/kg dw) for the week ended July 16.