Just 153 heifers killed in licensed slaughter plants were graded as E last year -- equivalent to four in 10,000 animals.
Official figures released by the Beef Classification Section of the Department of Agriculture confirmed that the total kill of E-grade heifers increased by 16.
The number of E-grade steers was slightly higher, increasing by 132 to a total of 300hd -- equivalent to two in every 1,000 steers killed.
The results from the 25 individual licensed meat plants provide a valuable and timely guide to the winners and losers under the new grid payment system, which came into effect at the factories on January 1.
Only 5.6pc of heifers and 7.3pc of steers in last year's total kill made U-grade and, therefore, qualify for gains of up to 18c/kg under the revised payment system.
However, the statistics show that 42pc of steers and 36.5pc of heifers were O-grade. Returns to producers for these cattle face reductions of between 18 and 42c/kg under the new grid.
A further 6.6pc of the steer kill and 3.1pc of the heifers slaughtered were P-grade.
Under the new grid payment system P-grade animals will incur a penalty of up to 54c/kg off the base price. R grades accounted for 54.6pc of the heifer kill and 43.8pc of the steer kill. Cattle falling into eight of the 18 possible R grades of the grid would incur penalties of 6-24c/kg.
The national kill of steers and heifers last year amounted to just over one million cattle. Of this, 634,193hd were steers and 403,966 heifers.