The supply of U-grade prime beef animals to beef export factories have reached record highs.
U-grade animals are worth an average of €60/head over the base prices under the Quality Payment System (QPS) initiated in 2009.
Grading figures released by the Department of Agriculture for the kill at the 25 beef export factories for the first quarter of 2012 show the supply of U-grade heifers was up by 32pc, while U-grade steer supplies were up by 24pc.
Commenting on the rise in quality cattle being presented at meat plants, the ICSA's Eddie Punch said the shift may be due to a better quality weanling, along with Irish finishers competing more with exporters for top-quality stock.
"Producers are also doing a better job and feeding a bit more ration for an earlier finish," added Mr Punch.
"Due to the high cost of buying in stores and the price of beef they are less inclined to hold animals for long periods and that is also helping the grading."
He added that the reduction in the suckler herd gave farmers a chance to cull poorer quality cows.
The national average of U-grade heifers in the kill for January-March 2012 increased to 13.7pc, compared to 10.4pc for the same period in 2011. ABP Clones recorded the highest level of U grade at 31pc of the kill, compared to 20pc in 2011. Dawn Ballyhaunis had 24.3pc of U grade and Foyle Meats (Donegal) almost 23pc.
The national steer kill had an average of 12.3pc of U-grade animals, up from 9.9pc in 2011.
ABP Clones again recorded the highest individual factory level at 34pc of the intake of steers, up from 24pc at the factory a year earlier. U-grade steers amounted to more than 29pc of the kill at Liffey Meats (Hacketstown), a rise of 19pc.
The percentage of R-grade steers was unchanged at 42pc, while O grade dropped from 41.5pc to 39pc.