Our hopes for Eurovision success this week rests on a song entitled 'Playing With Numbers'. It would also be an apt description of the cattle kill at the moment as tightening supplies are making it difficult for the factories to maintain the kill at around the 30,000hd mark.
Last week's estimated kill from the Department of Agriculture stood at 29,452hd which was some 2,600hd back on the corresponding kill this time last year.
Agents I spoke to over the weekend were all singing the same off the same hymn sheet when it came to talk of supplies, with a free admission that numbers were tightening significantly.
However, it was like heavy metal versus hymns when it came to some of the quotes and prices as I heard of a difference of as much as 10-15c/kg for the same grade stock in certain categories. This is proof, if any is needed at this stage, of the need to shop around and bargain hard before agreeing on a deal. A difference of 15c/kg equates to a loss/gain of €60 on a 400kg carcass.
While some plants might be quoting as low as €4.05/kg for the steers, in the main the quotes are at €4.10/kg with actual prices running between €4.10/kg and €4.15/kg.
Top base prices of €4.20/kg have been got this week and a couple of agents did hint that this figure may become more common as the week progresses.
Heifer quotes are at €4.15-4.20/kg. Farmers are ignoring the lower figure and refusing to accept less than the base €4.20/kg, with a few of them securing a base of €4.25/kg.
I heard of a couple of flat prices of up to €4.20/kg for a mix of nicely finished bulls, with a tops of €4.25/kg paid elsewhere for U grades. Farmers have been offered less than €4/kg for Rs too. The O grades are making from €3.90-3.95/kg.
The cull cows have been the one constant for quite a while now and remain so with top prices of €4.00/kg paid for top quality heavy continental types. Cows in the R/U grades are generally making from €3.80-4.00/kg. Prices for the Os range from €3.65/kg to €3.75/kg, while the Ps are selling for €3.55-3.65/kg.
Commenting on the trade, the IFA's Henry Burns said cattle finishers were digging in and securing up to €4.25/kg in some cases for heifers. He also said that it was clear that there was a lot of contract cattle being killed at prices well above quotes.
He cited the last official Department of Agriculture prices for week ended May 10 which showed the average R=3= steer paid price at €4.26 and the R=3= heifer paid price at €4.40/kg.
"These prices clearly prove that the factories are paying significantly over quoted prices to get cattle in yards," Mr Burns said.
Meanwhile, cumulative supplies for the year to date are down around 3pc on supplies for the corresponding period last year at around 578,000hd.
In Britain, reported cattle prices from the AHDB for GB R4L grade steers averaged Stg 338.3p/kg deadweight (equivalent to €4.91/kg including VAT deadweight). Trade has eased somewhat due to a slowdown in demand.
There was little change reported in the French trade with ongoing promotions centred on roasts, fillets and sirloins. The R3 young bull price was unchanged at €3.85/kg inclusive of VAT and the O3 cow price was up 3c to €3.42/kg.
In Italy, the trade continues to be underpinned by a rise in competition and a slowdown in consumption with demand best for cheaper cuts. It is hoped that promotions will help the trade over the coming week. The R3 young bull price was up 10c at €4.14/kg, while the O3 cow price was up 10c to €2.98/kg.