There is a bit of good news emanating from the beef sector at last. OK, it's nowhere up near the Tipperary hurlers' performance last Sunday in Salthill but it is much better than the show put on by Tipp's opponents on the day -- and that is still not saying much.
Despite the cattle kill being up at 32,500hd (which was 1,300hd more than the corresponding week last year), quotes and prices are showing signs of positive movement. It is a similar story in Britain, which has seen a substantial lift of 3-4p/kg over the past few days.
In-spec heifers going into Donegal Meats have moved up to 364c/kg for U grades with the Rs at 356c/kg. Steer prices are 3c/kg less. R and U grade bulls are making 342c/kg and 350c/kg respectively.
With factories obviously anxious for stock, quotes and prices vary significantly. Base quotes around the country for steers are generally in the 333-336c/kg range. There are a few plants clinging onto the 330c/kg quote but were almost as scarce as loyal friends of Michael Lowry in the Dail when I was doing the rounds yesterday.
Farmers selling bullocks this week are holding out and demanding minimum base quotes of 336-342c/kg. It is the same story on the heifer front. Base quotes offered are in the 336-342 range but prices paid to hard sellers run from a base of 342c/kg up to 350c/kg. If you are willing to take whatever you are offered you stand to lose quite an amount. One particular plant that quoted me 333c/kg base for Rs actually paid 342c/kg flat for overage R and U grade steers last week, while another plant quoting 336c/kg for R grade young bulls and 350c/kg for Us has actually paid 354c/kg and 360c/kg for those grades respectively this week.
As regards the young bulls, the Os are ranging from 322-327c/kg, Rs at 330-347c/kg and the Us at 342-350c/kg. Some farmers are negotiating flat deals of 347-350c/kg for Rs and Us.
IFA livestock chairman Michael Doran said that strong Easter demand, coupled with improvements in the British trade and the upcoming royal wedding, has helped prices to lift by 6-9c/kg. He added that the corresponding base price in Britain is now at 350c/kg.
Cull cows are a very strong trade. Top prices of 319c/kg has been paid for top quality pedigree-type U grade cows. Elsewhere, Us have made up to 316c/kg, with Rs commanding up to 311c/kg. Quotes for the top cows range from 300-316c/kg. The R grade quotes run from 297-308c/kg, O grade cow quotes are generally at 286-294c/kg and the P+3 cows being quoted at 274-280c/kg.
Bord Bia said that there was little change to report on the cattle trade last week as finished cattle supplies continue to run below the same period last year.