A gradual upward trend in beef prices at factories continued this week, as processors responded to demand pressure.
For beef cattle finishers in the early weeks of a new year, it is a long time since they encountered the level of new year 2021 demand now apparent at the factories.
Processors are competing with each other to get cattle this week. As a result, prices on offer hardened a shade further, despite the best price-holding efforts of factory bosses.
Brexit and Covid-19 were two big worries for finishers, but at the current stage of the pandemic, there seems to be increased consumer demand for beef, and Brexit has not had much effect yet.
It all goes to show how unpredictable market forecasting can be in the beef trade.
The intake of cattle at factories slipped back last week to 31,990 head, more than 2,500 less than the same 2020 week.
The steer kill at 11,171 head was the same as 2020, while heifers were back 500 head, at 10,445 head.
The 3,587 young bulls compared to 5,399 for the corresponding 2020 week.
For most of the beef cattle supply this week, the price has moved upwards by 5c/kg. The general base quote for steers is 375c/kg, with up to 380c being paid, and a lot of price negotiation between finishers and factory agents before the livestock move.
Heifer prices are on a base of 385c/kg being paid for a good percentage of the intake this week, with some reports of up to 390c/kg being achieved, although that is not the general run of the trade, nor very readily available.
Processors are very active on the ground sourcing supplies, more evident over the past week at mart sales, as competition between factory agents for heavier cattle boosted prices.
For mid-January 2020, the base price for steers was running at 355c/kg, with some 360c achieved by sellers driving a hard bargain.
In the heifer trade, there is a similar year-on-year price improvement, of 20c-25c/kg, typically adding €80-€100 per head for finishers.
The trade for young bulls has also moved up a notch, with R-grade prices running at 370c-375c/kg this week.
Contrary to what could have been expected, with the foodservice sector so quiet, the demand for cows for the manufacturing beef trade remains very strong.
Better quality R-grade cows are making up to 345cc/kg this week, with O-grade in a 320-325c/kg range.