Although movement on beef prices at the factories is very limited, any minor change is in a positive direction — and more favourable to heifer sellers.
Quoted prices for steers are steady at a 405-410 cents/kg (144p-146p/lb) base, but there are market place indications that more of the cattle are being bought this week at the upper end of that price range.
However, paying more than 410 cent/kg is being strongly resisted by the processors, and only being achieved with difficulty by a small minority of sellers of better quality cattle.
There is a stronger upward movement in prices for heifers. The factories are quoting 410-420 cent/kg, and some up to 425 cent/kg, as a base for heifers. There is however more flexibility to negotiate on price up to 425 cent/kg, and some sellers have reported doing a shade better for better quality heifers this week.
The percentage of heifers in the weekly cattle intake has increased in recent weeks, but demand remains stronger for heifers than for steers.
The total intake increased slightly last week to about 25,900 head, narrowed to about 2,800 head less than the comparable week in 2011, having been running at 7,000 less over the past month.
Meanwhile, there is still no indication of pressure on factory agents from the decision makers to get intake levels back up to year earlier levels.
No significant increase in prices to get supply up remains the policy.
Most observers fear any price improvement over the coming weeks will be limited, despite the dramatic weather change and slower grass growth which will restrict cattle finishing off grass.
The cow trade is holding very strong, particularly for heavy, quality cows. Base prices quoted for O/P grade cows are 345-375 cents/kg, while prices for quality R-grade cows have strengthened slightly, with up to 390 cent/kg on offer.
The beef trade in the UK was reported as steady last week. Firm demand continued for manufacturing product and the trade for round cuts was reported to be steady. Cattle prices, however, are reported to have eased slightly, with R4L-grade steers averaging equivalent to 447 cent/kg (159p/lb) including VAT.
On the continent, trade showed little change.
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