With strong supplies of finished cattle and pressure relating to the Euro evident since the beginning of the year, these have been important factors which have affected the Northern Ireland beef price.
However, with supplies beginning to tighten in the Republic of Ireland and cattle aged 12-30 months in Northern Ireland down 4% on the year there is an expectation that beef prices must surely improve again.
Over the last number of weeks the UFU Beef and Lamb Committee has been keeping a close eye on the quotes that are being published each week and comparing them against the prices that are being paid to producers.
What is clear from the data is that beef farmers must price around factories to get the best price for their cattle as there can be considerable differences in deals being offered by certain plants for all classes of cattle.
Over the last five weeks quotes for U-3 cattle have fallen sharply by 20/kg, however it is worth noting that the average price for U-3 has not fallen any further than 349p/kg.
On the 9th March U-3 quotes were 348-352, yet the average price paid was 359p/kg. If we look at the statistics presented more recently, quotes for the 6th April were 328-334p/kg, with the average price paid for U-3 being 350p/kg.
With regard to quotes for R-3 they have also fallen by approximately 20p/kg from 342-346p/kg on the 9th March down to 322-328p/kg for the week beginning the 6th April, with prices paid for both of these weeks on average 355p/kg and 338p/kg.
While the drop in prices is highly unsatisfactory for producers at a time of year when winter finishing costs are at their highest, the statistics demonstrate that there is more to be gained from the market place than what has been first offered.
This applies to all grades of cattle.
While negotiations around the final price can be influenced by a number of factors, overall the principle remains that it pays to shop around for the best price and specification, whether that be in local plants or even across the water.
Producers should also give due consideration to the live ring where more competition and a better price could be available, particularly for heavy stores.