The differential in R3 steer prices between the Republic and Northern Ireland narrowed considerably from 45.6p/kg in April 2015 to 0.7p/kg in April 2016, according to latest figures from the LMC.
In monetary terms the differential in prices for a 330kg steer carcase narrowed from €192 (£150) in April 2015 to circa €3 (£2) in April 2016.
Ulster Farmers Union beef and lamb chairman, Crosby Cleland has said the big drop in the number of slaughter ready cattle this month must lead to better prices for farmers.
This comes after a sustained period of strong supplies and poor returns, which brought mounting losses for all cattle sold off local farms.
“We saw supplies peak at 8,600 cattle a week in mid-April. This was followed by a considerable reduction in numbers in the first couple of weeks in May. This has been right across the board, with both clean cattle and cull cows slowing down in numbers,” said Cleland.
Despite a modest increase in quotes this week, Cleland said these still did not reflect the real prices being paid by processors.
“Statistics from the LMC for the first half of May have shown that while quotes for R grade cattle have been around 300p/kg, what was actually paid has been at least 10p/kg more.
"This confirms that there is extra money available from the market, but it is important that farmers manage this carefully be ensuring that cattle presented are in-spec for the best-paying markets,” added Cleland.
Tighter numbers and increasing demand should be delivering better prices for farmers. But Cleland says it is clear processors are trying to limit this, by only increasing their quotes by modest amounts.
“An upward trend has developed over the last couple of weeks. It is crucial processors up their game and pay prices that will deliver better returns to farmers,” he said.
The UFU has been told by major retailers that beef sales have increased in recent weeks.
"One showed us how sales had increased dramatically following the launch of a new brand. Innovative thinking by some, along with the excellent weather over the past couple of weeks, should see beef sales increase. In turn we would expect the market to deliver better returns for farmers,” said Cleland.