- news, features, articles and disease information for the beef industry

AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

06 January 2014

EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 3 January 2014EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 3 January 2014

Trade levels over the holiday period

With a fluctuating degree of activity over the Christmas holiday period, it is difficult to ascertain a realistic picture of trade. However, reports still suggest that beef sales remain subdued on the back of high prices and that with supplies on offer adequately matching demand, any upwards pressure on price has largely dissipated. Should colder weather arrive, this has the potential to stimulate better demand. However processors are likely to remain cautious, ensuring supplies match their retail orders.

With prices failing to improve in the run up to Christmas and some plants reported to be closed for an extended period of time, deadweight cattle prices have broadly levelled over the two-week holiday period. In week ended 28 December, at 383.2p/kg, the all prime average was almost unchanged compared with the last uninterrupted week before Christmas. Despite the end of year trend having been contrary to seasonal expectations, prime cattle average prices are still up 5% since the turn of 2013.

In contrast, at GB auction marts in week ended 1 January, the all prime cattle average was up 11p over the past fortnight to 205.8p/kg. However, most of the increase was driven by improved trade in the week to 25 December as availability varied.

Lower steer throughputs and carcase weights lead to another drop in production

UK prime cattle slaughterings in November totalled 157,800 head, 2% lower compared with the corresponding month last year. Continuing the trend in 2013, all regions of the UK indicated reduced availability of steers; throughputs in total were back 6% on the year. Heifer throughputs were up 2% - they have been above year-earlier levels since April.

The sustained increase in Great Britain, in particular, could indicate a reduction in the number of females being retained for breeding in the UK, a situation which clearly has long-term implications for the UK beef industry.

Cull cow throughputs were again markedly lower in all regions of the UK, although this time last year producers were experiencing serious concerns over forage availability through the winter which meant that cullings were high. With lower cereal prices offering the opportunity for some producers to be able to retain cows on finishing rations, it is likely throughputs will be lower into the coming months.

Carcase weights for steers during the month were again lower than in the corresponding month in 2012, exacerbating the fewer cattle being slaughtered. However, for heifers they were up on the year for the second month in a row. Despite this, total beef and veal production in the UK was still almost 5% lower year on year at 71,200 tonnes.

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