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AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

24 March 2014

EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 21 March 2014EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 21 March 2014

Stability in prime cattle trade

The period of relative stability in the cattle trade has continued for another week, as supply and demand remain broadly matched. While the all prime average price for ended 15 March was level at 363.3p/kg, there was some movement in the individual categories. With the market in such equilibrium, a small upturn in demand could lead to the upwards pressure on price re-establishing itself. However, cattle are reportedly finishing well as they benefit from the better weather and better quality forage. As such, adequate supplies are likely to prevail and keep a lid on any upwards pressure on price.

Cow prices move higher

Cow prices continued their upwards movement in week ended 15 March. The average price of –O4L cows was 247.8p/kg, up 17p/kg from just five weeks ago. This comes as there has reportedly been improved demand for bigger, better fleshed cows, which are making substantially better returns than plainer types.

Beef and veal production higher

UK prime cattle throughputs in February were virtually unchanged on the year at 155,000 head. In England and Wales, throughputs were up 1% on the year, while in Scotland they were back 3% and in Northern Ireland broadly level. Continuing recent trends, heifer throughputs were up 2%. With the exception of December, heifer numbers have been above year earlier levels since April last year. This sustained increase could indicate a reduction in the number of females being retained for breeding in the UK. Steer numbers were once again lower on the year, falling by 1%, despite increased throughputs in England and Wales. Young bull throughputs were also lower than in February 2013, despite significantly increased numbers in Scotland almost offsetting lower throughputs in England and Wales.

As expected, better conditions meant that carcase weights for prime cattle were again higher than in the corresponding month in 2013. Combined with higher throughputs in the most significant region of England and Wales, this meant that prime beef production was up 1% on the year, at 53,700 tonnes.

Cow carcase weights were significantly up on the year, as improved farmgate prices and lower cereals prices may have encouraged producers to add some finish to cows. As such, with only a 1% drop in throughputs, production from adult cattle in February was up 4% year on year at 15,600 tonnes.

Total UK beef and veal production was up 2% on the year at 69,700 tonnes.

Marginal fall in UK cattle numbers

The total number of cattle and calves in the UK in 2013 fell almost 1% on the year to 9.68 million head, according to Defra. Dairy cow numbers rose 2% on the year while suckler cow numbers were back 3%.

Meanwhile the number of male cattle fell nearly 1% on the year. However, there were more males aged over one-year-old in the results with those aged under one-year falling by 5%.

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