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AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

14 April 2014

EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 11 April 2014EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 11 April 2014

Cattle prices still easing

Despite numbers falling on the week, deadweight prime cattle prices continued their downwards movement in week ended 5 April. This comes as retail demand remains slow and the supply of cattle continues to outstrip processor demand as a result. At 357.7p/kg the GB all prime indicator fell another penny on the week to its lowest level since December 2012. While the all prime price was back, it was supported by an increased proportion of steers and heifers in the deadweight sample. Overall, each category of prime cattle fell by well over a penny on the week.

Overall, throughputs fell by 600 head on the week to 32,400 head, entirely on the back of 800 fewer young bulls being marketed. Despite this, at 336.6p/kg, R3 young bull prices were back 5p on the week as trading conditions for these types remained difficult. The estimated number of steers forward increased by 200 head, which contributed to the price of R4L steers falling 2p on the week to 367.8p/kg. With heifer numbers at a similar level to the week earlier, R4L heifer prices were back a penny on average to 364.6p/kg.

Auction market data continues to indicate that more producers are marketing young bulls via the liveweight system. This is likely in an attempt to avoid the penalties that might be incurred when selling some of these cattle on a deadweight basis. Consequently, in week ended 9 April, throughputs of prime cattle at GB auction marts increased 12% on the week, driven by a more than 15% increase in young bulls forward. Prices have also been subdued, with the all prime indicator falling 3p on the week to average 182.1p/kg.

Cattle supplies still tight in the longer term

British Cattle Movement Service data indicates that in the first two months of this year, GB calf registrations were almost 7% lower on the year at 316,000 head. Despite being close to 2011 levels, this represents the lowest start to the year since 2009. With the suckler beef breeding herd still in decline, non-dairy calf registrations were almost 14,000 head back on the year, with a similar reduction in numbers apparent for both sexes.

This downwards trend continues to signal that cattle availability in the next three-year production cycle is likely to remain tight.

To no surprise, with the current difficulties in the trade, the number of dairy-sired male calves was back 7%, or 5,000 head on the year. Increased penalties for cattle outside supermarket specification in recent weeks will have done little to encourage producers to retain bull calves from the dairy herd into production systems. Female dairy-bred registrations were back almost 3% year on year.

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