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AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

23 June 2014

EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 20 June 2014EBLEX Cattle Weekly - 20 June 2014

Pressure on the prime trade continues

In week ended 14 June, the deadweight GB all prime cattle price was back another 2p on the week at 327.6p/kg. The combination of slow consumer demand and ample supplies of both domestic and imported beef continues to drive caution amongst processors and exert downwards pressure on the market. Reports suggest that in some areas cattle are still proving difficult to place and significant numbers of animals at slaughter condition are being kept on farm longer than would be ideal.

Despite steer numbers being broadly unchanged on the week, R4L steers were still down 4p on the week to 340.5p/kg. In addition, while the number of heifers estimated to have been marketed fell around 250 head, at 335.7p/kg, R4L heifers were also back another 2p week on week. In contrast, despite young bull numbers estimated to be up almost 1,100 head on the week to their highest weekly level in the year so far, prices fared better. At 314.0p/kg, the average price of young bulls graded R3 was almost unchanged on the week.

Following a number of weeks where the cull cow trade has fared better than prime cattle prices, cow prices eased modestly in the latest week. At 244.9p/kg the -O4L cow average was down 2p on the week. Despite this, reports consistently suggest that demand for cow beef is still ahead of supply, particularly for those animals with a better finish. With grass plentiful in some areas, there is the opportunity for producers to take advantage by adding weight and finish to those cows that they can.

Beef and veal production up in May

UK prime cattle throughputs in May were up 3% on the year at 156,000 head. For the third consecutive month, steer throughputs were higher than year earlier levels, being up 6% on the year. This represents the most significant uplift of the year so far. Increased numbers were evident in all regions of the UK. Continuing the longer term trend, heifer throughputs were up again and, as with steers, all regions of the UK recorded increased numbers. In contrast, as has been the case for most of the year so far, young bull slaughterings were lower year on year.

Meanwhile, adult cattle throughputs were significantly lower than they were in May 2013. The better weather may have encouraged producers into keeping cows on farm, taking the opportunity to add condition at grass, in order to take advantage of the firmer prices on offer for well-finished cows.

As expected, the improved conditions over the past 12 months have meant that carcase weights for all types of cattle were once again heavier than in the corresponding month last year. On average, prime cattle carcase weights were recorded to be 12kg higher than in May last year, while cows were up over 15kg. As a result, combined with higher prime throughputs, this meant that UK beef and veal production in May was 5% ahead of year earlier levels at 67,900 tonnes.

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