Beef cattle© FLPA/REX

Sliding beef prices should start to level and improve over the rest of the year, according to latest forecasts.

Levy board Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said the market could soon firm, after heavy carcass weights and a strong pound saw prices ease this spring.

The GB all-steers deadweight price dropped from 365.5p/kg in mid-January to 342.2p/kg a fortnight ago.

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Beef values fell despite the number of cattle slaughtered through abattoirs being similar to or slightly below last year – steer numbers were up, while young bulls and heifers were down.

Total UK prime cattle slaughterings in March were 1% down on the year at 153,200 head.

QMS head of economics services Stuart Ashworth said the supply-and-demand pendulum should swing back to farmers’ favour.

“We know the availability of prime cattle in Scotland, UK and Ireland will diminish so, in the next quarter, we expect to see the volume of cattle arriving at abattoirs slow down,” he said.

“It is likely we will then see some firmness in the market for the beef producer.”

“Some cuts have been selling better than others but the product which is not selling well has been building up in processors’ chills and has had to find a market in the manufacturing trade, which has been proving sluggish.”
Stuart Ashworth, QMS

Shoppers have not been buying enough beef overall to make up for the drop-off in exports due to the strength of sterling.

UK beef exports in the first quarter of the year fell 2,500t, while imports rose 4,500t.

“Some cuts have been selling better than others but the product which is not selling well has been building up in processors’ chills and has had to find a market in the manufacturing trade, which has been proving sluggish,” Mr Ashworth.

The latest report from Eblex suggested cow prices were faring better, rising 4p/kg last week to 229p/kg.

More than 44,000 cows were slaughtered in March – 4.3% more than last year.

“It is looking like the challenges in the dairy sector may be resulting in an increase in the number of cows coming forward,” the levy board said.