Cull cow prices have surged in recent weeks, with demand far outstripping supplies over the holiday period.

In the week to 1 January, average values rose by almost 6p/kg, to 112p/kg. That trend continued in the week to 8 January, when prices jumped by nearly 9p/kg, to 120.8p/kg – despite a marked recovery in throughputs. Beef-sired animals showed the strongest improvement, at an average of 134.45p/kg, with dairy-sired cows at 109.54p/kg.

“Reports suggest processors have little carryover of stock into the new year, suggesting that upwards pressure on price could be maintained,” said a report by EBLEX.

Cull cow slaughterings totalled 63,200 head in November, 4% higher than the previous year. “Increased cullings continue to be driven by ongoing herd rationalisation as a result of concerns over feed availability for the winter,” said the report. “In the year to date cull cow slaughterings totalled almost 570,000 head – only 1% below 2011 levels, which were the highest recorded in the post-BSE period.”

Prime cattle slaughterings dropped by 5% on the year, to 160,000 head.

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