Spring grass and single farm payment cash could quickly fan the flames of a store trade already on fire at the prospect of resuming of beef exports, say traders.

Finishers have launched into the store cattle market in the last few weeks as the strengthening demand for prime beef looks set to bring even more confidence to trading.

Cumbria suckled calf producer John Ritson has sold 12-month-old Belgian Blue and Limousin sired stores in recent weeks – and they keep getting dearer.

“I’m glad I’m selling and not buying.

“It’s been amazingly good.

Some of our best stores were sold two weeks ago but they’re starting to look cheap.

Last week we were up £50 a head with steers to £625.”

There was plenty of confidence around the ringside at last week’s sale of 450 store cattle at Wigton, Cumbria, where prime cattle had risen 5p/kg on the week to level 200 head at 126p/kg.

Store buyers paid up to £750 a head for best quality 15-month-old steers.

Auctioneer Bruce Walton said some SFP cash was trickling through and helping the trade.

“Grass is still short but it’s not stopping the buyers.

The question is: Can the export trade give finishers the returns they’re expecting?” said Mr Walton.

In Roxburghshire, a keen trade saw auctioneer Gavin Hamilton sell 800 stores at St Boswells livestock market last week where steers averaged 130p/kg and heifers 118p/kg.

“There’s a renewed optimism around the beef ring,” he said.

One North Yorks buyer, taking cattle for his own unit and for other finishers, said he was paying far more than expected.

“But I need the cattle and I’ve got orders to fill.

Let’s hope the export trade comes good.”

West Country store buyers describe trade as incredible, with many finishers prepared to take cattle home and re-house them rather than wait for the grass.

Auctioneer Derek Biss of Taunton livestock market said 24-month-old steers at £550-£600 and heifers at £500 were up around £50 a head.

“Finishers are stocking up.

The export trade has been a long time coming and no one wants to miss out.

It’s hard to imagine that store cattle can get much dearer.

But who knows?”