Fears of a slump in beef prices caused by a glut of over-30-month cows appear unfounded, say traders.

Many in the industry had warned that, when the safety net of the over-30-months scheme was removed on 23 January, farmers
offloading older cows could swamp the market with cheap beef.

National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said farmers could take much of the credit for managing supply.

“Farmers have responded brilliantly to the challenge of using the market to achieve what they want.

They’ve marketed their way out of a possible pitfall.”

While dairymen in particular had been careful to put as many older cows as possible into the OTMS while it remained, it was likely that older cattle numbers would increase, he added.

“But the industry will be able to take more cow beef.

There are now almost 40 abattoirs handling these animals and only a few are running at capacity.

British cow beef continues to substitute Irish supplies and with an Irish price of 150p/kg deadweight, we can still discount them,” said Mr Forster.

Some traders have reported that deadweight centres, anticipating a surplus of manufacturing beef, cut quotations for prime cattle by as much as 10p/kg.

But prices recovered in the following weeks, with R4L steers averaging 194.7p/kg as Farmers Weekly went to press.

St Merryn Foods’ livestock director John Dracup admitted the firm had reduced prices by 2p/kg, but said values had “more than recovered”.

He added: “We believed we could have faced a significant increase in supply and needed to manage the situation.”

A spokesman for Anglo Beef Processors denied any price cut, insisting the firm had “stood on” its prices since the beginning of the year.

“And we believe it’s likely a producer-driven ‘intervention’ system will develop, with farmers taking on cows that need further finishing and removing them from the market until fit,” he added.

Clean cattle prices remained stable at liveweight markets, with most auctions averaging 103-107p/kg.

Alastair Sneddon of Bakewell market in Derbyshire said: “Black-and-white bulls are as dear as they have been – we averaged 91p/kg this week.”

And older cattle prices were holding well, he added, with the black-and-white entry averaging 56.4p/kg.

ian.ashbridge@rbi.co.uk