High finished cattle returns continue to benefit rearing calf prices, with continental cross bull calves averaging £240 in the first quarter of 2012.

That was £71 a head more than the same time last year and £12 more than the last quarter in 2011, according to a report by AHDB Meat Services. “Despite a dip during the Easter period, prices have strengthened further and in April averaged £275 a head.”

Dairy bull calf values were also strong, rising from £53 a head in the last quarter of 2011 to £59 in the first quarter of 2012 and up to £79 in April. “At £65 a head, average returns for the year so far have been markedly better than the £34 a head they were in the corresponding period in 2011,” said the report.

“Following an increase in cattle numbers in 2010, the final results of the December census indicated that the number of cattle in the UK totaled 9.7 million head, down 2% on the year. With finished beef supplies forecast to be lower this year, the outlook for calf prices is anticipated to stay firm in the immediate future.”

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