More cows coming on to the market, combined with lower-than-normal beef demand in Europe, has caused cull cow prices to fall significantly over the past fortnight.

Average liveweight prices for dairy-bred cows were down to 84.6p/kg this week, about 12p/kg below two weeks ago and 15p off their June peak, while beef-bred cows had slipped 18p/kg to 102.4p/kg (compared with a peak of 121p/kg).

“We’ve seen prices creep up every week since Christmas, but that can’t continue if we want everyone to stay in business,” Chris Dodds from the Livestock Auctioneers Association said. “I think we’re seeing something of a ‘blip’ as supply and demand balance out and I’m fairly confident prices will stabilise.”

AHDB Meat Services economist Jonathan Eckley agreed. About 3900 cows were sold during the week ending 5 July, compared with 2700 during the same week in 2007. “It took a while for markets to recover following foot-and-mouth. But we’ve seen numbers rise steadily and they’ve gone from 3000 since the beginning of June,” he said.

“It’s a classic supply-and-demand situation,” Blade Farming managing director Richard Phelps added. “Prices are high, consumption is lower than normal, so prices have got to realign themselves.”

Export markets, which account for about one-third of cows marketed, had been quiet and demand for beef had been low across Europe – not helped by recent wet weather dampening traditional summer BBQ demand. Irish beef numbers coming on to the market were not thought to be unusually high.

More supply and less demand have seen cull cow prices fall sharply, say traders.