BEEF PRODUCERS must market livestock carefully in the coming months to avoid further disappointing prices, say auctioneers.

With rumours of some abattoirs paying as little as 175p/kg deadweight last week (w/e Oct 8) and Irish and Brazilian imports readily available, a flood of unfinished cattle on the market this autumn would only depress trade further, they say.

Graham Ellis, auctioneer at Colchester market in Essex, said the market for high-quality beef would hold up.

But he warned of a difficult beef trade through to Christmas, especially if farmers tried to push unfinished cattle through the ring to claim slaughter premium before it disappears at the end of the year.

“Unless producers use sensible marketing techniques, they risk losing more than £54 a head.

“If there is a shortage of available cattle in January and February next year, it could easily put 10p/kg – or £50 a head – back on to the trade.”

Mr Ellis said it was unrealistic to expect to see 200p/kg/dw again before Christmas, and said farmers who marketed their stock carefully this year would be better prepared for a decoupled beef trade in 2005.