The National Beef Association has claimed that abattoirs are using the end of the Over 30 Month Scheme on Friday (Jan 20) as an excuse to pull down prime cattle prices.

The NBA says this is even though supplies of finished stock on farm are tight and chill room beef stocks are low.

“Many slaughterers are looking for a chance to knock back prices and one of their habitual ploys is to create the impression of a falling market because this can persuade finishers to rush cattle forward before they are hit with further income losses,” said NBA chairman Duff Burrell.

“However finishers should demonstrate their refusal not to be panicked into selling cattle at the wrong time by keeping as much stock as they can off the market until the processors’ bluff is called.”

“It may take a week or two for this message to sink in but we know slaughterers are looking for prime cattle and if they meet enough supply resistance they will have to offer more money to bring them out.”

According to the NBA many slaughterers will protest that the  appearance of more cows, especially dairy cows, on the commercial market from 23 Jan will put pressure on prime cattle forequarter values.

However it believes the EU beef market to be short supplied. Prime cattle prices in the Republic of Ireland, which is the source of most forequarter supply competition, are remarkably close to the English average at 191-192p/kg/dw.

“Farmers there, and in Northern Ireland where averages are unusually high at 191p, are digging in and refusing to take price drops without a fight.

“If this determination not to accept reductions can be repeated in England, Scotland and Wales then the abattoir campaign, which began last week with a 5p-6p drop in live auction averages can be quickly snuffed out,” said Mr Burrell.