10 May 1996

Cattle market still lacklustre

OPEN market cattle values have fallen again this week.

It comes as further bad news for farmers, already frustrated by delays to the slaughter and compensation scheme for older cattle.

MLC sample markets on Tuesday show that, despite a 25% cut in throughputs, average prices fell over 2p/kg to 100.74p/kg compared to the week before.

"Hit a brick wall," is how Ludlow auctioneer John Uffold describes trade. Intervention has not been successful and cattle under 30 months are receiving no support at all, he says. Retail outlets, meanwhile, are not passing on the lower prices to their customers and demand has eased.

At Hatherleigh, Devon, auctioneer Andrew Lane says Mondays lacklustre trade – steers averaged 100p and heifers 96p/kg – was not helped by the bank holiday. As in many markets no slaughterings of 30-month plus cattle or cull cows now look likely before next week.

Current compensation, which pays double for selling deadweight, will result in most prime beef by-passing the live auction sector. "I can see that all we will get is out-of-parlour cows." (With their low killing out percentage, these would do better sold liveweight.)

To put both selling methods on an equal footing a rise in the live payment of 22p/kg is needed, says Welshpool, Powys, auctioneer John Jones. This would take prime beef compensation to 133p/kg.

But like many he fears the 25p/kg prime cattle top-up may be reduced or abolished.

With farmers, markets and abattoirs ready to begin slaughtering cattle, the delay has come from the rendering industry, he says.