5 April 1996

Cattle markets busier

MORE cattle have been passing through markets this week and have been fetching slightly higher prices, reflecting the gradual improvement in beef sales.

Figures from 45 GB auction marts show 1019 finished cattle sold on Tuesday, compared with just 117 the previous week. At 104p/kg, steers were making 8p more than last week.

"Very encouraging," said auctioneer John Mullock at Bridg-north, Shropshire. Although the 43 cattle forward on Monday were only about 10% of typical levels at this time of year, at least the wheels were turning again.

But animals over 600kg proved to be difficult to sell, as local butchers and wholesalers were taking the smaller stock, many of which were heifers. Prices, meanwhile, were still about 20p/kg below the levels seen before the BSE publicity damaged the market.

Nationally, almost double the number of heifers were forward than steers this week partly because they lose condition faster if kept too long. Auctioneer Ashley Ward at Guildford, Surrey, also suggested producers were keen to get their heifers to market before they showed any sign of their second incisors – the new cut-off point for keeping beef out of the human food chain.

With marketings slowly picking up, auctioneer John Swingler at Clitheroe, Lancs, said it was important to keep cattle moving through the system and build up momentum.

"It is hard to believe that the publics concern can evaporate when presented with the chance of cheap meat but it is a situation that the industry must make the most of," he said. &#42