21 July 1995

Clean cattle prices now in decline

By Tim Relf

HAVING peaked in mid-June clean cattle prices are now falling, averaging 120.4p/kg in the week ending July 12.

The seasonal decline in trade follows a period when easing of imports from Ireland, and reduced domestic slaughterings, pushed prices up to 125p/kg.

"A fall in demand during the recent hot weather and the fall in the price of lamb over recent weeks have contributed to the decline," says Peter Kingwill, auctioneer at Chippenham.

He saw bullocks average 118p/kg and heifers 116p/kg last Friday. Mr Kingwill also points to the variation in the quality of entries. And this is reflected in the large spread of values around the average. Bullocks ranged from 85p to nearly 131p/kg last week.

At Lichfield, meanwhile, auctioneer Richard Winterton says that a bottom is being given to the market by producers buying cattle as stores from the fat ring.

But, he adds, keep is very short. And this is reflected in the "dreadful" trade for young bulls. "Numbers have swelled as producers are desperate to get rid of them," he says.

Bullocks in the 650kg to 750kg weight range have been meeting a particularly strong trade, adds Chippenhams Mr Kingwill.

"But," he says, "a lot of these are about three years old and their marketing may, therefore, be complicated by the recent changes to the BSE export regulations.

"Any factor which results in less of this beef going abroad and, therefore, increases supplies on the home market can only have a downward influence on prices."

But, like many auctioneers, he suggests that the outlook overall is relatively firm. And this is supported by the MLC prediction that slaughterings, which during the first half of the year were 8% up on 1994, are expected to be just 2% up for the rest of the year.

And values, which for the first half of the year were below 1994 levels, are now above those of 12 months ago.

The MLC says that historically high exports, low imports and less beef available from storage should keep finished cattle prices firm.