20 October 1995

Drop doesnt dim confidence in store cattle

By Tim Relf

STORE cattle prices have dipped, but auctioneers remain confident that the recent buoyant prices will continue.

Having marched upwards in September, steer prices fell back slightly to average 123.1p/kg in the week ending Oct 7. But indicators suggest the week to Oct 14 will show a return to rising values.

Auctioneer Peter Kingwill at Chippenham says that despite having eased in recent weeks, trade is still strong for the time of year. The firm finished beef trade is an important factor, he says.

Last month saw clean cattle average almost 127p/kg, nearly 11p/kg more than 12 months earlier. Such brisk prices were seen despite a 5% increase in marketings in the third quarter of the year. And the outlook for the rest of the year, according to the MLC, is one of lower availability.

Ashford auctioneer Richard Wood agrees, saying the high price for the finished product is giving farmers the confidence to take on store cattle, despite the forage shortage.

Stores at Ashford have leapt £60 to £100 in the past three weeks. Numbers, meanwhile, are still described as low.

"But local farmers are finding it difficult to compete with Irish buyers," remarks Mr Wood. "The shortage of stock is particularly acute in Ireland," he says, "so considerable volumes are being shipped there."

Nationwide, despite some marketings being forced by tight fodder supplies, another factor limiting store numbers will be the decline in the overall size of the breeding herd.

The continuing high level of calf exports is also likely to keep availability lower than last year, according to the MLC.

Overall average down

But last years disruption to the export trade is being reflected in the entries at Lancaster, points out auctioneer John Hughes. He says the number of Friesians is higher than in the past and this is dragging overall averages down.

He has seen the best Cont- inental bullocks making 140p/kg but says stock in the 350kg to 420kg weight range has been a little harder to cash.

Similarly, Peter Kingwill at Chippenham says the heavier animals continue to meet a brisk demand. And a combination of available payments and increased confidence over forage supplies has helped shore up the trade for the smaller stores, he adds.

But those in the middle weight range are harder to shift, says Mr Kingwill, with the colour of the CID a crucial factor. &#42