Finished prices nudge upwards
FINISHED cattle prices are rising after a period when higher domestic slaughterings and imports from the Irish Republic contributed to falling values.
MAFF estimates put slaughterings during the first quarter of the year at 7% up on 1994. And in April, levels were 12% above those of 12 months before. This contributed to the 3.4p/kg fall in average prices seen during that month.
But auctioneers have seen values rise as supplies fell back in May and less beef was shipped to Britain from Ireland.
Trade is good and still nudging up, according to Richard Winterton at Lichfield. On Monday he saw bullocks average 124p/kg and heifers 119p/kg.
"There are a lot of young bulls about, however," he adds, "and their prices are a little disappointing."
At Hallworthy Simon Alford has also seen higher prices. There almost half of the prime cattle sold are coming off grass.
"How long the trade will keep going up for depends upon how long it is before numbers rise again. Some producers, especially those that paid a lot of money for store stock, may be holding on to animals to take advantage of the rising trade.
"Nationally," he says, "numbers can rise rapidly and prices could then fall away. I am saying to people, if your cattle are ready, sell them."
But in some markets, most of the cattle being sold are still coming out of yards. "We wont see that many off grass until July," remarks auctioneer Michael Walters at Bridgnorth, for example.
Nationally, prices in early June stood at about 124p/kg, about 4p/kg below those of a year earlier. And the MLC suggests that this differential could close in the coming weeks.
Although marketings look set to remain above 1994 levels for the rest of the year, buoyant exports and lower availability of stocks should help support prices.
"Cool weather will also hold back the grass cattle and will encourage people to eat meat," says auctioneer at Norwich Michael Gamble. "The combined effect should be a firm trade." *