By FWi staff

CATTLE values have remained firm so far this year, despite the recent end to the retention period and the speculation of further activity from intervention stores.

Prices have inched up nearly 3p since the start of the year averaging 92.26p/kg at markets around the country yesterday (Wednesday).

Steers were static at markets this week, to average 94.07p/kg, while heifers eased slightly to 89.07p/kg. Young bulls slipped over 1p to 93.62p/kg.

Auctioneer Ralph Ward at Hull market believes that the firm market is a result of a shortage in supply.

“When the retention period finished, cattle didnt come forward as we had expected them to,” he noted.

Mr Ward believes that, in the short term, the trade will continue to hold up, although in the long run it will depend on the level of imports that arrive from Ireland over the coming months.

Auctioneer John Holland described business at Reading market as “the best trade since the onset of the BSE crisis.”

And with UK beef production down from a total 974,000 tonnes the year before the BSE crisis to 667,000 tonnes at the end of 1998, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel at last, he added.

But it remains to be seen whether the release of further meat from Intervention will depress the market.

It certainly cannot help it, but how badly it effects the trade depends on how much is released and where it goes to, said Mr Holland.

“There is certainly a lot more confidence now shown in beef store cattle. The ending of the calf slaughter scheme in July will also result in more calves being reared, but these will obviously not come to maturity until 18 months time.”