By FW Staff

THE downward spiral in livestock prices is slowing and may be nearing the bottom, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.

The slide in lamb prices, which saw last weeks average auction price for a standard-quality animal drop to 75.99p/kg liveweight, was 3.5p down on the week. In the past month, prices have fallen by over a quarter.

Deadweight spot prices for pigs are steady at 50p/kg, and auction prices for cutters rose just over 1p recently, adds the MLCs Jane Connor.

Finished cattle prices, which had been stable for much of the summer at 89-91p/kg liveweight were sucked into the vortex created by pig and sheep price crashes. Values declined sharply to average 78.56p/kg. But Tuesdays average was slightly higher than that.

Seasonal imports from the Irish Republic were partly responsible for the dive. However, some Irish supplies could soon switch to Libya, following last Julys agreement, which could help UK prices to edge up.

Underfinished cattle, a legacy of the poor summer, are also dampening prices, says Mrs Connor. And August slaughterings of clean cattle were 3% up on 1997, at 165,000 head, with September likely to follow suit.