16 October 1998

Perth prices unlikely to match 1997

By Tim Relf

AS FARMERS gear up for next weeks big bull sales at Perth, most are predicting prices will fall from the levels seen at the Scottish venue a year ago.

Average beef values are UNDER 80p/kg and, at some suckled calf auctions, stock is changing hands for £100/head less than in 1997.

"Theres bound to be a reflection of this," says Perth auctioneer David Leggat. Its not, however, just the prevailing mood that matters, with beef a long-term business, he adds.

"These animals will be siring beef which will be consumed in the millennium – and people are showing faith in the future."

Bidders will be selective, says Nairn farmer Sandy Innes, who last autumn sold Perths top-priced beast, a 26,000gns Charolais. "There will still be a demand for the top end; the poorer end will be very difficult."

High on buyers shopping lists will be shape and easy-fleshing ability, adds Mr Innes, whos offering 10 this time around.

Cautious optimism can be justified with the trade now "at the bottom of the pit", says National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster.

"There will be less pigmeat on the market short-term, which is a dragging factor," he says. "If the £ continues its retreat, we will be less of a lighthouse in import terms for super-cheap poultry."

Looking further ahead, consumer confidence is growing. "Beef demand, which has been under the cosh for most of the 1990s, could rebound."

The trouble is, says Nairn farmer David Walker, lower returns from lamb and grain sales have hit the amount of cash available to be spent.

Taking four bulls and – for the first time – a heifer to Perth, Mr Walker reckons the Aberdeen Angus breed will "hold its own" in the face of the premiums paid for its meat.

And in the meantime, hes hoping to repeat last autumns success when his bull, Galcantray Preditor, sold for 18,000gns making it the breeds highest-priced bull for 30 years.

&#8226 Perth Pedigree Beef Week runs from Oct 19-22. More details on 01738-626183.

What they made a year ago

Bulls at Perth Top (gns) Average (£)

Charolais 26,000 3818

A-A 18,000 3274

Simmental 12,000 2479

Limousin 10,000 3448