Slight rise for clean cattle
HAVING weakened recently, clean cattle prices showed a slight rise in the week ending May 15, with medium-weight steers averaging 121.84p/kg.
But prices remain below those of a year ago with any upward pressure being offset by high marketings. Over the first quarter of the year, slaughterings are estimated at 7% up on 12 months ago, while prices were 2% down.
Increased exports from Ireland have contributed to the higher supplies – and the Irish Food Board expects this pattern to continue.
A slight fall in quality may have also contributed to the recent dip in values, says auctioneer Clive Roads at Worcester.
"We are now getting to the end of the yarded cattle," he says. "And so those coming forward are the plainer ones that took a bit longer to put the weight on."
But he predicts there now may be a "slight vacuum" in numbers before stock is sold in any volume from grass. This, he suggests, could push up prices in the next six to eight weeks.
Similarly, Michael Gamble, auctioneer at Norwich, suggests the seasonal shortening of marketings could see the trade "nudge up" to the end of May and into June. Mr Gamble has noticed a strong demand for heifers up to 550kg in weight. "Steers have been tending to get heavier and heavier," he says. "And wholesalers have been demanding handy-weight cattle."
It is an increase in the number of heifers slaughtered (15% up in the first quarter compared to last year) which the MLC says has caused the rise in overall numbers.
Male cattle marketings, meanwhile, are at similar levels. A rise in the number of young animals slaughtered has been offset by a fall in the number of older cattle.
"There is certainly no shortage of young bulls," says Stephen Dennis, auctioneer at Skipton. But he, too, now expects overall marketings to decrease.
Despite this years higher slaughterings overall, tight supplies from intervention stocks, and higher domestic exports, have helped support the trade. *