11 August 1995

Surprise at cull cow price rise

By Tim Relf

AFTER falling continuously since the end of May, cull cow prices have now increased. The rise, which took prices to 84.9p/kg in the week ending Aug 2, came as a surprise to many auctioneers.

"This is the first time in 30 years I have seen prices go back up in July when it is this hot," says Bob Goff, who sells the culls at Shrewsbury and Oswestry.

Shorter numbers and a strong export demand have contributed to the turnaround, he suggests.

As elsewhere, the lower entries follow a long period of high numbers. Nationally, the MLC puts slaughterings between January and June at 400,000 head (30% up on the same period last year).

Prices, meanwhile, have been below year-earlier levels. Grade 1 cows, over the same time, averaged 99p/kg (5p down on 1994). Lower cow beef exports, largely resulting from the BSE rules introduced last summer, contributed to the fall.

But the recent upturn in trade has taken prices to above the levels seen last year. At Frome, auctioneer David Millard says the improvement, 7p/kg in two weeks overall, has been most evident among the better cows. The grass shortage is affecting the quality of entries, so the upturn is in fact even more significant, he says.

"Falling numbers may have initially led to rising prices but last week entries were over 200 – and prices were still firm."

A strong domestic demand for manufacturing beef has underpinned prices, according to the MLC. Beef availability from intervention stocks is low, it says, with only 12,000t of beef having been sold out of UK stores this year (one-third of the amount sold by the same time in 1994). &#42