12 May 1995

Trade still on rising trend for cull cows

By Tim Relf

CULL cows continue to meet a firm trade, with prices rising to 91p/kg in the week ending May 3.

Slaughterings, which rose markedly last autumn as producers tried to cut production, have continued at high levels. The MLC suggests levels during the first quarter of this year were one-third higher than over the same period 12 months ago.

But high marketings have failed to halt the price increases. Grade 1 cows during the first three months of 1995 were back to within 4p/kg of a year ago. This follows a period when, for much of last autumn, prices were 10p/kg down on year-earlier levels.

Auctioneers generally describe trade as "excellent" or "very good". But they report a small fall-off in prices last week.

A 5p/kg dip in trade came as a surprise to Stephen Welch at Beeston Castle. "At this time it is usually going up rather than down," he says.

Skiptons David Brown saw trade at 93p/kg last week, after a level period at the 95p/kg-mark.

"Farmers may decide to cull a few problem cows as they turn out, especially if the grass is very short. But numbers will drop and prices should get better. We could even see 100p/kg reached," he says.

Slightly less bullish is David Elder at Frome. He saw an average of 90p/kg last week (£542 a head). Top price was 125p/kg (£989 a head).

"Numbers will continue to drop and trade will firm," he predicts. "But 100p/kg as an average might be a bit optimistic."

Higher imports this year

Although total beef exports are higher than a year ago, the proportion of this accounted for by cow beef has got less. Imports, meanwhile, are expected to be higher this year.

But supplies of manufacturing grade beef are tight in the UK. Intervention stocks at the end of February stood at less than 14,000t.

Lower availability from stocks should, therefore, increase demand for cow beef. And this, says the MLC, should help keep cull cow prices firm, despite the high slaughterings. &#42