7 March 1997

Weight and finish

are keys to beef

THE two figures of 100p/kg and 20% have become very familiar to beef farmers.

The first is the level around which prime cattle averages remain set; the second marks the shortfall this represents on values a year ago.

Concentrate on weight and finish remains the message, however, with big variations in value around this average.

According to auctioneer Michael Parry at Gaerwen, Gwynedd, the ideal beast is a R grade bullock between 550kg and 620kg liveweight. Suitable for both intervention and supermarkets, such beasts are making 108p to 120p/kg, he says.

But unfinished stock continues to be marketed, as it "runs out of age". Farmers must also avoid presenting dirty cattle, which are heavily penalised on price, he adds.

Auctioneer David Cook at Derby also speaks of the large price variations. He recently saw a heifer make 135p/kg. The poorest beasts, however, continue to make in the 70ps.

"But at least thats better than the 69p/kg compensation rate," says Mr Cook.

At Newark, Notts, auctioneer Paul Gentry has also seen the best intervention-type bullocks at between 108p and 120p/kg. Overall, however, he describes trade as "desperate", with an influx of cheap imports undermining prices.

With cattle now coming off retention period, marketings could rise. And overall, he doubts if there will be any improvement in prices until the end of April.

Concentrating on weight will become even more important, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission, with the next intervention tender seeing the maximum eligible carcass weight reduced 10kg to 360kg. At last Fridays intervention adjudication, GB traders had young bull and steer tenders of 414t and 1398t accepted respectively.n