Livestock farmers are being urged to plan finished stock sales carefully to make the most of better price prospects in the run-up to Christmas.
Latest Eblex reports show both the fat lamb and cattle trade have improved in recent weeks.
The GB all-steers deadweight average has stayed almost level, rising just 0.7p/kg in the past four weeks to 352.3p/kg.
The lamb trade has picked up after a heavy seasonal slide, with the new season liveweight SQQ up 19.3p/kg on the month to 172.4p/kg.
Christmas marketing tips
- Beware of holding cattle back only to meet a quieter January market
- Fat lambs can still be sold up to two days before the holiday
- Sell lambs when they are fit – keeping longer adds cost
- Don’t get carried away in buoyant market; keep a close eye on cost of production
Throughputs remain up on the year, pointing at better demand from customers in the run-up to the winter buying season.
Meadow Quality managing director Greg Mowbray said those with cattle close to finishing could accelerate them to be ready by mid-December – the cut-off for Christmas sales. But he said cattle that were some way off should not be geared up too much.
“Cattle numbers are running four to eight weeks behind where they would normally be, therefore the demand is fairly comfortably ahead of supply,” he said.
“But we do not want to starve our market between now and the middle of December and then have that supply coming on stream at the beginning of January onward.”
John Uffold of auctioneer McCartneys said his outlook for Christmas was more conservative, with the trade inherently under pressure from weak consumer demand.
“If you have got cattle ready you always want to be selling them anyway,” he said.
In the sheep sector, the shorter lead-in time means there will be Christmas demand until a couple of days before the holiday. Mike Davies of Monmouthshire Livestock Auctioneers said he had seen a flying trade recently for fat lambs, ewes and stores, but there was uncertainty about numbers to come through.
“It is hard to work out whether the lambs are out there,” he said. “We had a lot more earlier in the year and a lot sold earlier and lighter than normal.”
Eblex sector director Nick Allen said farmers should simply concentrate on selling lambs when they are fit. “People do not think it is costing them money to keep it for longer but somewhere along the line it is.”
Mr Allen said producers should plan ahead, see how they could secure a margin, buy stock at the right price and lock-in input prices.
“It is very easy to get carried away in a rising market. Take time to work out the cost of production and start working on the basis of a three- to five-year cycle.”