Beef contracts secure cattle at 550p/kg for 2025

Integrated beef contracts offering prices 10% above current base levels for next year should bring confidence to those parting with massive money for store cattle, say trade insiders.

Industry sources say the long-term dairy-beef contracts are for calves that will be grown this year and slaughtered in 2025. Strict stipulations on age at slaughter will be imposed to get the full price.

But while 550p/kg deadweight is a higher price, some say cattle buyers parting with £1,600 for 400kg calves and yarding cattle in excess of £1,800 may need more than this to make a return.

See also: Co-op launches beef sustainability payments for farmers

Data from the British Cattle Movement Service and the AHDB show processors could soon be competing for cattle like never before. A 51,000-head contraction in calf registrations has been reported for the six-month period between April and September 2023.

Brakes on

Processors largely stood on with beef prices this week. Large-scale finishers have received prices of 520-530p/kg deadweight for big loads of even cattle, some 20-25p/kg deadweight above base-level trade.

Irish beef has lifted 52p/kg since late October and is close to record-breaking levels at £4.44/kg deadweight. UK averages have lifted about 36p/kg in this time.

Processors will be mindful of Ireland’s strong live export trade to Europe and North Africa, with Bord Bia reporting the following:

  • Trade was up 13% on the year to mid-February
  • 3,304 head have been shipped to Israel and 1,964 to Algeria
  • More than 320,000 cattle left the country in 2023
  • Of these, 207,000 calves headed to the EU, mainly to Spanish, Italian and Dutch farms.

National Beef Association chief executive Neil Shand said: “Everyone in the industry is talking about the lack of cattle, but let’s not underplay the demand for beef – it is very strong.”

Scotland-based Jonny Williams of marketing co-op Farmstock said the store cattle trade was off the clock. He suggested falling barley prices had encouraged people to buy store cattle.

He added: “I think a lot of businesses have had a good year and are now speculating on the beef price rising further.”

Nick Cole of Meadow Quality said “everybody is out looking for store cattle” and the wet autumn had forced the early sale of store cattle last year, which was now limiting numbers available for trading.