Cull cow prices maintain upward momentum

Cull cow prices are strong, with numbers tight and good seasonal demand.

The week to 19 June saw deadweight values rise for a third consecutive week, putting on another 1p/kg to average 285.8p/kg across GB. In Scotland the average was 305.2p/kg, although there the numbers were down 39% on the week.

Cow prices typically rise in summer, with warmer weather boosting demand for burgers and other barbecue items, said AHDB analyst Hannah Clarke. 

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However, prices are firmer this year than the seasonal norm, possibly due to increased barbecue activity as people have been allowed to get together since Covid-19 restrictions eased in England on 17 May, said Ms Clarke.

Tighter cow numbers compared with last year are also likely to be a factor. While in the week ended 12 June, GB cow slaughter numbers at 9,000 head were up 10% compared with the previous week, the figure was 21% lower than the same week in 2020, she said.

Throughput well down

Livestock marketing specialist Meadow Quality reported cull cow throughput this week down 26% to a four-year low. It said barren beef cows traded at an average of 324p/kg, up 2p/kg on last week. Dairy cull cows averaged 321p/kg for R-quality and 300p/kg for -O-spec animals, with plainer P/P+ selling at 290p/kg. Organic culls traded even higher, with premiums of between 15-25p/kg to average 350p/kg.

Meadow Quality’s Stuart Vile said demand for cull cows was being driven by several factors, including processors seeking out supplies for lean mince. Processors claimed this was to offset fatter prime cattle, while export orders from Europe are increasing as trade opens up after the post-Brexit slump.

Mr Vile suggested prices could improve by a further 10p/kg in the coming weeks, depending on supplies and a spell of hotter weather.

Liveweight values up

Elsewhere, markets have reported a buoyant liveweight trade. Greenslade Taylor Hunt’s Sedgemoor market in Somerset saw one of its best-ever cull cow trades on 21 June.

Continental beef breeds topped out at £1,524.93 a head or 189.5p/kg to average 150.2p/kg. Dairy culls peaked at £1,169.53 a head, 146p/kg and averaged 128.9p/kg.

At McCartneys’ Ludlow sale in Shropshire, auctioneer Bradley Towell described trade as very dear, with no sign of easing.

Top prices reached £1,597 a head or 183.5p/kg, with averages at £1,217 a head and 169.63p/kg.