Industry change and costs limit demand for beef outfits

Terrifying straw costs and a changing suckler industry have led to a sticky trade this spring for commercial beef breeding cows with calves at foot.

Eye-catching cows with strong calves are still commanding prices of £3,000 or more, with the sky being the limit for stock with “top end of the show” potential.

See also: Find all cattle deadweight prices here

However, some commercial cows and heifers are barely hitting cull cow value, even with the calves.

Traders say this contrasts with 12-14-month-old store cattle making £1,500-£1,700 and the winter’s £5/kg deadweight base price.

Auctioneers say demand had continued shifting slightly to native breeds, as safety and foraging ability come to the fore.

Cull cow values

Bagshaws’ Alastair Sneddon said an entry of 13 cow-and-calf outfits averaged £1,304 at Bakewell on Monday 20 May.

“Incidentally, that was the mart’s latest over-30-months average last week,” said Mr Sneddon.

He said a Shorthorn outfit made £1,400 and a pure Simmental with a three-month-old heifer calf grossed £1,760.

A run of Simmentals with young calves made £1,360-£1,580.

A small run of Hereford cows with calves at foot made £950-£1,300, and Longhorns due to calve in July made £940-£1,030.

“Strong cull cow values mean a cow that’s not in calf can be worth more than a cow in-calf or with a calf,” said Mr Sneddon.

He added that Bagshaws had not sold any large runs of outfits or dispersals, adding that the market was still rewarding “top notch” stock.

Chris Armstrong of Hexham and Northern Marts said canvassing phone calls before the beef breeding sale last week (15 May) yielded a 50% strike rate for those going to be in attendance.

“Buyers round the ring who bought eight or 10 or more last year came and bought nothing,” he said.

“It’s concerning that suckler herds are dispersing when we’ve never seen the store cattle trade as dear.”

Vet call-out charges almost doubling to nearly £70, round bale straw at £30-£35 a bale, and paying close to £1,000 for a franchise mechanic for a day were all serious economic pressures, he added.