Record high cattle prices supported by tight supply

Less availability of cattle around the world and high prices in Ireland are driving UK finished cattle values  to record highs.

Industry reports suggest processors are having to compete strongly with each other to secure numbers.

Stuart Vile, ruminant manager at livestock marketing group Meadow Quality, said that in the short term, finished prices could even rise further and that it was all being driven by the Irish trade and tight supply.

See also: Confident beef trade blows away autumn blues at Stirling

GB deadweight steers were up 5.2p/kg on the same week last year, with an average of 469.6p/kg for the week ending 11 February, and heifers were up 4.1p/kg on the week to average 467.6p/kg.

Markets are being driven by less cattle available for slaughter globally, especially in the US, where droughts have been limiting production.

The US Department of Agriculture forecast US beef exports to be 13% lower in 2023 than the previous year.

Cattle in Ireland are also making better money, with the Irish R3 steer price averaging €5.25/kg (463p/kg) for the week ending 3 February, which is 90c/kg (79p/kg) more than the corresponding week in 2022, according to Irish food board Bord Bia.

Mr Vile said they were finding that, because of high costs of production, some farmers used less cake and barley in November and December, which meant cattle were taking longer to finish and more animals were slightly leaner than normal.

“We are also noticing that a lot more farms have been going down with bovine TB recently, which could also be taking more cattle out of the industry,” he added.


Cattle trade at auction markets has also been very well supported, with liveweight steers and heifers both up for the week ending 14 February, averaging 264.54p/kg and 273.69p/kg, respectively.

Young bulls were the anomaly, dropping back 1.02p/kg on the week to average 252.47p/kg.

Throughputs of prime cattle at GB auction markets were down 1% on the previous week and totalled 3,433 head.

Many markets are calling for extra cattle in the coming weeks to help fulfil demand from buyers.

Trade was strong at Sedgemoor Auction Centre on Monday 13 February, where auctioneer Robert Venner said they had never had it so good.

“Headline prices are amazing – store cattle, fat cattle, cows, stirks. The only things that do look good value are the milk calves, which still look underpriced,” he said.

Angus cows and the better continentals in particular continue to sell well, Mr Venner added.

“Anything at the upper end getting closer to slaughter is tremendous and the better finished they are, the better they are selling.”