SW beef farmers hopeful of pre-winter price rises

Beef prices are expected to rise in the coming weeks, amid shorter supply and better demand as the weather cools.

Deadweight values in the south west have slumped 15p/kg in the past couple of months, in the face of poor demand and increased sales from farmers desperately short of grass.

Last week the average market price fell to 193p/kg for R grade beef, with poorer cattle making considerably less.

“There have been more animals sold because of the lack of grass,” said Mark Thomas, south-west chairman of the National Beef Association.

“Many of them have been coming in unfinished at just class one and two, which is not what the market wants.”

Abattoirs had put vast amounts of beef into cold storage due to poor consumer demand, which would have a buffering effect once prices started to rise again, he added.

But fresh supplies began to dry up last week, which should boost values heading into the autumn.

“There is always a seasonal glut of cattle coming forward in the autumn, but there have been so many sold early due to the drought that it may not happen this year.

If farmers hold their nerve things could pick up again soon.”

Mr Thomas, who keeps 100 suckler cows at East Cottage, Treguddick, Cornwall, and sources cattle for Jaspers abattoir at Treburley, expected prices to top £2/kg within a matter of weeks.

“We should be back to £2.10/kg plus by Christmas.”

Jeff Thomas, of Bollowal Farm, St Just, Cornwall, said numbers were very short at Truro market last week, pushing prices up slightly.

“I just don’t think there are the cattle about – and because of that I don’t think we’ll get the September fall in prices.

I am quite bullish.”

However, the winter could prove costly, amid higher feed and straw prices, he added.

“The amount of silage around is limited, and many people are already feeding their winter ration, so demand could be quite high.”

Wheat and barley are currently valued at about £82/t and £79/t, respectively, delivered to the West Country, said Mole Valley Farmers’ Geoff Williamson.

“With the worldwide weather problems, we can’t see it getting any better – it may be a good idea to lock in your winter ration now.”

Although straw yields had been good this year, a wet autumn could boost demand, said Cullompton, Devon-based trader John Dorse.

“At the moment there is enough straw there, but I would definitely take cover from now to Christmas.”

Barley straw is currently trading at £52-£65/t delivered, with wheat straw at £40-£55/t.