Firm breeding price despite ‘unsustainable’ beef values

Poor finished beef prices have taken the shine off some sales of cows with calves at foot this year as values for prime animals have fallen to a three-year low.

This is according to auctioneers during a period of increasing beef sector frustration at what industry leaders are calling prolonged unstainable prices.

Both the NFU and the National Beef Association voiced concern at the lack of promotion on supermarket shelves and lack of competition over beef carcasses last week.

However, auctioneers say that, given difficulties facing beef finishers, trade for breeding cattle has proven resilient this spring.

See also: Selecting for feed efficiency could raise beef profits 39%


Weekly sales of cows with calves have seen trade back £60-£70 a unit and sometimes back £100 a unit on the year at Welshpool, auctioneer Richard Evans told Farmers Weekly.

Weekly throughputs peaked at 70-100 head earlier in the summer and have since dropped to 20-40 cow-calf outfits a week.

An entry of 23 outfits met a slower trade compared with recent weeks last week (24 June).

Most lots sold between £1,000 and £1,600.

Two Limousin cross Blue heifers with Wilodge Goldcard heifer calves made £1,820, leading the trade.

A Hereford-cross heifer with a Governor-sired Blue calf at foot made £1,500.

Generally, the best end of the cross-bred cattle can still make £1,800-£2,200, with a 30-cow entry from a local vendor averaging £2,600 recently.

“One definite change is the Blue-cross cow out of the dairy cow is not as popular as it was,” says Mr Evans.

“It can be harder to calve and perhaps not quite milky enough, but native crosses have grown in popularity and the first-cross Limousin cow is still very popular.”

North West Auctions

Demand has remained remarkably firm for breeding cattle at North West Auctions, despite what farmstock manager Paul Gentry calls “completely unsustainable” beef prices from the Irish abattoirs.

Better heifers with strong calves are making £1,900-£2,000 regularly and most young cows are a firm trade.

Continental cross-bred second calvers with good calves at foot are often making £1,600-£1,700, and old cows can still make more than £1,000 with a good calf and sometimes make £1,200-£1,400.

This month’s sale of breeding cattle topped at £2,020 for a Limousin-cross heifer with a heifer calf at foot at J36 Crooklands (13 June).

Cows topped at £1,850, with a second-calved Limousin-cross cow with a Limousin-sired heifer calf at foot.