Farmer Focus: Earlier kill tightens cattle supply further

Here is a scenario. If all the cattle come onto the feedlot at once, guess what? They all go out at once.

Generally, we have a steady inward flow of cattle over an eight- to 10-week period in late summer/early autumn.

But that didn’t happen last back end as extreme pressure was put on grazers with the summer drought.

So it was an unusual start to the winter season for us: cattle came in at lighter weights and, in all fairness, left us marginally lighter and leaner than we would have desired.

See also: Store cattle ‘on fire’ as finished beef reaches 470p/kg

About the author

Doug Dear
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Doug Dear farms 566ha (1,400 acres) of arable land growing wheat, spring and winter barley, maize and oilseed rape and runs a custom feedyard, contract-finishing about 2,400 cattle a year near Selby, North Yorkshire. Most cattle are finished over 90-120 days for nine deadweight outlets, as well as Selby and Thirsk markets.
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I would say that that was industry-wide, to some degree.

This means we have robbed Peter to pay Paul.

Cattle have gone through the system earlier than expected so, in effect, the industry has already burned through cattle that might have been marketed at a heavier weight in the new year.

Since then, it has been relentless here at Osgodby Grange. We have had six weeks of continuous kill, with absolutely no let-up.

We always have a busy lead-up to Christmas, but as we enter the second half of January, demand is still staggering. We have killed just shy of 1,000 cattle and the sheds are looking decidedly empty.

If the demand continues, and I hope it doesn’t get affected by the cost-of-living crisis, I can see an uplift in the price of beef. There just aren’t the numbers out there domestically.

The Irish price is higher than ours and they are on a big export drive to Turkey.

What’s more, Ireland’s bovine spongiform encephalopathy restrictions have been lifted, which has allowed them to target the Chinese market again, with exports expected to resume soon.

This leaves the processors in a bit of a predicament. They must pay up or go without. The store market has got a whiff of this, and the prices have gone ballistic.

If the fat price doesn’t go up, there will be some people who will inevitably get their fingers burned. As with the rest of agriculture, it is becoming a higher-stakes game.

There hasn’t been a squeak about Veganuary at time of writing, so to quote Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake.”