Beef industry hopes market has bottomed

Analysts are suggesting cattle prices could lift through the autumn after a summer that beef producers will want to forget.

Values often fall sharply in the first half of the year due to less prime cut demand, according to the AHDB.

However, the 2016-18 period was stable because of strong manufacturing beef demand across the EU.

The levy board added that a 7% lift in Irish beef production, higher UK slaughter weights and lower retail and foodservice demand had pressured cattle values. 

However, national figures show UK beef imports back 11% on the year for the second quarter of 2019. Exports are up 7%, with lower calf registrations in 2018 a potential driver of strong beef prices in late 2019 and 2020.

See also: Talks to end Irish beef crisis make progress


Auctioneer Robert Venner of Greenslade Taylor Hunt told Farmers Weekly that prime cattle values were looking “settled” and had found a level.

He said the market was pricing cattle below cost of production and called on retailers to market beef as a nutritious protein source to stimulate demand.  

Last week’s trade (19 August) saw 57 prime cattle meet a similar trade to recent weeks, with steers averaging 169.7p/kg and heifers averaging 162.6p/kg.

This is sharply back on the year, when both classes of livestock were selling for 180-190p/kg.

However, he said store sales have been resilient and throughputs have been 50% higher than a year ago, with 716 head sold on 17 August and 605 sold on 24 August.

“Breeding stock are selling well too,” he added. “A good second calver with a tidy calf will probably make £1,200, so there is still confidence in the sector.”


Cattle trade has picked up ever so slightly in the past couple of weeks for fat cattle auctioneer Richard Haigh at Selby.

In-spec heifers and bulls are dearer, with the better continental bulls often making 210-220p/kg.

However, he said trade remained 10p/kg back on the year for bulls and 6-10p/kg back on the year for heifers overall.

Mr Haigh said heifers at 480-580kg were making 225-235p/kg, with the best over 250p/kg.

“It feels that the market has bottomed – touch wood,” said Mr Haigh. “Normality will soon be resuming with holiday season over and children going back to school, which usually helps demand.”

He said a slight influx of cattle at the market had been seen when processors dropped prices, but this ended six to eight weeks ago.