Christmas price increase filters down to stores

A seasonal rise in deadweight prices has filtered down to the store ring to make cattle even dearer at many centres.  

Christmas orders have seen deadweight beef base prices lift about 5p/kg recently, taking average base steer prices to 386p/kg in mid-November.

Cattle supplies have been relatively tight this summer as finishers capitalised on strong prices, and in recent days factory quotes have matched those summer highs.  

The industry expects no let-up in store trade as December brings the subsidy payment window and the seasonal tightening of cattle.

See also: No EU trade deal would drive beef prices higher, QMS say


Feeding cattle were dear at Salisbury on Tuesday (24 November). Strong dairy crosses weighing 500-600kg hit 190-200p/kg, with suckler bred lots making further premiums.

Many cattle were £20-£40 a head dearer on the week. Suckled calves generally traded for 220-260p/kg, making £600-£900 apiece.

Ian Tanner of Southern Counties Auctioneers said he was doubtful whether the Basic Payment Scheme payment window, opening on 1 December, would change the value of most cattle.

“I don’t think store cattle can get any dearer,” Mr Tanner said. “If numbers remain tight then the lesser cattle will become dearer – the bottom of the market might lift.”

He said animals needing 60-90-days on feed were a very strong trade, but even second-quality and small-for-age cattle were dear for what they were.

Yearling continental cross cattle prices in first and second weeks of November


2019 (£/head)

2020 (£/head)

Gain on the year (£/head)









Source AHDB


The most sought-after continental suckled calves are regularly still £120-£150 a head higher on the year at Monmouth, according to Steve Williams, auctioneer at Monmouthshire Livestock Centre.   

The market’s second suckled calf sale (16 November) saw 154 steers average 237p/kg and £753 a head, which was up £87 a head on last year’s trade and up £12 a head up on the 2018 sale.

Mr Williams said quality was key, and the better calves were a stronger trade on the year than the rest.

“Suckler farmers need calves coming to this sort of money,’” he said. 

The weekly sale on Wednesday (18 November) saw younger calves top with Blue cross steers at 275p/kg (£580 a head) and heifers at 262p/kg (£515). A lot of calves changed hands for £550-£650 a head.

Older stores around 20-25 months topped with a Charolais cross at £1,450. Other fed cattle (Blue cross Friesians) made £1,270 at 697kg and 26 months.

Mr Williams said farmers felt trade may have peaked at the start of November, but prices had remained very firm since then.