Cull cows flying as demand outstrips supply

Barren cow prices have staged a strong recovery after taking a hammer blow in the spring.

Lockdown knocked deadweight values by 25-30p/kg in April at a time when prices typically start their summer rise as grazing gets underway and supplies begin to tighten.

However, in recent weeks marts have seen cows make £120 a head or more on the year.   

See also: Low Irish kill supports strong cull cow prices of 300p/kg

July factory prices averaged around 300p/kg for R3s and upwards of 273-275p/kg for -O3Ls, about 30p/kg up on 2019.

Vendors have also returned to the liveweight rings from deadweight selling to capitalise on phenomenal trades. 

Ahdb lead red meat analyst Duncan Wyatt said strong prices looked to be demand driven, with steaks selling well, and fewer prime cattle going through the mincer.

June retail data has shown a clear swing to products using manufacturing beef from cull cows, namely oven-ready beef, mince and burgers.

Analysts wait to see whether consumer demand for these products will remain high as the catering trade continues opening up.

The numbers

Price (213.5p/kg) for a pure 892kg, 11-year-old British Blue cow at Kirkby Stephen on Monday (27 July)

Drop in EU cow beef production (tonnes) in June on the year

How far back cull cow slaughter is in Germany on the year this summer


Last week’s sale (22 July) saw 151 suckler cows make 151p/kg at Thainstone, said auctioneer Tim McDonald.

Mr McDonald said pie orders had been strong since lockdown started, and that cull cows had lifted by 20p/kg in recent weeks.

The best cows were regularly making £1,350-£1,400 and 165p/kg or £1,230 for a 750kg Simmental cow was quite common, he reported.  

“Numbers started to tighten at the beginning of June and lots of slaughterhouses are looking for cow beef,” Mr McDonald told Farmers Weekly.

Time and money were more important to consumers than ever, which was driving manufacturing beef demand, he added.

Strong prices had allowed farmers to be tougher on herd, with fewer second chances given to empty cows.  And more vendors had been attracted back to mart from the deadweight system and some ‘silent dispersals’ were helping keep numbers up, Mr McDonald explained.  


Barren cows have hit record levels at Mold, where Wynne Davies sold 62 black and whites and 43 beef cows to average 120.65p/kg and 150p/kg respectively on Monday (27 July).

Cow trade has been firm since the market adjusted to the outbreak of Covid-19 in May, but has lifted by another 20-.30p/kg for the well-fleshed cows over the past month. 

Monday’s top 10 beef cows averaged £1,206 and topped with a Stabiliser at 180p/kg. Black and whites topped at £1,236 and 160p/kg, with two at 159p/kg and two at 156p/kg.