Market set for strong autumn calf sales

Suckler farmers are hoping for a very fast weaned calf trade this autumn, providing deadweight prices hold steady.

Recent factory price drops have caused some pessimism this week and could coax more cattle forward from finishers worried about further cuts.

Some believe the falls are the result of large finishers marketing a high number of cattle to cash in on improved prices. Defra’s August slaughter figures were up 1.7% on the year and steer, heifer and bull carcasses were down 2.2kg, 0.9kg and 2.5kg, respectively.

AHDB figures show continental cross yearling steers are about £91 dearer on the year at £774 a head (week ending 12 September), leading to hopes of a strong calf trade.

Older continental cross steers (24 months old) levelled at £1,031 (up £121 on the year).

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Leek’s past three sales (as of 22 September) have seen 788 head sold – a 17% lift on the year – while steer trade has averaged £760, £779 and £768 a head compared with £674, £689 and £718, respectively, last year.

“Big yarding cattle already putting flesh down have been a very strong trade,” said Mark Elliot, director at Leek Auctions. “Buyers are looking at the beef price and they can see a margin in them.”

He added that younger suckler-bred stores were very good to sell, but the rougher-coated 17-22-month stores were not quite as dear as they were in late August.

Dingwall and Highland

Northern Scotland’s early suckled calf sales are up 60p/kg on the year as a good barley harvest and a strong beef market have led to firm demand.

Auctioneer Paul Spencer said 834 bullocks averaged 285.5p/kg (up 64p on the year) at the Portree sale (16 September), which was held at Dingwall this year due to coronavirus. An entry of 575 heifers averaged 266p/kg, up 65p on the year.

“Covid-19 has enhanced the value of meat,” said Mr Spencer. “Fewer Brits have holidayed abroad and more people are cooking at home.”

“If the current supply and demand balance remains, that should fuel the weaned suckler-bred calf price to 250p/kg plus.”

Caledonian Marts

Averages were back 2p/kg at Stirling Caledonian Marts on Monday (21 September), with slightly lower quality, rather than a slower trade, resulting in a lower price.

Bullocks averaged 430kg and 211p/kg, with the heaviest bullock at 496kg making 216p/kg. Five lots made 230-239p/kg. Heifers averaged 443kg and 202p/kg.

“Some have sold cattle a little earlier this year, with animals coming to the same money but sooner,” said auctioneer Oliver Shearman.