Bad news for finishing units as prime cattle price falters

The much-needed recovery in deadweight beef prices has slowed this month following a supply spike that has led to processor cuts. 

This comes as bad news for finishing units, with reports of larger operations having lost tens of thousands of pounds amid higher costs and lower prices.  

Average British steer prices lifted 10p/kg in April after bottoming in March at 335.9p/kg, but price rises have lost momentum since mid-May.

Prices have been back 10-15p/kg on the year for May, with Britain’s average steer R4L price at 358p/kg.

National liveweight averages have followed suit and are back 12-14p/kg on the year at 188-190pkg.

See also: Store cattle recover as beef price bottoms


Beef prices are feeling the downward pressure in the South West, where auctioneer and partner Robert Venner of Greenslade Taylor Hunt has seen a 2-3p/kg cut from some companies.

“A lot of cattle are coming out at the moment,” he said. “Last week, some store finishers were saying they can’t get anything in until June and when cattle queue up you start to see prices knocked down.”

Sedgemoor’s prime prices fell last week (20 May), with 39 steers down 4.3p/kg to average 172.2p/kg and 34 heifers down 1.4p/kg to average 170.7p/kg.

The pick of the steers and heifers made 194-198p/kg, topping at 206 and 209.5p/kg, respectively.

Mr Venner said store prices were down £75/head on the year on average, although he added prices had recovered somewhat since the early spring.

“Store buyers are looking for fast turnaround cattle now. The time for the outlying, longer-keep cattle for grass is February and March in this area.”


Trade should move in the right direction again in three to four weeks, predicts senior auctioneer Andrew Armstrong of Darlington Farmers Auction Marts.

Darlington saw a slightly smaller entry of 224-head last week (23 May), with prices for steers and heifers down 5-7p/kg to average 189.7p/kg and 203.3p/kg and bulls back 17p/kg to average 169.3p/kg.

He said a recent spring lift in cattle supply was partly down to finishers speculatively holding onto stock in April, hoping for a better May trade. 

“Speaking to meat wholesalers, family butchers and processors, none of them are selling quite the same amount of beef as they normally would,” said Mr Armstrong.

“As we move into the summer we should see the increased trade from holiday and weekend spending, BBQ season and hopefully a more positive picture.”