Liveweight and deadweight fortunes have diverged this autumn as average UK deadweight cow prices have fallen below 200p/kg for the first time in nearly a year.
The seasonal drop in values, as farms clear out passengers before winter, has seen the Great Britain average fall to 197.3p/kg in early November, back 11.8p/kg on the year.
Meanwhile, liveweight averages have seen a slight upturn, helped, in part, by a lift in quality as some farms feed cows to add condition and value.
Liveweight values sat almost 5p/kg ahead of last year, with cows in better condition after a grassier summer, although auctioneers have reported that some animals are showing the effects of a rough autumn.
Cow beef values have not been as firm as last year, although trade has fared better than the depressed prime beef market.
Numbers are up on the year at Mold, where up to 30% of animals are being bought to further finish on farms.
Trade topped at 140p/kg for an eight-year-old 755kg Limousin suckler cow on Monday (18 November). Dairy cows topped at 116p/kg for an 815kg (£945).
The top 10 beef cows averaged 123.7p/kg, while the top 10 dairy cows made 106p/kg.
“Up until a couple of weeks ago there were a lot of out-of-parlour cows but now there are more fed cows being sold,” said James Griffiths of J Bradburne Price.
“Some of the cows at 80p/kg now would have been making 100p/kg back in the summer.”
Mr Griffiths said efforts were needed to drive the demand side of the market.
“We need to market beef as being British and being of the highest welfare. Other countries don’t have traceability like we do either,” he added.
The past month has seen increased numbers start to tighten at Lancaster, where Matthew Probert, cattle auctioneer at North West Auctions, and the team market 100-150 head a week each Friday.
Most weeks see prices average 105-115p/kg. Better cows are making 140-160p/kg, feeding cows are making 115-125p/kg and lean cows can make 65p/kg or more.
“There’s plenty of buyer competition,” said Mr Probert. “People are still buying cows for further finishing for perhaps six to eight weeks on feed.
“Plainer, leaner cows are harder work at the moment.”
He said demand for manufacturing beef could be being helped by the approach of Christmas and consumers looking for value and versatility in their beef.