A welcome upturn in beef prices and an early spring has seen some confidence return to store cattle rings, although forward stores still have ground to make up.
Beef finishers have seen deadweight averages gain almost 5p/kg since mid-March to average about 341p/kg.
But all cattle producers are hopeful for a full recovery, with prices still £70 a head back on the year.
However, auctioneers say the small lift has seen some positivity return to the store ring after store prices slumped 14-15/kg back on the year in February.
Yearlings are selling well at Castle Douglas, where Robin Anderson, managing director and store cattle auctioneer at Wallets Marts, says cattle are roughly 20-30kg heavier this spring.
This means that, while prices remain about 8p/kg back on the year, stores are often making more on a headage basis.
Mr Anderson said yearling Charolais stores are the pick of the trade, with bullocks making £1,000-1,100 a head and heifers at £900-940 a head.
Monday’s (22 April) main April sale saw a bumper entry of 1,327, which were exclusively suckler-bred cattle.
An entry of 790 bullocks averaged 227.2p/kg or £906 a head (+8.8p/kg up on the last sale) and 537 heifers averaged 216.4p/kg or £851.75 a head (up 5.2p/kg on the last sale).
Charolais steers averaged £943 each, topping at £1,135, while Limousins averaged £965 a head, topping at £1,195. Angus steers averaged £837 and hit £1,205.
“It’s probably the biggest spring sale we’ve had since before foot-and-mouth,” Mr Anderson told Farmers Weekly.
“Yearling Charolais bulls and heifers are selling like hot cakes, but older, stronger stores are still reflecting the finished price.”
Forward cattle are also reflecting the depressed prime beef price at Exeter and are £50 back on the year, according to Robert Armstrong, fieldsman for Kivells.
However, yearling cattle that can “grow into money” are a flying trade, with continental-cross steers regularly making £815-900 and slightly younger cattle around the £770-790 mark.
Mr Armstrong said weekly throughputs on Friday sales typically hit 500 head, with more than 800 sold in recent weeks, adding that throughputs are 10-12% up on the year.
A combination of tight feed supplies and an early spring has coaxed more cattle out of sheds sooner, he said, with some farms selling stores rather than keeping hold of them to finish.
But he predicted numbers would tighten now into May after an earlier start to the store selling season.