British stock shows it is top quality
By Simon Wragg
IF any EU neighbours had doubts over the quality of British livestock they would have done well to call in at any number of primestock shows held recently.
In many rings, the entries and bidding indicated another cracking turnout, report auctioneers. However, some producers were tempted to enter stock too early and under-finished.
At Colchester, judge David Ball was rewarded with a good entry of pigs despite the sectors current crisis. He eventually awarded top prize to J F Wilderspin for his porker weight pen. These were snapped up by R * Simons & Son of Hatfield Broad Oak for £1.68/kg; a welcome improvement on the current trade. R * Simons also bought W A Ketley & Sons champion steer for a staggering £3.55/kg.
Further west a downpour didnt deter entrants or the judge at Chippenham. There, Stephen Potter concluded that John Wards Angus X Limousin steer deserved top honours. "Bidding helped the commercial cattle break through the £1/kg barrier," commented auctioneer Peter Kingwill.
A "blistering" trade at Ludlow saw prices which were £s in front of deadweight offers, said auctioneer John Uffold. The honours went to Colin Watts Belgian Blue heifer which was purchased by Blackpool-based butcher R P Winder – who have been active at several shows. Also of note was Marston Court Farms, Pembridge who topped each of the lamb classes with Beltex X stock which sold for 121p/kg.
If there was any doubt over Limousins ability to hit top honours, across the Welsh border Glyn Owens of Ruthin Farmers saw their title clinched by Messrs R, M & A Williams smart 530kg heifer. It was bought for £1.80p/kg by Bodidris Beef, Denbigh.
It was more of the same at Melton Mowbray for judge Steve Booth.
Although overall turnout in the beef class was disappointing, with several entered too young or under-finished, it was not the case for his title-clincher. It came from J B Thompson of Stainby. This Limousin steer – with some Belgian Blue breeding – had the characteristic back end, tight body and was a proper show animal, commented Mr Booth. It sold for £3.10/kg to Melton Butchers.
Similar breeding saw Messrs Raine of Old Parks heifer eventually sell for £3/kg – again to Blackpools R P Winder – at Penrith.
"Bidding helped the commercial trade with some bulls being sold at £1.50/kg or more," said Michael Bowe of Penrith Farmers & Kidds.
North of the border, J Lammies 500kg Limousin bullock topped Stirlings Christmas show netting the vendor a welcome £1350 from Malcolm Allan Butchers at Falkirk. *
Mistletoe slips in popularity
A RETAILERS decision not to import mistletoe from France – an order worth £2 million – has done little to help the seasonal trade which has slipped as huge supplies flood markets. However, holly remains firm.
A record entry of over 1400 lots at Russell Baldwin & Brights Tenbury venue has already seen prices slip from 60p/lb to 30p/lb for mistletoe this season, down 40% on last year. After an initial sale, producers buoyed up by Tescos announcement saw huge domestic supplies come forward from the Welsh borders area, said auctioneer Nick Champion.
"Some thought Tescos move would help the home market this year, but it hasnt."
But the retailer was deciding whether to sell mistletoe this Christmas after safety concerns over children eating berries. However, a spokesman for the company said if supplies were needed they would be British.
In contrast, holly sold well at Tenbury with the common berried variety selling for an average of 75p a bunch, rising to £1.50 for best quality silver/golden variegated lots. Wreaths, crosses and chaplets averaged between £3.10 – £3.60 a piece.
"Theres less berried supplies about after April frosts knocked a lot of blossom off, which has firmed prices," explained Mr Champion.
Wholesale parcels of Christmas trees, sold in lots of 25-50 stands, have eased. The traditional Norway spruce is losing favour to varieties which do not shed needles; prices were below 50p/ft.
The up-and-coming noble fir which retains its foliage averaged £2/ft as short supplies increased competition between buyers. *
Winners revive market prices
DEMAND for fatstock winners has helped lift market prices nationwide giving a seasonal boost to producers pockets.
Cattle prices headed for the £1/kg barrier for steers as the shows kicked off and is expected to hold until January. Mart averages have been heavily influenced by bids topping £3.50/kg for champions with many reserve ticketed sorts over £1.50/kg, report auctions. Overall, cattle are now 6p/kg ahead of values achieved for the same period last year.
"For some, the top bids have gone back to levels seen three years ago – before BSE – which has helped overall trade," says Co Durham-based auctioneer George Potts.
Typical of many, a champion selling for over £2/kg helped the days overall average at Darlington for 328 cattle to £1.10/kg.
Medium and heavy weight bulls also moved forward 5-6p/kg nationally last week according to MLC figures.
However, the National Beef Association remains firm in its view that the £1/kg threshold for all beef cattle should be seen as a realistic return in the New Year.
Lamb prices bolstered
Lamb prices have also been bolstered with many centres reporting heavier commercial sorts trading at 80-85p/kg (up 4p on last year).
Some meat buyers expect sheep prices to hold up after a major boost in exports of Euro-type lambs to the Continent. Industry data suggests well over 1.5m have been exported live this year reducing some pressure on the hogget trade in the spring.
However, the pig trade remains sluggish at 58p/kg. But of the 5% sold through liveweight centres, markets report a seasonal move of 2p/kg on previous weeks trade as the show entries influence market averages.
Returns are now only 6p/kg above last years level; a gap that is closing. *