Cash shies away from stores

By FW Staff

STORE cattle prices are falling, reflecting the low finished values and the cripplingly tight budgets of potential buyers.

“Money is running out in the industry,” says auctioneer Mark Cleverdon at Ashford, Kent.

With beef prices dropping, stores are down between £40 and £80 on last year, reckons Mr Cleverdon. “Those that are buying are buying on hope – but hope is beginning to run out.”

The best steers are just topping the 100p/kg-mark, but at the other end of the scale, some heifers – with no prospect of subsidy – are grossing under £100/head.

Glyn Owens, auctioneer at Knighton, Powys, has seen the store trade fall in line with prime cattle prices which, he says, look set to stay under 80p/kg liveweight.

The marts big auction earlier this month saw bullocks and heifers average £397 and £308 respectively (down £117 and £84 on the same sale last year). “At these prices, people are saying there is money to be made,” says Mr Owens.

Suckled calf sales are gathering momentum in Scotland but the prospects are not good. “The finished price has been dropping over the past fortnight and buyers of store cattle are following the trend,” said John Kyle, auctioneer with Caledonian Marts at Stirling.

On-farm sales on Islay by the firm saw values drop by at least 20% or £80 to £100 on the year. It was the same story in Oban at the first of the autumn sales there. Bullock calves averaged 82p/kg, down 32p on the year and heifers at 64p were down by 33p.

“Our first sale in Stirling was down £80 on the year. I expect it to be £100 or more this week. There is a definite shortage of cash and I see no prospect of improvement.

“A lot of people are holding on to stores and calves hoping prices will rise. There is no confidence among the finishers and they stick at 60 to 70p/kg for heifers and 80 to 90p for bullocks. Only the very best make more than £1,” said Mr Kyle.

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