Cattle trade drifts in summer doldrums

By Peter Grimshaw

HOT weather is adding to the problems of beef producers with cattle that are ready to sell.

The prospect of a third fine weekend in a row is not encouraging buyers to give the auctioneer a nod for anything but the very best animals. But the promised lifting of the export ban has provided comfort for the store trade.

For now, whether their interest lies in store or finished cattle, sellers have harvest on their minds, barely able to spare the time for marketing animals which would in any case be putting on weight.

With all the uncertainty, not least about prospects for lifting the on-the-bone ban, commentators are unwilling to predict which way the trade will go.

“Were all crystal ball-gazing at the moment,” comments John Hughes, whose Lancaster market saw level trade last week, with similar averages realised for cattle of all weights and little price change from the previous week.

Offering half-done animals is asking for trouble in the current listless trade.

“Its all about quality at this time of year,” says Peter Kingwill, from Chippenham. “But we see some very odd cattle about, and of course they have to be sold.”

He doesnt expect to see some of the better grazing animals in the ring until harvest is over. But he warns of the need to keep an eye out for the 30 month barrier.

“Theres no point in getting a bullock to 291/2 months with no flesh on it,” he says. “Generally we try and advise people to start feeding on grass at this time of year. Grazing quality falls off, and a little bit of short fodder goes a long way.”

A few cattle are beginning to come of grass, but generally auctioneers make their traditional complaint that they are being rushed into the sale-ring while they still lack finish.

The spectre of Irish imports appears to be diminishing, with less talk than a few weeks ago about readily available competition.

The announcement that the beef export ban was at last to be partially lifted has acted as a tonic for farmers who have traditionally finished stores on grass or arable by-products, and for those who raise them for selling on.

“Numbers werent great early in the season, but stores have been coming forward in increasing numbers, even before the announcement that the ban would be lifted,” notes John Hughes.

He says buyers have responded. “They were looking for good conformation stores before the announcement,” he says. “Now they taking younger stores, heifers and even dairy crosses again.”

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