Cull supply down but prices not up
A RALLY in cull sow prices looks unlikely, despite tighter supplies, report auctioneers.
Around the country the picture of live and deadweight sales looks similar. Number of culls coming forward has levelled out to about 6,300 a week. While this is becoming a trend, prices wont increase substantially due to competition from overseas supplies, it seems.
Northants-based auctioneer Mike Carter says current prices of 35p/kg live – equivalent to 50p/kg deadweight – have lifted sow values from the bottom of the trough seen earlier this year. Although it represents the best return for about eight months, this level is of little consolation to producers paying £110 a head for replacement gilts.
At Bridgnorth, Michael Walters of Nock Deighton reports "a definite cooling-off" in numbers forwarded. "Sow slaughterings were higher earlier in the year and that may have contributed. But it doesnt take much of a swing in prices for producers to change their minds," he says.
In the large traditional markets – such as East Yorkshire – numbers continue in strength. Ralph Ward of Frank Hill saw over 220 culls in Beverley average 35.4p/kg last week and numbers could rise. "Sows have got to go at some time," says Mr Ward. "Many were kept last summer and were served again, but theyll have to come out."
Despite reports of lower cull numbers forwarded, buyers are still at the ringside and thats a good sign, adds Mr Ward.
However, processor demand may be cooling off with cheaper supplies available in the EU, report abattoirs. Paul Cheale of Essex-based Cheale Meats suggests when EU sow slaughtering begins in earnest – some pundits suggest it will be the third quarter of this year – domestic values could be kept in check.
"Culls trade on an EU spot price and at the moment UK supplies look expensive."
Few Scottish producers would agree. Local trade can run at discounts of 10p/kg liveweight behind southern markets due to a lack of local processing facilities.
Stewart Archibald says trade at Edinburgh has been static in both numbers coming forward and prices achieved. "Typically, prices are 25p/kg reflecting extra transport costs for culls heading south. The trade has slowed since the big disposals of a few larger players. Were now seeing 50-60 culls at Edinburgh and 10 at St Boswells weekly."
Scottish trade is unlikely to recover this shortfall after the demise of major cull facilities.
Processors are reluctant to open plants just to handle the few sows coming forward, especially when southern plants can handle 1200 pigs/day and are not running to capacity. "At the end of the day thats the reality of it," says Mr Cheale.
Despite the gloom, trade in gilts is starting to move, albeit tentatively. Producers are having to find extra cash to buy replacements.
Producer Anthony Lee of Dowrich Farm, near Crediton, is doing just that. "Things have improved. In November we were sending away four culls to cover the cost of a replacement and thats now down to two and a half. But its still a long way from prices achieved year ago," says Mr Lee. *