Gap in cattle value narrows

By Farmers Weekly staff

LOW numbers of finished cattle coming off grass and out of yards is helping to close the gap between steers and heifers values, particularly for heavier sorts.

The alignment of prices, which normally see steers carrying a premium over heifers of around 5p/kg, is most noticeable north of the border in Scotland.

United Auctions Robert Stephenson has seen heifer values at Stirling overtake steers in recent weeks at 101p/kg and 99p/kg, respectively. “A lot has to do with the scarcity of bullocks at the moment,” says Mr Stephenson.

Similarly, at Ayr markets larger entry of almost 300 fat cattle values were slightly easier with the difference closing down to 3p/kg with steers still in front.

Further south, auctioneer Andrew Thomas of Glamorgan Marts says heifer trade at Cowbridge is strong, but it will only continue until more finished cattle begin to come off grass.

“Theres certainly lower numbers of finished stock coming forward. Those cattle at grass havent finished as quickly as hoped and good quality yarded heifers are in demand.”

He is pessimistic about the narrowing of prices continuing. “At the moment buyers are willing to pay for yarded heifers over 480kg, but the trade may slip back as more come off grass. Also, after last weeks dip in lamb values we can expect a re-adjustment in beef prices.”

According to Stuart Vile of Alder Kings electronic auction at Chippenham, deadweight buyers are following a similar trade, although many may be looking to take the earlier grass-finished heifer adding to seasonal demand.

“There has been a small shift towards those with a carcass weight of over 270kg, but whether thats a deliberate policy of buyers, I dont know,” says Mr Vile.

But auctioneers in traditional areas where small, independent butchers are the key ringside buyers say heifers are continuing their long-term demand.

Lanarks Willie McCulloch says many bidders want 420-480kg animals to match their retail trade and that excludes many heavier steers or bullocks.

“Its the same here,” says Stockesley marts Stephen Aitken.

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