Trade in top store cattle holding well

By Tim Relf

GOOD store cattle continue to sell well, despite uncertainty in the beef business.

Steers and heifers averaged 120p/kg and 111.5p/kg respectively at last weeks offering for the Bishops Castle Quality Cattle Association.

Buyers, says auctioneer Peter Booth, still want top-notch stock. “But everyone is disappointed and disillusioned with the fat trade.”

BCQCA chairman Edward Owen says values have never recovered from the BSE crisis. “Prices arent a patch of 1996. Theyre probably 20p/kg less than 1995.”

For those looking to buy stores, though, his advice is to source the best. “The old adage is true: Buy well and you are half sold.

“This doesnt mean paying over the top – but it does mean knowing what you are buying and buying with a margin in mind,” says Mr Owen.

Top price in the show-potential section at Bishops Castle was £2700 for a 410kg Charolais crossbred steer on a green CID. Next highest, at £2000 was a 245kg Belgian Blue cross Limousin, also on a green card.

At Knighton, Powys, auctioneer Glyn Owens saw steers and heifers average 121p and 102p/kg respectively last Friday.

“The very wet weather is against the cattle,” says Mr Owens. “Theres been so much rain that nobody can turn anything out. If the weather dried up and the beef trade improved, stores could be a touch brighter,” he says.

“January prices were good – and Februarys were even better,” says Geoffrey Dolling, auctioneer at Taunton. For much of last month, values were £30/head up on the corresponding period in 1998, he says.

And this buoyant trade prompted farmers to sell, with one Saturdays store entry at the Somerset mart topping 800. “I looked back in the records for the past 20 years – and we havent had anything like that number in February,” says Mr Dolling.

Over the last couple of weeks, however, store prices have fallen slightly, reflecting the downturn in the finished cattle trade.

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