Beef Price Holds Strong at £5/kg
Relative stability for prime cattle prices has continued into 2024. . Prime cattle prices have started strongly for the year, at nearly 9% above levels 12 months ago and 26 -27% above the five-year average. For week ending 20th January, R4L grading steers averaged 504p/kg deadweight at Scottish abattoirs, with specific scheme cattle holding 15p to 20p more.
Looking ahead, it is highly likely that 2024 beef trade will be determined by cattle supplies. QMS suggest that prime cattle supply in 2024 will be similar to 2023. However, as the year progresses, availability is set to tighten as the reduced spring calf crop of 2023 begins to reach the market.
Store cattle sales have started very strongly, with some excellent prices being received throughout January. As finishers look to refill sheds and with numbers tight of heavier continental types, many are averaging over 330p/kg.
After an expensive 2022/23 winter for calf producers, prices being received in the store ring are, for many, ‘where they need to be’, offering beef farmers an incentive to retain breeding cattle. Last year’s high input costs left many questioning the profitability of suckler cows. However, recent prices paid for stores mean that the finished price needs to remain firm, or finishers could be left with little or no margin this spring and summer.
Given the current store prices, those sitting with stores should be calculating feed stocks and looking at whether to sell now or hold off until the spring.
Store sales have once again been strongly supported by English buyers, attracted by the availability of stores bred from beef suckler cows and the low risk of TB compared with the south of England. Although the number of cattle leaving Scotland to be finished in England had dipped from the high levels of 2022, it rose again in 2023. However, with Scottish stores being sold into England to be finished, undoubtedly, the supply for Scottish abattoirs will tighten further.
Cull cow prices have shown a seasonal rebound as consumers opt for the lower value cuts and mince as Christmas credit card bills need to be paid. As a result, cull cow trade should remain fairly stable in the coming weeks.
With big numbers of cull cows going through markets across Scotland, the realisation that cull cows are no longer a ‘by product’ but actually a valuable ‘product’ has seen farmers look to maximise returns and revaluate culling and replacement policy, which should result in a more efficient herd.
Bull sale season is once again upon us. For those purchasing new stock bulls, please refer the FAS website for useful pointers post purchase to help manage your new investment. See: https://www.fas.scot/article/post-purchase-bull-management/
Sarah Balfour, email@example.com
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