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Agribusiness News November 2023 – Beef

1 November 2023

Beef price rallies

Finished beef prices in Scotland have rebounded significantly in recent weeks, with increased demand as processors are now entering the Christmas buying period, the pressure is on to find enough prime cattle. Availability remains a concern as numbers of finished cattle about are less. Many finishers sold cattle when the price was dropping, so these cattle are no longer there. Prices are now back closer to the peaks seen in May. Deadweight R4L steers are bordering on £5/kg, with prices quoted for week ending 21 October at 499p/kg (around 15p/kg higher than south of the border).

Liveweight cattle prices in Scotland remain strong, around 20p/kg above last year’s levels, with a number of markets reporting increased throughputs as finishers return to the live ring. At a global level, beef prices are coming under pressure from rising production in Australia and Brazil. Weaker than expected consumer demand in China, has led to a build-up, reducing wholesale prices.

With the main Christmas killing period from early November to early December, a rise in price was expected. It is anticipated that prime beef prices will remain firm into early December as they look to build stocks for the festive period. Post-Christmas it is likely that numbers of prime cattle required are less as cows come back into favour to meet the demand for manufacturing beef after the Christmas spend has put pressure on consumers budgets.

Cull cows

Cow prices have returned to more normal levels relative to prime cattle prices as most processors look to reduce cull cow throughput as they shift towards prime beef, which is affecting demand for cull cows. Cull cow price has dipped back this month, with prices currently around 35-40p/kg less than same week in 2022. With prices dropping there is little incentive to cull cows and it is unlikely that prices will rise until mid-December.

Suckled calves

Store cattle are meeting a strong demand, driven by a rise in finished beef prices. Well fleshed, continental types continue to meet a buoyant trade, with over wintering stores in less sought after. Store cattle sales have been boosted in numbers in October as suckled calves come onto the market. Suckled calf producers are seeing stronger prices for their calves compared to last year with forage in good supply, feed prices back and the beef price 40-50p/kg up on the year, adding £160 to a 360kg calf. The annual Spring born calf show and sale at Thainstone in Aberdeenshire, saw suckled calves average 328p/kg.

Breeding stock

Enthusiasm in the beef trade again is impacting breeding sales, with many markets reporting a lift in averages, as good quality breeding cattle are in demand. However, stock not reaching the quality demanded by farmers is more difficult to sell. The autumn bull sales have seen strong prices paid for the best commercial bulls. Despite AHDB reporting for the first half of the year a 4% decline in Charolais calf registrations, the Charolais breed achieved an average of £8,253 for 65 bulls sold.

Sarah Balfour,

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