Cattle in short supply, says NBA

The National Beef Association (NBA) has warned that the “most dominant” factor shaping the UK slaughter cattle market is short supplies.

The NBA said that this week’s dramatic recovery in prime cattle prices demonstrated that abattoirs overestimated cattle supplies when they forced a “huge price plunge” on finishers at the beginning of July.

The organisation warned that overall slaughter cattle numbers will continue to contract beyond 2014 unless retailers immediately work with processors to formulate prices that will encourage suckler calf breeders and dairy calf rearers to increase production.

NBA director Kim Haywood said: “The £60 a head (18.5p per dwkg) drop in sales income from Southern England’s prime cattle, and the £136 a head (40p per dwkg) national fall in barren cow values, recorded over the past five weeks, is now being shown to have been hugely overcooked.

“It was justified by confident processor assertions that farm supply had dramatically exceeded retail demand, but an almost unprecedented, overnight, 10p upward adjustment is more than a correction – it is an admission that a serious miscalculation was made and that abattoir stocks are threadbare.”

The NBA wants to persuade retailers and processors that the best way forward for the entire supply chain is to ensure that sufficient beef will be available in five years’ time.

“The impact of the contracting national cow herd can only be reversed if farmers are made to feel confident they will earn more from cows that produce calves than they do from selling potential breeders into the manufacturing beef market,” said Haywood.

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