Cattle trade shows signs of stabilising

The cattle trade is steadying, due to tightening supply and increased demand, according to industry experts.

Stuart Ashworth, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) head of economics services, said after several months of declining prices, there has been some modest increase in price over the past two weeks for cattle meeting R4L specification.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt explained: “Cattle supplies both here and in Ireland are expected to decrease following the surges seen earlier in the year and this, coupled with the lovely barbecue weather we’re experiencing, is having a stabilising effect on the price.”

While farmgate beef prices recently crashed due to a ‘perfect storm’ of factors, including a surge in imports from overseas, QMS said cattle availability had begun to tighten. A reduced kill in Northern Ireland has contributed to the UK prime cattle kill in June being almost 1% lower than last year. The organisation added that cull cow slaughterings are now running well below year-earlier levels.

Ashworth said: “UK beef production in June is estimated to have been 2.5% higher than a year earlier – much lower than the 5% year-on-year increase in production seen in May. Provisional data from price-reporting abattoirs suggests that prime cattle slaughter numbers have tightened further in July.”

A number of factors suggest that cattle numbers reaching abattoirs will continue to decrease – recent years have seen a fall in GB cattle numbers reaching slaughter age in the latter months of the year, while the volume of cattle reaching abattoirs is easing in Ireland too.

Kantar Worldpanel data shows that, while demand for fresh beef has fallen over the past 12 months, there has been a small year-on-year increase in the amount purchased by consumers over the past quarter. 

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