Retail rivalry softens cattle price drops

Competition between discount retailers and traditional supermarkets is boosting beef sales, softening typical seasonal falls in deadweight cattle prices, according to AHDB Beef & Lamb.

The overall deadweight cattle trade fell again in week ended (w/e) 25 March, suggesting commercial supplies were just outstripping consumer demand.

At 343.5p/kg, the GB all prime average was down almost 2p on the week and 10p lower than at the start of 2017. However, prices were still 15p above year-earlier levels and AHDB said intense grocery retail competition had reduced price drops.

Steer prices fell by almost 2p/kg, although those meeting R4L specification fell by less than 1p, to 357.7p/kg. R4L heifers declined by about 1p to 356.5p/kg. R3 young bulls fell more sharply week-on-week, by almost 3p to 332.9p/kg.

England and Wales prime cattle prices fell, with southern region steers especially badly hit. Reports suggested fewer than usual premium-price organic cattle, hitting overall average prices.

Conversely, in Scotland, prime cattle prices grew. The overall average steer price climbed almost 3p on the week to 358.4p/kg, despite supplies recently outpacing demand. Continued falls in heifer prices might or might not mean the Scottish situation was easing, AHDB said.

Cows meeting -O4L specification held firm at 251.2p/kg, despite overall throughput increasing by about 400 head on the previous week. The weak pound continued to benefit the cow trade, with prices more than 30p higher than the equivalent year-earlier figure. Increased cull cow slaughterings in the Netherlands were apparently not damaging the cow market, AHDB claimed.

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