Rain and 35,800 cattle per week squeeze markets

There are some things in life that never change, like the numbers game dictating the price for beef cattle every autumn, with which beef finishers are very familiar.

When a spell of heavy rainfall is added to the numbers game, you have a perfect recipe for a drop in beef prices, as sure as night follows day, year in and year out.

And in 2017, the decline in the value of sterling has added another factor to the mix, helping to cancel out the continuing strength of markets for beef, and the scarcity of beef stocks within factories, despite a strong supply of cattle over recent months.

Beef processors have been doing a good export marketing job, resulting in an apparent weekly demand at factories for up to 33,000 head of cattle.

The question arises as to how long beef finishers can generate that level of cattle supply, with many very successful finishers opting out and switching to milk production.

Calf births are well up on previous years, but growing live exports will also affect the supply of beef cattle, as the switch to milk production is accelerated by continuing low returns from suckler farming and other beef enterprises, particularly felt at this time of year... every year.

Some processors, particularly in the western counties, are offering a base of 375 cents/kg for steers this week, hoping to take advantage of the pressure on farmers to sell cattle off land soaked by recent deluges of rain.

However, most processors are at a base price of 380 cents/kg, and it is hard for them to get cattle for less than this, with some reports of up to 385 cents/kg being paid.

On the other hand, the increasing number of animals coming up to 30 months old is helping to keep a lid on prices by bringing out extra supply, a trend which will continue through September and October.

Heifer prices are generally at 390 cents/kg, although some processors are quoting at 385 cents/kg.

There is good demand for cows, at unchanged prices.

Prices for the O/P-grade cows range mostly from 315 to 330 cents/kg, but up to 335 cents/kg, while the quality R-graders are generally at 345 cents/kg or a shade higher.

The cattle kill last week hit 35,800 head, one of the highest weekly supplies in 2017.

The beef trade in Britain has remained stable last week, with demand firm and supplies relatively tight.

Supplies are expected to recover, with the latest cattle count indicating a rise in the number of prime cattle under 30 months.

In terms of prices, the R4L grade steer prices were averaging equivalent to 442 cent/kg (at 92p sterling for €1).

In France, little change was reported in the beef market last week.

It is hoped the reopening of schools and businesses after the holiday season will boost the trade over the coming weeks.

In Italy, the trade is reported to be remaining sluggish, and in Germany, the market was reported as finely balanced.

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