It’s May and the supply of finished beef animals has tightened, as is the norm for the season.
But what is not the norm is that prices have not yet increased, even by a cent.
With the shorter May Day bank holiday working week, the intake of stock this week would be expected to fall further.
However, with most processing plants operating at less than the full working week on a regular basis currently, the impact of the bank holiday will be negligible.
The intake held steady last week at 25,964 head, slightly higher than the previous week, but back by 5,600 head on the same week in 2019.
There were 9,923 steers, only slightly down on 2019, while heifers at 8,193 head were back by 1,500 on last year, and cows at 4,278 head were back by one third on 2019.
The supply of young bulls continued to trail the 2019 level, at 2,480 head compared to 3,884 head in the same week last year.
There is no difference in price for stock which had been bought forward from last week, and the going rate for this week.
The base for both steers and heifers has become firmly set at 340c/kg.
The word on the ground is that there is nothing to be got by way of a top-up on that for steers, with hard sellers coming up against a stone wall defence in most cases.
Some finishers are finding it a shade easier to get a few cents/kg extra for top quality heifers, but a base of 345c/kg is being achieved only by a few.
The processors‘ defence is that markets are weak.
That is not much consolation for finishers measuring their losses, which again has dented any confidence which remains within the depleted beef production sector, from which more and more are fleeing.
It is very hard to blame them for becoming despondent about a future in beef.
The intake of young bulls has been running at around half of last year’s level, and the prices on offer trail steer prices by 5c-10c/kg. The base for R-grade is 330c-335c/kg.
There are reports that processors are willing to give some latitude on price penalties for over-weight.
There has been slight hardening of cow prices, with the best of the R-grade cows hitting 290c-295c/kg for this week, and a few exceptions of finishers reporting up to 300c/kg secured for R-grade cows.
Prices for O-grade cows are in the ranging 260c-275c/kg range, while better quality P-grade cows are making up to 260c/kg, and prices range back to around 250c/kg.