Very hard to assess May availability

THERE is very little change in the beef trade this week as processors put a hold on prices, much to the disappointment of farmers expecting May to bring higher prices.

It is little consolation to those finishing cattle that the prices are just stable, having fallen by 6 to 9 cent per kg late in April.

In the southern counties, farmers are getting 336 to 339 cents/kg (120p or 121p/lb), or slightly more, for R grade steers. Farmers can add another 3 cent per kg (1p/lb) in the east and midlands, and up to 5 cent per kg in the north west.

The general run for O grade steers is 325 to 327 cent per kg in the south, a little more in the east and midlands, and a shade extra in the north west. Some processors are willing to pay up to 6 cents/kg (2p/lb) more for heifers. Others are offering 3 cents/kg (1p/lb) extra, and the remainder are trying to buy the heifers at the steer price.

Although the beef cattle supply is back nearly 4,000 head on this time last year, processors have shown no signs of pressure to get extra cattle. They appear to be playing it cool because they would have to lift prices if pushing for extra cattle. They are very conscious of the price critical weeks ahead, and of farmers’ legitimate expectations of stronger prices as the weeks progress and the supply tightens.

It is very difficult to assess how many cattle are available for the remainder of May and the early weeks of June, before any fat cattle come off grass. However, the market trend to date this year should strengthen the hand of farmers. A good sign of the general strength of the trade is strong prices continuing for cows. Up to 300 cent per kg (107p/lb) is being paid for O and P grade cows, while the better quality continental R grade cows command up to 308 cent (110p/lb), with some factories willing to pay a little extra.


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