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AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

22 December 2014

EBLEX Cattle and Sheep Weekly 19 December 2014EBLEX Cattle and Sheep Weekly 19 December 2014

Cattle Weekly

Cattle trade still fairly robust

As the year draws to a close, the cattle trade appears to be demonstrating some stability. In week ended 13 December, despite procurement for Christmas being over, the GB average deadweight price edged up a fraction to 353.5p/kg. Reports suggest that there is still robust competition in the market for consignments of cattle fitting supermarket specification. Despite carrying high stocks into the holiday period, processors are looking to ensure they have adequate supplies of product to meet their retail commitments into the New Year. With AHDB/ EBLEX slaughtering estimates indicating that throughputs of steers remained well ahead of year earlier levels, the fact that farmgate prices have held up could indicate somewhat better consumer demand.

Following last week’s modest uplift in the cow trade and with the regular Christmas slowdown on the horizon, the more positive climate continued for another week. At 226.3p/kg in the latest week, another penny was added to the -04L average price. The cow market across the EU has been under some pressure recently - prices have fallen sharply this autumn. This has largely been led by developments in France, both in terms of production and consumption, but the Russian ban on EU agricultural products in August has also had an impact. In the UK, prices have held up a little better than in other member states. In early December, prices in the UK had fallen around 6% over the past three months, while in France they were down 13%. Consequently, the price discount for UK cows, compared to French ones, has narrowed to below €10 per 100 kg. In the summer it was around €30 and last autumn was over €50.

Beef production higher again

UK prime cattle slaughterings in November were up 3% on the year at 161,900 head. Yet again, this increase was mainly driven by a rise in steer slaughterings in all regions of the UK. Throughputs were up 14% on the year at 84,300 head. However, in a turnaround from recent months, heifer throughputs were also higher, up 2% year on year at 62,600 head. Mitigating this increase to some extent, young bull slaughterings were again significantly down on the year earlier. At 15,000 head, this represented a decline of around one third on November 2013. Throughputs of adult cattle were back just 1% to 57,200 head, largely driven by fewer cows forward during the month. After a year of improved conditions, carcase weights for all classes of prime cattle have been consistently higher this year. With November no exception to this, coupled with higher prime cattle throughputs, beef and veal production was up 3% on the year at 74,000 tonnes.

Sheep Weekly

Seasonal strength in the lamb market

In a change to the position on the run in to Christmas over the past couple of years, the lamb trade has found considerable support in the last two months. Prices have moved up from the low point in late September to be at the highest point recorded at this time of year since the record highs of 2011. In week ended 17 December, the SQQ at GB auction marts averaged 181.7p/kg. Although back on the week before, when prices were inflated by the Christmas shows and sales, the SQQ is now consistently tracking ahead of year earlier levels and has moved up around 35p/kg since September.


With more lambs being slaughtered, demand has been much better than in recent years. The cull ewe market has also performed well. With the latest week averaging £72 per head, returns were around £20 per head up on late September. The deadweight trade has followed the same trajectory as the liveweight trade, also demonstrating a return to some seasonal uplift. In week ended 13 December, at 422.7p/kg, the SQQ was up 13p on the week and has now moved up 65p/kg in the past 12 weeks.

Significantly more lambs slaughtered in November

At 1.17 million head, UK lamb slaughterings in November were significantly ahead of year earlier levels. The increase follows lower than expected year-on-year uplifts between August and October. Reports suggest that, although forage supplies have been abundant this year, quality may have been relatively poor. This means that lambs have been slow to finish, constraining growth through the middle of the season. This level of throughputs continues to support the expectation of a notably bigger lamb crop this year, with the November increase representing the eighth consecutive month in which throughputs have been higher year on year.


Consequently, in the June to November period, lamb slaughterings are now up 5%, or over 350,000 head, on year earlier levels. With less impetus to reduce breeding flock sizes and against a backdrop of high cullings last year, UK adult sheep slaughterings in November were again lower on the year, being back 19% at 134,000 head. Despite this drop, in terms of production levels, this did not mitigate the notable increase in lamb slaughterings and higher carcase weights. As such, sheep meat production was up 6% on the year at 26,200 tonnes.

Season’s Greetings

Everyone involved with Cattle and Sheep Weekly would like to wish our readers a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. We will not be publishing Cattle and Sheep Weekly over the holiday period. The next edition will be published at the normal time on 9 January 2015.

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