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AHDB Cattle and Sheep Weekly

02 March 2015

EBLEX Cattle and Sheep Weekly - 2 March 2015EBLEX Cattle and Sheep Weekly - 2 March 2015

Cattle trade remains steady

Following some slight easing in the trade over the past couple of weeks, in week ending 21 February deadweight cattle prices were relatively flat compared with the week earlier. With the number of steers and heifers coming forward little changed on the week and young bull throughputs lower, support in the market has continued to be influenced by the fine balance between supply and demand. The overall GB prime cattle average price was unchanged on the week earlier at 359.8p/kg. At around 360p/kg at this time of the year, average prime cattle prices compare favourably to prices achieved during February in previous years. While steers and heifers may be trading slightly below last year’s price levels, they still remain notably ahead of the five-year average for the early part of the year.

For another week, demand for cheaper cuts of beef has helped to maintain strength on the cow market. In the latest week, with robust demand for better fleshed cows, most likely from the suckler herd, average cow prices increased for the fourth week in a row, being up 8p on the week to 234.3p/kg. With trade demonstrating robust demand at the moment, despite the strengthening of sterling against the euro, reports suggest producers are still adding finish to those cows that they are able to in order to take advantage of the better prices on offer.

Uplift in steer numbers slows down in January

UK prime cattle slaughterings in January were up just 1% on the year at 182,300 head. Higher steer throughputs in all regions of the UK continued to drive the year-on-year increase, although heifer numbers were also above year earlier levels in Northern Ireland. While steer throughputs are still tracking significantly above year-earlier levels, the year-on-year uplift has appeared to slow. In England and Wales, the increase was just 5%. This represents the first sub-10% increase since September last year. For another month, young bull throughputs were significantly back on the year as the impact of increased castrations continues to have a bearing on the overall slaughter mix.

Overall, adult cattle throughputs were up across all the regions of the UK. While trade has continued to be firm, especially for cows of beef origin, it is possible that the challenges in the dairy sector could, for another month, have led to an increase the number of cows coming forward.

Carcase weights have started the year up on last year’s levels. Combined with increased throughputs, this means that, at 84,000 tonnes, beef and veal production in January was up 2% year on year.

Lamb trade continues to edge up

With prices at GB auction marts tracking just above last year’s position, the lamb trade has continued to demonstrate a degree of positivity over the past week. In week ended 25 February, the SQQ was up 2p on the week at 191.8p/kg. Since the turn of the year the SQQ has moved within a fairly narrow range as the trade appears to have been very finely balanced, with only small changes in throughputs having an effect on prices. With moderately fewer lambs forward every day this week so far (Monday to Wednesday), the SQQ has levelled each day around 192p/kg, between 1p and 5p up on the same three days last week.

In week ended 21 February, the deadweight SQQ edged up another penny to average 425.7p per kg. With Easter on the horizon, deadweight lamb prices have hit a sevenmonth high point, mirroring the robustness in the liveweight trade. This is likely a result of strong domestic demand as well firm export demand, which is somewhat promising in light of a stronger exchange rate between sterling and the euro.

Lamb slaughterings up again in January

At 1.14 million head, UK lamb slaughterings in January were 8%, up on the year. This continues to support the industry’s expectation of a notably bigger lamb crop this production season. With more lambs having been carried over into the first quarter of this year, January represents the tenth consecutive month in which throughputs have been higher year on year. In the June to January period, lamb slaughterings are now up around 500,000 head on the same period in the 2013/14 production year. Notably, the uplift was entirely as a result of an increase in lamb slaughterings in England and Wales. With the lower impetus to reduce breeding flock sizes continuing, UK adult sheep slaughterings in January were again lower on the year, being back 24% at 140,000 head.

Clean sheep carcase weights have been well above seasonal norms last year, with many months having the highest average in the last seven years. This has come as seasonal conditions have generally been favourable, with forage availability high this year, while prices for bought in feed have also been relatively low. Combined with the increased lamb throughputs, the continued higher weights in January offset the lower adult kill and production was up 3% on the year at 26,300 tonnes.

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