Beef industry chiefs have pointed to prospects of a difficult year after deadweight prices saw three consecutive weeks of decline to open the calendar year.
The end of last year saw several processors introducing changes to specifications on cattle, while the trade also failed, on the whole, to receive a seasonal price boost.
In the week ending January 23, the GB all prime cattle price fell slightly more than 1p/kg to 328.5p/kg. Prices are about 35p/kg back on last year.
AHDB’s Debbie Butcher said: “Following a notable absence of the traditional pre-Christmas price uplift, a general malaise has been evident in the cattle trade as the New Year has got underway.
“By the week ending January 23, the deadweight prime cattle trade had eased each week since the turn of the year and, at 328.5p/kg, the all prime average price has fallen almost 6p/kg over the past three weeks.”
AHDB said beef production could be set to rise again this year and there could also be an influx of Irish animals, suggesting it could be a ‘difficult road ahead’ for cattle over the next few months.
Robert Venner, auctioneer at Greenslade Taylor Hunt, said prices had eased off slightly at the auction mart.
He said: “January started very well, probably better than the pre-Christmas trade. It has reverted back to a typical January and yesterday trade eased off a bit.”
Mr Venner said the mart was seeing people coming back to the live trade due to increasing restrictions on movements and other rules.
He said good quality cattle were selling at 180-200p/kg liveweight which was down on last year. Mr Venner added the store market was currently strong compared to the finished cattle trade.
He added: “I think it is just tight numbers. There are not many other markets getting big numbers.”
Mr Venner claimed good feeding steers with three to four months to finish were about £1,150, while fleshed animals which were not far from finished were trading at £1,200-£1,370.