Store cattle prices are strengthening, with numbers sold through auction markets lower than a year ago.
Prime cattle prices have shown some strengthening but only to the extent that the year-on-year shortfall has reduced to about 4 per cent compared to the decline of 8-12 per cent in autumn 2019.
Stuart Ashworth, director of economic services at QMS, said: “During December, English and Welsh abattoirs handled 3 per cent more prime cattle than a year earlier but the Scottish kill was unchanged.
“Calf registration data from 2018 suggests the availability of prime cattle will tighten during 2020. Early indications of this come from the number of store cattle being traded through auction markets.”
Over the past quarter the number of store cattle had tightened, particularly in January with throughputs 5 per cent lower but with significantly higher reductions in male store cattle.
“Throughputs of younger heifers are the only age group to show an increase on last year,” added Mr Ashworth.
Store steers are currently trading at about 3-4 per cent higher than a year ago, while heifer prices have strengthened by 6-7 per cent.
Where available prices are quoted in pence per kilo, they show a similar increase to per head price which would suggest the weight and condition of store cattle is similar to last year and the main contributor to this strengthening in price is stock availability.
“Store cattle volume in January is, however, some of the lowest in the year and volumes build quickly through February to a seasonal peak in April,” said Mr Ashworth.
“Despite the level of reduction in the number of store cattle sold in January, the prospect remains one of continued tightness of store cattle in the market this spring."