Cattle prices exceed averages and expectations

Beef cattle prices in England and Wales have hit the milestone of £4/kilo, making this average the highest on record in a number of years.

The average deadweight price for steers for the week ending April 24, was 401.4p/kg, which is 83p higher than this time last year, and 67p above the five-year average.

Market cattle prices at present are being influenced by a number of unique factors, including strong UK domestic retail demand, a lack of supply due to stockpiling in late-2020 ahead of the Brexit deadline, and changes in trade patters caused by both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the impact of these factors on demand for beef in 2021 is unpredictable, newly released data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that no radical shift is likely in the supply of animals over the coming months.

During 2020, total calf registrations in the UK were up marginally (0.5%) on 2019. In Wales, the figures show an increase of 1.4% in beef calf registrations, while dairy calf numbers increased by 3.2% on the year. For 2021 so far, beef calf registrations are currently trending 1.1% below last year.

Glesni Phillips, a data analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), said:

“As we approach the peak calving period for spring calving herds in Wales, it is expected that monthly registration figures will increase over the coming months.

However, the suckler cow herd in the UK has been retracting in recent years and currently, it shows no signs of rebuilding quickly. Prime heifer slaughterings during 2020 and the first quarter of this year, for instance, are higher than recent historic levels.

“These figures would suggest that supply onto the domestic UK market will likely remain tight for some time.

“Domestic retail figures for beef are strong, and with barbeque season coming up we should continue to see good demand for good quality, locally produced beef,” Glesni concluded.