Cattle and Sheep Weekly
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Cattle and Sheep Weekly

29 October 2021

Prime prices rise, but continual decline in cow prices

Despite a few weeks of minor declines, the GB all prime average cattle price continues to sit at, or around, 410p/kg. This week’s price, for the week ending 23 October, lifted 1.5p compared with the previous week to sit at 409.2p/kg. The rise has reversed the small drops seen over the last fortnight. The premium over the same week last year continues to sit above 40p, at 41.9p/kg.
Prices were largely on the rise across the board, although the overall young bull prices saw a minor decline this week, down 0.1p to 397.3p/kg. The overall heifer price increased strongly, up 2.6p to 409p/kg.

As we move further into the Christmas kill period, estimated kill rose slightly again to 31,300 head, although continues to be low for the time of year. Labour shortages are reported to be limiting throughputs rather than demand or cattle availability.

Cow prices have moved in the opposite direction, continuing their fall, and dropping 2.3p on the week to 265.3p/kg. That’s the tenth consecutive week of declines and means prices are now 10% down on the highs recorded back in mid August. High feed prices as we move into the winter housing period is likely to mean cow availability is high. Processor demand for cows is likely to remain lower until Christmas prime kill is finished.

Lamb trade remains strong

Lamb prices continue to reflect the tight supplies that have come forward in the season so far. As has been the case for the past couple of months, prices on both liveweight and deadweight markets have remained at an unusually high level in the latest week. The GB liveweight SQQ in week ended 27 October averaged 239.70p/kg, over 5p higher than the week before. The increase was consistent throughout the week. With a smaller lamb crop in the England census data, this may suggest that trade could continue to see strong prices this season.
In the week ended 23 October, the GB deadweight SQQ increased very marginally on the week, gaining just under 2p to average 529.9p/kg. The liveweight trade over the same period also generally saw little change in prices achieved.
The number of lambs being marketed remains low. In the week ended 27 October, the number of lambs being penned in auction markets totalled 112,000, 4% lower than the previous week. Estimated slaughter in the week ended 23 October totalled 258,000 head, a 3% increase on the week before.

How are our beef market forecasts shaping up?

Back in July, we published our beef market outlook (part of our wider Agri Market Outlook), in which we produced short-term forecasts for production, imports, exports and consumption. Three months on, let’s see how our forecasts are shaping up.

Slaughter and production

In our outlook, we forecast that UK beef production would fall in 2021, compared to 2020, by around 4%. Slaughter of prime cattle and cows were each forecast to fall by 4% compared to a year ago. This was based on cattle population data from both Defra and the British Cattle Movement Service, as well as forecast lower beef consumption.

So far, our forecasts appear to be largely in-line with current figures. Defra production data show that in the year to September, beef production was indeed 4% lower year-on-year at 667,000 tonnes. Within this, prime cattle slaughter was also 4% lower at 1.5 million head.

So far this year, not as many cows have come forward as we’d forecast. Defra figures show 457,000 cows were processed between January and September (inclusive), which is 6% lower year-on-year.

Imports and exports

In July, we forecast that UK beef imports would fall slightly from 2020, by around 0.4%. Exports were forecast to fall by around 8% year-on-year. Factors behind this included disruption to trade flows post-Brexit, disruption to demand due to the pandemic, and lower production forecasts for both the UK and Europe, with Ireland being of particular interest. Volumes were expected to increase as the year progressed, as COVID-19 restrictions eased, demand began to return to typical levels and traders got to grips with the new trading landscape.

At the moment, we only have trade data to August. So far, trade figures show that both imports and exports are still considerably lower than they were for the same period a year ago (circa -11% and -19% respectively, CWE*). However, throughout the year, volumes for both imports and exports have generally been on an upward trend versus the same months in 2020.
So, what next?

We will be publishing our next round of sector outlooks in January. In the meantime, you can
read our current outlooks, which include a longer-term focus on the environment.

News in brief

Feed Update: Tight global wheat supply and demand continues to strengthen UK ex-farm feed wheat prices. Rapeseed and rapemeal prices also continued to strengthen in October, despite easing soyabean prices.

We’re likely to see
changes to the amount of each grain fed to animals in 2021/22. This is due to price changes for those grains compared to last season.

What will a trade deal with New Zealand mean for UK agriculture?

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns saw UK citizens improve their food management behaviours, which reduced household food waste. However, since restrictions have been removed, household food waste has increased and is now back in line with 2018 levels.

In the latest videos,
Hannah Clarke talks about the UK beef market, focusing on prices and production, while Rebecca Wright talks about trends for the British lamb industry.


Meet the team

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