The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Trade Talk - Bradley Towell – Prime cattle auctioneer McCartneys Worcester & Ludlow markets

7th March 2022

We live in a world of ever-increasing uncertainty. As an industry, farmers have adapted to the impacts of Brexit and overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19. Now more than ever the industry faces political disruption both nationally and on a global scale. The practical impacts on the livestock sector are the significant increases in the cost of inputs coupled with uncertain market prices for the finished product. How do farmers deal with this? They carry on demonstrating resilience and showing confidence in the market for British beef and lamb. This is evidenced by the strength of the store cattle trade in markets across the country with store cattle trade reaching new levels, seeing significant increases on the year.  

Despite the current challenges, farmers are being rewarded for well finished cattle in liveweight markets. Top-grade continental steers and heifers with good cover are regularly achieving 280ppk to 300ppk and above with prime cattle averaging in the 240ppk to 260ppk bracket each week. Prime bulls are in short supply in both store and prime markets and vendors are being rewarded with good returns from well fed bulls with good cover. Cull cows are again in very short supply which has increased demand nationally sending cow trade through the roof! It is not that long ago that farmers would be satisfied with a standard quality clean beast achieving 200ppk whereas now the best grade younger fed cows have smashed the 200ppk mark several times topping at 214ppk recently.  

With the significant increase in feed costs, I can appreciate the temptation to sell cattle earlier however a well-covered beast will always achieve higher returns per kilo as buyers will pay a premium for properly finished cattle. The temptation to sell leaner cattle should therefore be ignored and under finished cattle would be better placed in the store markets given the current demand.