The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Trade Talk – Greg Christopher, Livestock Auctioneer, Sunderlands, Hereford Market and Builth Market

29th April 2022

Like all commodity prices at present beef and lamb are trading at very good levels. The beef trade at present is the dearest we have seen, prices for cull cows are at record levels with very strong export demand for manufacturing beef. This has been passed on into the clean cattle and therefore is reflected in the current store trade.

In Hereford Market last Thursday 21st April we saw just over 1050 head of stores sold. A huge ring full of purchasers looking to source cattle with many traditional grazing purchasers combined with the larger yarding cattle finishers.

Prices are exceptional however the ever-rising cost of wheat, fuel and fertiliser is in the back of purchasers minds. The price gap between the very best and plainer sorts is ever widening, with the old saying cheaper to feed a good one as a bad one never more evident.

Prices for store cattle topped at £1760 with stronger cattle all trading £1450 to £1700. Like when all commodities start to go short, previous restrictions like weight can become less of an issue as processers become short of supplies. It was only a few months previous that very few finished cattle would be returning producers over £1700.

Smart steers and heifers seeing these 300-370p, with prices being buoyed by strong sales of butcher types in live rings. We had a smaller entry of 35 Barren Cows, these averaged 205p/kg and £1232/head with the better cows over £1400 topping at £1695. The cows would be £100 to £150/head dearer than 12 months ago.

Last Friday 22nd April we had a huge entry of just shy of 5000 sheep in Builth Market, remarkable considering that at the same point in 2020 the Market under previous ownership shut for just over 3 months - nearly 3200 finished hoggs and 1600 cull ewes.

Hogg trade is very good although not at quite the same high as last year but the second highest we have seen. The well-bred and meated hoggs trading £125 to £136.80, plenty would be £130 to £135 with strong demand for hoggs from 35 to 48kg, both from export and home trade firms.

Demand has built in the last week for the end of the month of Ramadan on the 2nd May. The sheep trade in the last few years is being more and more under-pinned by the demand from the Ethnic market. Nearly 1500 lightweight hoggs with the smarter cross bred types 285-305p/kg, the hill types would see plenty trading £80 to £95/head.

We have seen a larger numbers of hoggs since Christmas compared to 2021, this increased number has kept trade to lower levels than 2021. The cull ewe trade remains the highlight of the sheep sector with the best Purebred Texels and Suffolk Ewes from £180 to £220. The strongest hill ewes trading £110 to £135. Unlike the hoggs the ewes have seen fewer numbers compared to 2021 and has resulted in the prices we are currently witnessing.

Going forward escalating feed prices is on everyone’s minds, we have seen excellent spring weather and would guess to plenty of lambs being born and turned out. Sheep producers will be in two minds as to creep feed lambs this summer. My advice is to continue with what you would normally do as under finished lambs will only undermine the sheep trade. We could see a premium for weight and meat as we head into the summer months if many producers decide to run lambs on grass alone.