Do you know the true value of your livestock?

6th May 2011

There is a real air of optimism amongst livestock farmers, as spring arrives with summer like weather, the grass is growing, and prices for all categories of cattle and sheep are reaching unprecedented levels. The big question is do you really know what your livestock is worth?

The reality of "setting prices" in the UK deadweight sector is underpinned by the prices achieved at livestock markets and it is accepted by everyone that when supplies are tight any rise in live market prices is followed by an increase in the deadweight bid price. With nearly all abattoirs reviewing their bid price at the end of the week, for the following weeks kill, this means that the deadweight prices offered are always playing catch up to the live auction prices.

It is pleasing to note (EBLEX UK Market Survey Report) that many more prime beef feeders are starting to see the advantages of the live auction system, and the prices that it can deliver, with 6% more prime cattle being sold through the live auction sale ring in the first quarter of 2011 than sold in the same three month period in 2010. The number of cull cows sold through the live ring, during the same period, also rose dramatically, with beef bred breeds increasing by almost 50%. These increases are even more relevant when you add to them the fact that the national herd size continues to decline.

Last week we saw the best bred and fed prime heifers and steers regularly reach prices in excess of 200p/kilo liveweight, this being some 40p/kilo more than national average prices. If compared to the deadweight bid price this would be the equivalent to more than 25p/kilo deadweight.

Cull cows continue to increase in value, with the month of March seeing live auction prices increase to an average of 111.7p/kilo. Recent sales in April have seen market average prices reach levels over 120p/kilo, with the best continental cows regularly reach prices in excess of 160p/kilo, one LAA member market recently sold 11 British Blue cull cows to average 209.5p/kilo (£1,683 per head) to a top of 242p/kilo (£2,294). Dairy cull cows have also met a fast trade with well meated types selling to prices between 120p/kilo and 140p/kilo (in excess of £1000)

Although the UK is experiencing welcome price increases we are not alone, EU statistics show that many of the other 27 EU Member Countries are seeing price rises similar to ours, in fact our price rises are nearly exactly at the EU average level.

During the first quarter of this year some 1.5 million prime old season lambs were sold through the live auction system, with many vendors returning to the live ring to take advantage of the premium prices available for quality stock. Recent weeks have seen live market averages well in excess of £100 per head, for all categories, and the best fed and bred types selling to over 260p/kilo (&pound120 per head)

Cull ewes continue to meet a fast trade with all breeds, weights and finished condition selling to a full client base, and markets reporting sale averages of between £90 and £100 per head, with best types regularly selling to in excess of £130.

The live auction market is the only marketing system on offer in the UK that provides open, transparent and competitive bidding for your animals, and it is the only place where you can be assured of achieving a real market value for your livestock. If you have not recently experienced the benefits offered through using your local livestock market now has never been a better time to try. Even with the recent price increases we are all experiencing none of us can afford to under sell our produce.