The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Trade Talk- Giles A Drew

15th July 2015

It appears that the beef trade has taken a turn for the better, after another trying time for finishers.

Prospects in the short term look brighter, with fewer numbers expected and a small improvement in demand; with any luck the summer months should bring some “barbeque weather” which should further increase demand.

A good number of cattle sold over the last few months will have shown very little in return, having been bought on a very strong trade, where there is always good healthy competion.

Unfortunately there is not such good competition at the slaughter end of the market, where some abattoirs and the supermarkets have appeared hell bent on driving the price down as far as possible.

Prices need to improve to a sensible level without getting out of hand, possibly need to reach somewhere in the region of 370-380ppkg deadweight.

As I write we are still busy for the time of year and store cattle numbers are holding up well with producers taking advantage of the excellent returns. As prime beef trade has improved and numbers are traditionally short at this time of year both factors fuelling demand.

This week (Tuesday 7th June) we had one of the best prime beef trades of this year with butcher’s heifers regularly breaking 250ppk and four beasts over 260ppk while a further two eclipsed 270ppk. Commercial cattle were also much better to sell and both bullocks & heifers were in demand. Numbers are tight nationally and whilst this is the case the livestock market is the place to sell cattle with end users all fighting to secure numbers. Bulls were out in numbers with 113 forward and trade again was improved on the week, we sell a large proportion of black & white bulls these especially saw an improved trade topping at 187ppk for a pure dairy bred bull. Continental bulls were also excellent to sell topping at £1467 or 216ppk another thing to note is that we are currently not experiencing any penalties for over 16 month bulls.

The beef trade is somewhat improved from 6 weeks ago when major abattoirs had slashed prices week on week and cattle were heading towards 300ppk Deadweight. It is nice to see we have a loyal contingent of both sellers and buyers at Northallerton. I strive to keep trade as good as possible as do all auctioneers for producers in difficult times, which is not always the case for all outlets available. 

The prime sheep have been frustrating to sell all year with large quantities of hoggs on the market and a weak Euro hampering exports, recent added pressure in the form of French ferry workers striking and immigrants trying to enter the UK are not helping an already fragile trade.

Our sheep throughput is up on the year and whilst lamb trade has become sticky in recent weeks. If lambs are fit I urge producers to sell a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and £65-£75 for a lamb now dependant on weight and quality, may look a good end come the autumn with additional keep and costs added lambs will need to be £10 a head more to stand still. Ewes have been very good to sell all spring however trade has eased back slightly since Ramadan commenced and numbers increased. As with the lamb’s ewes need to be meat but not fat, ewes are currently £10-20 less if over fat and this should be considered before marketing.

The summer breeding sheep and store lamb sales will soon be upon us and it will be interesting to see how trade kicks off. Farmers always seem to have a little more optimism than prime buyers and hopefully this will reflect when they make their purchases this season.

By Giles A Drew BSc (Hons) FLAA FAAV 

Market Manager, Auctioneer & Rural Professional at Northallerton Auctions Ltd, North Yorkshire