PRIME beef cattle prices are again on the slide with the continued wet weather forcing more producers to cash in their cattle off grass, rather than finish them inside on feed and costly straw.
Latest figures show values well down on the week again, with the overall steer price in Scotland falling another 6.3p per deadweight kg, to level at 378.7p, while heifers dropped 5.1p to cash in at 380.8p as numbers coming through the system increased 8.2% and 4.7%, respectively.
It’s a similar situation south of the Border, with steers in England and Wales falling almost 4p to level at 354.3p, with heifers remaining on a par at 357.1p.
However, with overall cattle numbers expected to remain finely balanced on the run up to the festive period, many in the know are of the opinion that prime cattle prices will improve next month.
“More cattle are being pushed through the system just now because of the bad weather, which has not only resulted in higher numbers of cattle being sold but also more unfinished cattle which are pulling down overall averages,” said Scott Donaldson, sales director at Harrison and Hetherington. 
“Instead of bringing cattle inside to finish when straw is so expensive and difficult to find, producers are selling their cattle straight off grass which is of poorer quality with the wet weather.”
On a more positive note, however, Mr Donaldson said it is unlikely the prices will continue to head south on the run up to Christmas due to the shortage of cattle in the system and the reduced carcase weights demanded by the abattoirs which in turn reduces overall volumes.
It was a point echoed by Alan Hutcheon, prime cattle auctioneer at Aberdeen and Northern Marts’ Thainstone Centre, in Inverurie, who said that cattle sold through the live ring have remained unchanged over the past few weeks and continue to sell at 235-240p per kg.
“A lot of the abattoirs are already looking to get stocked up for Christmas, so I really don’t expect cattle values to continue dropping as there are just not the cattle about," pointed Mr Hutcheon.
“What we have seen in recent weeks, is a slight glut in supplies after the harvest due to finishers looking to ‘tidy up’ before bringing their cattle inside to finish,” he added.
Strangely, while clean cattle numbers have increased in recent weeks, the supply of young bulls and cows for slaughter is well down on the week, and so too are their prices.
Latest figures for the week ending October 21, point to Scottish young bull values slipping 7.8p on the week to level at 358.5p per dwkg, for 8.7% fewer, with cow prices at 261.9p, falling 4p, with 4% less in the system.
This is compared to bull and cow prices in England and Wales, which saw the latter types averaging 328.9p – which is down 12.4p at the same time as numbers were down 3.7%. Young bull prices, at 230.8p, fell 1.5p with numbers down 1.5%.