Continued uncertainty in the market place plus reduced demand on the shop floor are not only hitting beef cattle farmers hard but also sheep and pig producers who are having to put up with ex-farm prices well down on the year. In the case of beef, it is as low as those in 2012.

Such has been the decline in beef values in recent weeks that an R3L steer is now valued at 353.8p per kg – some 40p per deadweight kg less than this time last year at 393.5p. That makes a 350kg steer worth £1238.30 – which is just shy of £140 less than the same animal sold the previous year at £1377.25. Add that up over a lorry load of 35 finished cattle and the same animals are valued at almost £5000 less than 2018 – and that's after huge increases in feed and forage costs over the past year.

Aberdeen-Angus producers have witnessed even bigger losses, with the same load of cattle some £9000 less than the end of June 2018, due to a fall in the premiums available for such cattle according to those in the know.

More worrying is the fact that while finished prices are continuing on their downward spiral, numbers slaughtered have also been down on previous weeks. Latest figures for the week ending June 29, show the average price for steers in Scotland slipped a penny on the week to 347.3p per deadweight kg, for 4.5% fewer, while the average heifer value dropped 2.9p to 348.8p with 6.1% less compared to the previous week.

Young bulls and cows also fell at 335.7p and 257.7p, down 5.7p and 4.9p, respectively, with cow numbers the only sector to increase on the week at plus 12.5%, while bull numbers fell 5.7%.

It has been a similar situation south of the Border, with the all average steer price of 325.6p revealing a 4.8p drop on the week for a 1.1% reduction in supplies, while heifer averages slipped 4p to 329.0p for an extra 1%.

Prices in Northern Ireland are also down, with a 350kg R3 steer worth £1186 compared to £1306 during the same week in 2018. However, they at least due cause for the fall in values, with supplies up 5.6% in the last 12 weeks compared to the same period in 2018, and the added issue of an increase in the average carcase weight from 334kg to 343.4kg.

This 9.4kg increase in the average carcase weight combined with the additional throughput has meant local plants have processed an extra 2150 tonnes of prime beef in Northern Ireland during the last 12 weeks compared to the same period last year.

Latest available slaughter figures for GB also indicate an increase in prime cattle throughput at 1.6% for the last 12 weeks, while carcase weights have risen marginally from 345.9kg in the 2018 period to 350.2kg in 2019.

Meanwhile, as traditionally happens at this time of year, increasing numbers of prime lambs on the market have seen the new season SQQ slip to 206p per live kg – below that of both 2018 and 2017, but 6p per kg above the five-year average for this time of year.

The mild spring and increased grass growth has also seen a rise in throughputs with numbers sold through the auction mart up a massive 19% on the year although those sold deadweight are down 1% on the same period last year.

Add to that the decline in pig values and so far, it has not been a good year for the livestock sector. According to the figures, AHDB estimates suggest that, on average, producers were losing £11 per pig sold (-13p per deadweight kg) in the first quarter of 2019 which is the most significant loss-making period since Q3 2012.

Pig prices declined steadily throughout the first quarter; the EU-spec APP stood at 143 p/kg, the lowest since 2016. Meanwhile, the average GB finished pig production cost remained at 156 p/kg.

This was the same as the second half of 2018, and the highest level since 2013 before this. Compared to the same period last year, costs were 12p/kg higher.

Pig production has been in a loss-making position for more than nine months now. Although prices have gained around 9p/kg since the end of March, assuming total production costs have remained similar, producers would still be losing around £4/head (-4p/kg).

On a brighter note, while demand for red meat appears to be slipping in the UK as an increasing number of consumers look to reduce their carbon footprint by eating less meat, an independent economic and market research consultancy firm has highlighted continued global demand for meat, particularly in the Asian and North American Markets.

According to a report from GIRA, the negative influence of increased media attention on the effects of meat production on the environment, is far outweighed by the growing import demand for meat in China over the last 6-7 years. This is expected to increase further due to the dramatic impact of African swine fever (ASF) on Chinese pork production.

The report stated that a strong decline in pork production in China will drive up domestic prices and increase import demand to a level which will absorb any surplus pork on the global market.

Pork consumption is forecast to decline in China as a result of reduced product availability and higher prices. This is expected to result in a demand transfer to other meats and proteins.

This product substitution will provide a boost to the Chinese poultry market and also result in a 5% increase rise in imports of beef and sheepmeat, Gira claims.

Hence, global trading of pork is forecast to increase by 1m tonnes to 9.1m tonnes – up 12.3% on the year. Meanwhile, global trading of beef is forecast to rise by 400,000 tonnes to 11m tonnes, up 3.7%.

Global exports for sheep meat which are dominated by dominated by Australia and New Zealand are forecast to hold steady at 1.1m tonnes in 2019.