Ample supplies of good quality forages coupled with a reduction in the value of feed barley have eased the fall in beef calf prices so many expected as the dire trade for prime cattle continues.

With beef farmers losing in excess of £200 per head on finished cattle with the fat trade some 50p per kg deadweight lower than it was this time last year, many were predicting complete disaster for the suckled calf sales and indeed breeding cattle sales.

However, with the good grass growing conditions continuing and a larger than expected UK cereal crop which hopefully will curtail barley prices from rising significantly from £110-£115 ex-farm, and the first of the suckled calf sales have held up better than expected.

"A lot of our sellers went home satisfied with the trade as it was not nearly as bad as they expected," said John Angus, auctioneer and head of livestock at Aberdeen and Northern Marts, following their first weaned calf sale at Thainstone.

"Weaned bullock and heifer calf averages levelled at 208.2p and 208.3p down 19.9p and 15.8p per kg respectively, which works out at about £70 per head back on the year, but, it was a good quality show of cattle and a credit to north-east producers, with 75% of entry made up of Charolais crosses.

"What has been noticeable at the sales at Thainstone and Quoybrae, is the fact that the number of farmers looking to buy cattle has been increasing every week, with a particularly good ringside of buyers forward for the weaned calves," said Mr Angus who also noted that heifers have been selling at much the same price as stot calves.

Such was the demand for weaned calves that several lots sold for more than £1000 and up to 250p and 257p for bullock and heifers respectively.

More surprising was the fact that breeding cattle prices have also held up well with the entry of cows and heifers with calves at foot at Thainstone on Tuesday cashing in at £2095 – down just £36.25 on the year.

"It's not a flying trade but it has sharpened over the past fortnight. It can't rise too much though because of the uncertainty in the market and the continued downturn in the fat trade," added Mr Angus.

United Auctions sale of 1092 suckled calves at Stirling on Monday, also saw bullocks and heifers average the same amount at 205.86p and 205.54p, respectively, again with several lots hitting four-figure prices. However steer calves were down 36p per kg, with heifers slipping 16p.

More notable is the fact that some vendors saw prices slightly up on the year at United Auctions' sale of weaned calves at Oban on Tuesday.

"Many of the wee calves sold similar on the year, and some of the longer keep, hill calves would have been slightly up on the year," said auctioneer Raymond Kennedy.

"Plainer, Luing-types were down, but it was a far better trade than many predicted," he added.

Lawrie and Symington's first show and sale of autumn-born calves at Lanark, on Tuesday also attracted a strong ringside of buyers with bullocks cashing in at 198p per kg and heifers at 190p, with entries back £60-£70 per head on the year.

"Most farmers were down on the year with heavy steers back the most," said Primrose Dunbar, head of cattle sales at Lawrie and Symington.

"We did have plenty of buyers though with Aberdeen Angus bullocks holding up the trade most," she added.

Getting down to the real nitty gritty, average prime steer prices in Scotland have dipped below the 340p per deadweight kg to 339.9p, with heifers down 1.0p to 340.3p, for the week ending September 28 – and that's for a reduction in numbers.

Average young bull and cow prices in Scotland are also down by 2.0p and 5.6p to 317.3p and 240.6p, respectively.