Despite reduced supplies, the deadweight prime cattle markets remain relatively mixed, with the overall GB average up marginally by 1.0p per kg on the week, to 331.8p – down a massive 18.2p per kg on the year and 18.3p below the five-year average.

Latest figures for the week ending January 25, also show that cattle hitting the desired R3 and R4L specifications were down on the previous seven days with GB steers and heifers slipping 8p to 342.3p and 3p to 342.1p per kg, respectively.

This compares to the same graded cattle in Scotland which saw steers and heifers at 353.3p and 351.3p.

In contrast, young bull and cow values improved on the week with the GB average levelling at 312.0p (+8.3p) and 226.6p (+3.2p), compared to those in Scotland at 332.0p (+10.7p) and 242.2p (+2.7p).

Estimated slaughter was back by 4% on the week (-1300 head), with throughputs down almost 5% lower (-1600 head) on the same week last year. Cow throughputs were 100 head up on the week.

On a slightly more positive note, total beef sales were quite stable in terms of volume, for the 12 weeks to December 29, which includes the key Christmas period. According to the latest figures, sales slipped 1% on the same period last year, but with average retail prices lower, the total spend declined 2%.

Fresh/frozen beef sales volumes declined by 2%, driven by roasting joints and mince, although steaks were bolstered by 3.5% in volume on the back of a near 4% fall in average price.

Total lamb sales slipped 4% in volume compared to the same period last year, with prices 2% higher. Losses came from chops/steaks and leg roasting joints. Shoulder roasting volumes grew 5% while mince had weak growth of less than 1%.

Pig meat sales also fell during the same period, down 4.5% in volume although total spend remained stable with average prices up 4.5%.

Losses were driven by roasting joints and chops/steaks. Bacon sales continued to slide although there has been some growth in bacon from premium and health ranges.