In the run up to Christmas, both prime and store cattle prices have continued to rise on the week – and should continue upwards in the coming weeks.

According to AHDB, deadweight prices across all sections jumped significantly on the week. R4L steers hit 390.1p per kg, up a whopping 10p, with heifers cashing in at 388.5p, again up 10.3p on the week. It didn’t stop there – R3 young bulls and O+4L cows also took a rise on the week, hitting 374.5p (+11.9p) and 268.1p (+8.1p), respectively.

Although the hospitality industry is struggling because of Covid-19 restrictions, butchers and retailers are holding the price up, with more people cooking at home, as well as the traditional start to the Christmas rush.

QMS’ director of economic services, Stuart Ashworth, said: “Cattle supply has been tight, which has enabled prices to remain firm. We are now on the run up to Christmas and we would normally expect a lift in trade towards the end of November, early December, due to the hanging time butchers allow for beef to mature for the Christmas and New Year trade.

“The impact of lockdown and the new tier system has seen the hospitality sector struggle, so that means we require beef animals not to be too big to produce the right size of joint for cooking at home, as there will be no big Christmas parties. This means the majority of the trade will be coming from butchers and retailers and they don’t want huge joints.

“The ultimate building block for the producer price comes from the spending power of consumers and if people are tighter for money, we need to hope they have that splash out at Christmas, after all they are at the top of the pyramid when it comes to paying for the farmers products,” warned Mr Ashworth.

“Overall, we wouldn’t expect beef trade to fall at this time of year. Processors need to manage their orders and although there might not be the full traditional Christmas premium yet, the beef trade is well up on the year and is in a good place to be sitting on the run up to the festive period,” concluded Mr Ashworth.

Further north, John Angus, auctioneer and head of livestock at Aberdeen and Northern Marts, agreed that clean cattle prices were holding up well, though cull cows seem to seasonally slip at this time of year, he pointed out.

“The beef industry is certainly in a better place than at this time last year. There seems to be more people eating beef, with perhaps having more time to buy it and cook it, as well as no one jetting off on holiday.

“The store ring is in a strong place. Cattle have been looking well, with the weather being in their favour this summer and will be sitting up 25p per kg on the year after October. Our main spring-born calf sale was £95 per head up on the year, with our breeding cattle also doing very well and our most recent sale of 616 in-calf heifers averaged just under £1900, which was up £254 on the year,” added Mr Angus.

“The cull cow price has been struggling. There have been a lot more forward, perhaps with people putting away their empty cows but the demand is just not there,” concluded Mr Angus.

Managing director at Caledonian Marts, John Kyle, had also witnessed a rise in beef prices on the year and believed it would continue for some weeks.

“The live trade is holding up well. Prices have remained steady for a month now. The number of fat cattle getting killed has dropped on the year, so it is holding up the trade via supply and demand,” said Mr Kyle. Caledonian Marts had prime heifers and bullocks averaging 220p per kg and 227p at its recent prime sale.

“As for store cattle, they have been gradually getting dearer and continue on that upward climb, which is unusual for the time of year – usually you tend to see a drop in price after August.

“The cost of keeping stores is lower as the price of hay and silage is not too dear. Buyers have been buying on this strength, as well as the confidence in the prime trade which has stabilised the trade.

“The demand will stay. Butchers are buying more than normal just now with it being the run up to Christmas, so it is normally a good run for beef producers,” added Mr Kyle.

Across the Border and with England in a national lockdown, beef prices have also sharpened, according to Harrison and Hetherington’s prime cattle auctioneer, Grant Anderson.

“Prime beef has continued to witness a rise on the year, with plenty of demand coming through the ring. The deadweight has already started to see an increase for the Christmas trade.

“There hasn’t been the numbers forward for clean cattle, which is allowing the trade to remain strong. People have maybe also killed them sharper because the price was good.

“More people seem to be eating beef in the UK as well. I believe it is going to be a good six to eight weeks for beef producers on the run up to Christmas,” said Mr Anderson. At Carlisle, prime cattle were up £100-£120 per head and store cattle had risen £150 per head on the year.

He added: “Although Brexit is still looming in the background it is too early to see the outcome, I would like to think beef will remain strong throughout,” concluded Mr Anderson.