Young bulls are often perceived as producing beef of lesser quality to that of steers or heifers, but nothing could be further from the truth south of the Border, where such animals regularly command top prices.

In Scotland, most of the major processors penalise young bulls for being over 16 months of age and more than 400kg deadweight, but there is almost a premium paid for heavy young bulls sold through the live ring in England.

At Darlington Auction Mart, market manager and head auctioneer, Scott Ferrie, told The Scottish Farmer, an increasing number of Scottish producers from as far away as Aberdeenshire, Fife and the Borders are sending cattle down as a result of the higher demand for such animals

"We are really lucky down here as we will regularly have 17 independent buyers forward for our prime cattle sales who are all looking to supply different markets to include independent butchers, halal and a large amount of the catering trade, so the majority of our bulls sold are 700kg plus and a good number at 850-900kg," said Mr Ferrie.

"Last week we sold 128 prime bulls to a top price of 240p per kg or £1926 per head, with the overall average working out at 206p per kg with a lot of weight on display."

He added that one run of 20 bulls from the same home sold to average £1757 or 219p per kg with an average weight of 800kg.

The previous week, Mr Ferrie said black and white bulls were "absolutely off the clock" with a 722kg British Blue selling for 254p per kg or £1833 while a 769kg British Blonde sold for 252p to top the sale at £1937.

In contrast, young bulls sold deadweight in Scotland have been on the downward spiral with the latest figures showing an average value of 362.9p, down almost 5p per deadweight kg on the previous week. This compares to steers which averaged 388.3p, down 1.4p and heifers at 389.1p, up almost half a penny.

All cattle and indeed sheep are nevertheless well up on the year, according to Colin Slessor, deputy head of livestock, who was speaking at a Farming Breakfast webinar ahead of the Aberdeen Christmas Classic Fatstock show and sale on Wednesday/Thursday.

With cattle numbers remaining tight, he said cull cows, which had slipped over the past few month were still £70-£80 per head up on the year. However, Mr Slessor anticipates values to rise in January as more people look for cheaper cuts.

Prime cattle he said were about £100 per head up on the year and store and suckled calves are selling for £120-£140 more on the same period in 2019.

The sheep trade he said had been equally buoyant with the average price of prime lambs at present being £96 per head which is a rise of £13 on the same time last year, with all categories of breeding sheep up a massive 21%.

Mr Slessor added that much of these improved values had been achieved by ensuring the live auction remained in operation during lockdown, with Aberdeen and Northern Marts' Thainstone Centre having since modernised and improved the system with a real time live auction with on-line bidding.

"I am passionate about the live auction system and keeping that competitive edge where others don't, so we were determined to keep our live auctions going when lockdown was introduced at the end of March.

"I'm also extremely proud of the real time live auction webcam with on line bidding we have developed here with two webcams showing excellent pictures for potential buyers who cannot attend the sales. We are now selling 100s of cattle a week this way alongside our live auctions and thousands of sheep. It is proving a real plus for buyers and sellers who cannot attend the sales but can still view and buy on line," concluded Mr Slessor.