January is never the best month to sell primestock, but the first couple of weeks of 2021 are certainly proving a lot better than expected for both cattle and sheep with prices significantly up on the year in both sectors.

This time last year, deadweight cattle prices in Scotland were hovering around the 340-345p per deadweight kg, whereas 2021 opened with a bang with values at least 30p per kg up on the same time in 2020 and rising. Prices at abattoirs this week have in the main risen 5-10p per deadweight kg with Kepak’s McIntosh Donald plant at Portlethen increasing values by as much as 15p.

Latest figures for the week ending January 9, show steers sold in Scotland levelled at 379.3p, with heifers at 380.3p, with those hitting the spec averaging 384p in both sections. Add on this week’s 5-15p per dwkg rise, and prices are fast approaching the £4 per deadweight kg.

Young bulls worked out at 259.2p and cull cows at 253.2p. Those hitting ‘spec averaged 373p and 277p per kg, respectively.

“There is not an abundance of fat cattle around and there certainly aren’t the backlogs at abattoirs we’ve seen in previous years at this time,” said John Roberts, director at United Auctions, Stirling.

“Finished cattle prices are significantly higher than what they were this time last year, which coupled another rise in the deadweight weight trade is adding confidence to all sectors of the market.”

He added that the new Covid-19 lockdown, which although extremely depressing, had in fact bolstered trade with more people looking to buy beef and lamb locally. And, with restaurants and hotels closed, people were choosing better quality cuts and buying more than normal to cook at home.

A rise in the finished trade is boosting store cattle values too which are continuing on the strong theme they ended on last year, with many centres witnessing price rises of 20-25p per kg on January 2020 when both the fat and the store market was pretty depressed.

“The store cattle market is not that much dearer than the backend of 2020 which finished on a high note, but they are up on the year,” said Scott Donaldson, joint managing director at Harrison and Hetherington.

“We’ve not sold many store cattle so far this year, but prices at Kirkby Stephen on Monday saw bullocks up £100 per head with heifers rising £130 on the same sale last year.

“All the abattoirs put their prices up this week which combined with more people buying locally, is all helping to bump up the trade. We normally see butchers cut down on their purchases in January by one beast per week, but that isn’t happening this year and the pre-Christmas momentum appears to be continuing,” he said.

Cull cow values, which normally rise at this time of year are also selling well with the export market trade apparently unaffected by the UK officially leaving the EU.

Meanwhile, despite finished beef prices being significantly lower in 2019 and early 2020, JW Galloway, one of Scotland’s largest meat processors has posted a 48% drop in profits as a result of ongoing preparations for exports to the continent after the UK’s transition period from the EU on December 31, 2020.

The family owned business which owns Scotbeef, Vivers Scotland and Scotbeef Inverurie, posted pre-tax profits of £4.372m for the 53 weeks to March 1, 2020. This compares to £8.398m for the same period ending February 24, 2019.

The group which employs on average 1175 staff throughout the year, saw a turnover of £384.452m – a rise of 4.5% on the year. Sales within the UK were £334.993m, up 4% with exports rising £2.569m, to £39.459m.