Finished beef prices can take a bit of a knock in December if the processors have filled their bulk freezers for the festive period, but with reduced numbers on the ground, it is hoped current values can be maintained into the New Year.

While the All Scottish steer price slipped 3.1p per deadweight kg, last week to 495.1p, the All heifer, young bull, and cow values improved at 496.3p (+0.2p), 473.5p (+0.6p) and 334.1p (+2.0p), highlighting the growing demand for beef cattle on the run up to Christmas and the New Year.

Furthermore, with supplies finely balanced, particularly for clean cattle and values increasing in Ireland, Neil Shand, chief executive of the National Beef Association remains confident prices can be maintained.

"Beef prices have seen some real stability over the past five to six weeks and now that we've hit some cold weather that will help drive values. Not all Christmas stocks have been laid down and there is certainly no indication of price easing," said Mr Shand.

Prices are also being maintained south of the Border, with steers and heifers rising on the week in Southern, Central, and Northern areas. The latest figures point to All GB steer and heifer values of 481.6p and 477.7p, with young bulls and cows at 463.0p and 291.8p.

However, how long such prices can be maintained when values in Eire are significantly less is very much up for debate when the latest figures from LMC point to R4 steer prices of 462.0p in Northern Ireland; 406.2p in Eire and 500.4p in Scotland.

These compare to similarly graded heifers for the same week ending November 18, of 498.4p in Scotland; 414.5p in the Republic of Ireland, and 460.5p in NI.

There remains less of a difference in the cow trade with O3 grades at 339.3p in Scotland, 331.3p in the Republic, and 310.6p in NI.