Livestock farmers are enjoying new highs for finished old season lambs, store and finished cattle but in sharp contrast, arable growers are witnessing tumbling prices eroding confidence just as seed drills are being prepared for a busy planting season.

This week, finished hoggs jumped as much as 30p on the week at some centres, pushing the heaviest entries over the £200/head mark while the value of prime cattle remains strong with many taking home more than £2000/head. Meanwhile, feed barley is trading ex-farm around £140/t and wheat at a little over £160/t.

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As Iain MacDonald of QMS points out, hoggs have jumped more than 40% on the year, while finished cattle are reported at £5.10 for R4L carcass grades which put such entries up £100/head up on this time last year.

Record livestock prices are in sharp contrast to cereal farmers who face an uncertain planting season with bumper crops in the southern hemisphere adding to global supply. Thousands of tonnes of grain are still sitting in sheds across Scotland, with many crops produced with forward bought fertiliser during the price spike following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Adding to cereal farmers’ frustration is the number of foreign shipments of grain coming into Scotland for the distilling and brewing sector. This week, Simon Wilcox, manager of the grains origination at Cefetra, confirmed that the company imported cereals from the continent.

Mr Wilcox said: “We imported a relatively small volume at the end of 2023 as Scotland is in deficit in wheat. Historically, a big part of the Scottish deficit was filled by wheat coming from Northumberland, Durham, and North Yorkshire.

“With the two ethanol factories running in the North of England, this grain has another home to go to meaning that Scotland’s deficit needs to be satisfied in another way. The imports were from the EU with an equivalent standard to UK wheat being GMP+ and FSA. We had customers who needed to be kept supplied and there was limited local grain being offered.

“We offer prices to farmers to buy their grain every working day of the year and welcome any farmers contacting me or my team in Scotland. We are keen to secure more domestic grain and have shown our commitment to the Scottish market with an increasing number of staff and significant investment in storage facilities to support Scottish cereal producers.”

Mr Wilcox continued: “It is actually a sign of the strength of demand for grain in Scotland that the market requires additional cereals to those that can be grown there and hence why prices are higher in Scotland than anywhere else in Britain.

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“We feel this is something that should be celebrated and long may this demand continue.”

Elsewhere UK farming co-op Grainco stated they did not comment on any specific commercial arrangements that they have. However, they did explain in general they buy imported grain where they have a shortfall caused by a lack of supply or they have insufficient quality, or logistical reasons.

They noted that for customers who require specific UK grain the end users may have to start enhancing prices to motivate farmers to keep growing what is needed.