Phenomenal store cattle trade reflects tightening supply

THERE can be few superlatives auctioneers have not used over the past couple of weeks to describe the reared calf and store cattle trade - ‘ballistic’, ‘on fire’, ‘outstanding’.

With prices well into four figures for quality forward stores in many centres, there appears to be an air of confidence among some finishers that there is a margin to be had.

The trade does, of course, reflect a tightening supply of cattle which is being experienced from farm to abattoir and which is also maintaining the prime cattle trade. Some auctioneers said this week accurate store valuation before the hammer fell had become more difficult.


Some observers have said they are staggered at the recent high prices and question just how much finishers will be left with.

And when Eblex Business Pointers for beef systems came out at the end of last year, the results suggested even the most efficient were struggling to make positive net margins after all costs were attributed - and that was at lower store values, but admittedly lower finished prices.

This week, Eblex senior analyst Debbie Butcher said: “Producers looking to purchase store cattle at the current high prices should be aware of their own costs and potential return based on the outlook for finished prices.”

Hexham and Northern Marts’ auctioneer Chris Armstrong said 42 per cent of the entry in the last sale sold in excess of £1,000. He said it was increasingly difficult to value some cattle accurately. “I have never seen trade like it,” said Mr Armstrong. But he felt, looking at the high end of the finished trade, there should be a return.


In Derby, the confidence exten-ded back to the reared calf ring where trade was still ‘on fire’ for all types.

North West Auctions’ Lancaster Mart sale reported the best stores regularly above £1,000 and a pair of Angus bullocks had hit £1,320.

Brian Pile, auctioneer with Bletsoe and Son at Thrapston, Northamptonshire, said the only way to describe trade was ‘ballistic’.

“In 40 years I think this is the best trade I have experienced. Demand far outstripped supply and it was impossible to value some cattle within £100 or more,” he said.

It was a record trade in Sedgemoor with the highest ever recorded average of £805.47.

Flying trade

High Peak Livestock Society met a flying trade for its January sale in Bakewell. Auctioneer Alastair Sneddon said with store prices already at an all-time high, ‘the Bakewell sale pushed the boundaries yet further with prices not previously dreamt about’.

Darlington Farmers Auction Mart’s January show and sale on Monday had many cattle above the £1,050 barrier and eight-month-old bullocks and heifers made £950-£800.

Across the border in Lanark, Lawrie and Symington’s Tuesday store cattle sale saw the dearest trade seen so far at this centre, with buyers from throughout the UK.

Some of the highlights

  • Hexham: Charolais bullocks 20-22 months averaged £1,348, up 30 per cent on the year; plus a £1,200 Angus cross bullock
  • Derby: 10-month-old Limousin bulls to £740; 22-month Hereford steers to £1,190
  • Sedgemoor: Farm assured, 21 to 25-month Simmental steers £1,208
  • Bakewell: Pure Limousin steers top £1,350

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