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    Prime Beef Backlog Clears in Stable Market
23/11/07

Latest official slaughter figures from Defra and feedback from abattoirs across the country indicate the backlog of prime cattle resulting from FMD movement restrictions has been considerably less and has cleared the market very much more rapidly than originally feared, reports the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

© www.jennifermackenzie.co.uk

beef cattle

Not surprisingly, UK slaughterings in August and September were disrupted by FMD restrictions and were down by some 4% on the same period last year. While throughputs recovered markedly in October with the easing of restrictions, they were almost identical to 2006, suggesting that any extra prime stock in the pipeline merely served to offset the year-on-year structural decline in cattle numbers.

What is more, processors indicate a good balance of supply and demand continuing through November. This is reflected in the continuing stability of prime cattle prices over the early winter months, finished R4L steer averages climbing steadily from just over 210 p/kg in late-August to 216 p/kg deadweight or so in mid-November, leaving them virtually identical to the same time last year.

The fact that October traditionally sees the peak of prime cattle supplies while demand generally strengthens in the run-up to the Christmas holiday gives considerable cause for optimism as far as the immediate market outlook is concerned. Especially so since domestic consumption is continuing to grow and appears to have been unaffected by the autumn disease worries.

This is reinforced by British Cattle Movement Service information indicating a continued annual decline in the number of beef animals being reared and, more recently also, in the average age of stock at slaughter.

Overall, BCMS calf registrations suggest prime beef numbers in 2007 are likely to be some 1-2% down on 2006. At the same time, the reduction in average age at slaughter – possibly resulting from earlier selling in the face of worries over winter feed supplies and costs – could further reduce beef supplies through lower than normal carcase weights.

The successful resumption of exports over the past few weeks has further added to positive beef marketing sentiment, underlining the stability of the current market outlook.

Even so, the sheer scale of this winter’s feed price rises means margins are almost certain to be badly squeezed for many unless prices strengthen appreciably in the coming few months.

However, the lamb market continues to suffer from that fact that FMD and Blue Tongue movement restrictions hit at the worst possible time for lamb marketing, although the recent resumption of meat exports is starting to help the situation.

link Pioneer Gold for Quality Beef and Lamb
link Brisk Trade for Best of Blacks in the Borders
link Breed Data Highlights National Herd Changes

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