Suckled calf breeders are urged to treat their productive cows like goldmines because market signals indicate further tightening of world, and domestic, beef supplies from autumn 2009.
NBA director, Kim Haywood is worried that some owners are being tempted by the extraordinarily high prices for beef-bred cull cows, currently averaging about 220p per dwkg, to cash them instead of breeding more calves to sell in three years time when prime beef values are expected to be much higher than they are now.
“It appears attractive to sell a good beef cow when she is worth around £700-£800 but if she is able to breed more calves it should pay to hang on instead of dumping her,” she explained.
“An 18-19 per cent drop in domestic production is expected from August next year because of the huge decline in the birth, and rearing, of beef cross calves from the dairy herd that began two months ago – which is forecast to continue for as long as milk prices remain at current levels.”
“The meat trade is already speculating that, despite the current blip in the market, prime cattle prices will hit extraordinary levels next autumn and developments at world level appear likely to sustain them too.”
According to the NBA recent reports from the United States confirm that beef cow slaughterings between January and June were up by 8.6 per cent on 2007 and over the last four weeks have accelerated to 13 per cent as breeders react to unexpectedly high soya and maize prices.
“Live cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange remain strong at 104 cents per pound- up 16.4 per cent on the year,” said Ms Haywood.
“Futures for 2009 delivery are trading at 114 cents but analysts are predicting that the real shortage, and higher prices, will emerge in 2011.”
“In the meantime Argentine breeders are dumping more cows too. Disposals this year are up almost 20 per cent on last as more cattle ground in the west are ploughed for soya or maize.”
“In addition to this the surviving herds are being pushed onto higher, non-arable, ground in the east and conception rates in these range conditions have dropped from 75 per cent to 50 per cent – which suggests Argentina will struggle to meet its own domestic commitments let alone export any beef in less than two years time.”
“And if British breeders dump cows too the gap between domestic supply and consumer demand will widen further when less suckler-bred calves are slaughtered from September 2010,” Ms Haywood added.
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