GB cattle prices fight the pressure in a challenging market

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

By Rebecca Wright

During the most recent week there have been a variety of challenges facing the beef industry. The temporary shutdowns of some fertiliser plants caused disruption with the availability of CO2 which is used for maximising the shelf life of meat in retail packaging. Due to the time taken to get the plants back online CO2 supplies are likely to remain limited through the current week.

Staff in both the kill line and boning hall remains challenging. This is not a unique situation facing the British beef sector, but abattoirs of all species have been reporting staff shortages (largely due to Covid-19 isolations) across North-western Europe. The cross-industry lorry driver shortage in Britain continues which is having an impact up and down the supply chain.

Despite these challenges the most recent week saw cattle prices tick up. The GB all prime average increased 0.5p, to 410.1p/kg in the week ending 18 September. Compared to year earlier levels the measure currently stands 42p higher. This strong performance against a variety of downward pressures is not completely unexpected due to a reduction in the number of beasts available for kill. BCMS data recorded 40,000 fewer prime cattle aged 12-30 months at 1 July.

GB deadweight prime cattle price movements (w/e 18 September):

  • All prime: 410.1p/kg up 0.5p
  • Steers (overall): 411.3p/kg up 0.8p
  • Steers (R4L): 420.6p/kg down -0.3p
  • Heifers (overall): 410.4p/kg up 0.3p
  • Young bulls (overall): 398.4p/kg down -2.2p

Estimated kill for the week stood at 29,700 head, a marginal week-on-week drop and 5% below the same week last year.

Cow prices did face some pressure, with the GB overall cow price falling 0.9p, to 285.9p/kg. Estimated kill was down 2% on the week, at 10,700 head. This is 8% below the same week of 2020. It has been reported that some abattoirs are having to make a choice between killing prime or culls due to shortages of staff in the boning halls. It is now when we would usually expect cull cow kill to pick up ahead of the winter housing period. This additional supply, coupled with the limited supply chain capacity could potentially put some pressure on prices.

Image of staff member Rebecca Wright

Rebecca Wright

Senior Analyst - Red Meat

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