Weekly cattle & sheep market wrap – 16 May 2024

Thursday, 16 May 2024

Key points

Prices for week ending 11 May

  • Deadweight prime cattle prices were a mixed bag among categories but overall a largely steady market. Cow prices continued to appreciate as supplies reduced
  • Deadweight lamb prices showed relative stability in the latest week, with the OSL SQQ down just 2p to 823p/kg. A small but increasing number of spring lambs continued to come forward, with an NSL SQQ of 909p/kg
  • Consumer demand for beef and lamb remains robust, with positive moves noted in volume sales through retail and out-of-home markets


The GB deadweight cattle market showed general stability in the week ending 11 May, with the all-prime cattle average measure at 485p/kg down 0.5p on the week. However, there was more variation among the prime categories. The overall GB steer price gained a fraction (0.2p) to average 487p/kg for the week, while the overall heifer average lost 2p to 483p/kg. Meanwhile, young bulls gained 2p overall to average 475p/kg nationally.

The overall GB cow price appreciated for a seventh consecutive week, up just 0.2p to an average of 362p/kg across all carcase classifications.

GB prime cattle slaughter dipped to an estimated 30,900 head during the bank holiday week, while cow slaughter reduced to an estimated 7,100 head the lowest weekly estimate so far this year.

From a demand perspective, latest figures continue to point to robust domestic demand for beef. Retail data for the 12 weeks to 14 April (Kantar) shows that the total quantity of beef purchased overall during this period was stable year-on-year (-0.1%), with promotions aiding sales. Foodservice data shows firm demand out of home too, with burgers performing particularly well.

Latest import data shows that quantities of Irish product entering the market during March were relatively flat year-on-year, following a very strong January and February. Nevertheless, for the first quarter as a whole, total Irish (fresh/frozen) imports were up 25% year-on-year amid competitive pricing. Coupled with higher domestic slaughter, this increased beef supply on the UK market through the first quarter of the year. However, healthy domestic demand has kept general support under cattle values.


The GB deadweight old season SQQ showed stability in the week ending 11 May, losing just 2p on the week to average 823p/kg. Nevertheless, the measure was up 151p on the year.

The new-season SQQ, meanwhile lost 6.5p to average 909p/kg, as more spring supply begins to come to market. The measure was still up 180p on the same week a year ago.

Total clean sheep slaughter dipped by 4% from the week before to an estimated 157,000 head, still down notably from the same week a year ago. Market reports suggest quality has been variable in some cases as hogget supply draws to a close and the first spring lambs come forward, off the back of a tough start. However, demand is reportedly strong for well-fleshed animals.

Latest import figures show substantial quantities of New Zealand lamb continued to enter the market during March. Industry reports suggest interest in such product is likely to continue in the short term, given current price competitiveness.

Domestically, demand for lamb through consumer channels has remained firm, with increased buying activity noted by the trade for barbecue-type products in recent weeks. Market reports also suggest that roasting joints have continued to see solid interest despite the turn in the weather, albeit with weather conditions still quite variable across the country. Indeed (minding the time lag), recent retail figures from Kantar have shown notable uplift in volume sales of several items including roasting joints, with Easter promotions driving purchases. Out-of-home sales have shown robust performance too.

Further afield, prices for R-grade UK lambs out of Rungis wholesale market in Paris have stabilised in recent days. Albeit still at high values, recent trends could suggest a more balanced export picture over the past week.