Weekly cattle & sheep market wrap – 23 May 2024

Thursday, 23 May 2024

Key points

Prices for week ending 18 May

  • Deadweight prime cattle prices saw some pressure, with the overall average prime price back 1.1p/kg on the week
  • Deadweight sheep prices saw further strength, with both OSL and NSL prices seeing weekly increases. NSL prices have now reached a new peak, sitting at 927p/kg for the week ending 18 May
  • Slaughter numbers remain elevated on the year for prime cattle, while sheep kills remain 7% behind the same point in 2023


GB deadweight cattle prices eased over the last week, with the all-prime average experiencing a 1.1p reduction. All categories saw some pressure, with the exception of heifers, where the overall value increased by 0.4p/kg on the week to average 483.8p/kg. R4L steers witnessed a 1.4p/kg decline and young bulls (often a more volatile category) witnessed a 3.9p/kg decline on the week.

Looking to the cow trade, the overall GB cow price experienced some stability this week, with prices easing marginally (-0.1p/kg). While minimal, this is the first decline in the overall cow price since mid-March.

Across the regions, Scotland and the Central region saw the largest declines for steers, back 3.3p and 2.9p respectively, while the Southern and Northern regions witnessed some marginal increases. Across the heifer category, the biggest falls in price were seen in the Northern region, back 3.0p. Meanwhile, young bulls had the most notable movements with all regions witnessing declines, particularly the Southern region.

GB prime cattle slaughterings were up 4,000 head on the week, as we compare back to a bank holiday week. When looking at year-to-date figures, estimated slaughter was 2% above the same point in 2023. Meanwhile, cow slaughter totalled 8,200 head, increasing by 1,200 head compared with the previous week.

Building on the narrative presented through our most recent demand data, reports through wholesale markets suggest some strength in key categories such as steaking and trim, as seasonal demand continues to have a bearing on the marketplace.


GB deadweight sheep prices have seen renewed strength for the week ending 18 May, with both the OSL and NSL prices seeing increases. The OSL SQQ was up 4.6p to 828p/kg. Meanwhile, the NSL SQQ saw a jump of 18.4p/kg, to sit at yet another new peak for 2024, at 927p/kg.

Throughputs for the week present an interesting picture, with the AHDB estimated kill figure increasing by 14% to 179,416 head. This was 7% lower than the same week in 2023. Looking specifically to the AHDB price reporting sample, the NSL SQQ kill increased 83% on the week, to just over 8,000 head. Meanwhile, OSL numbers also increased 10.5% to just under 24,000 head. While caution needs to be offered given that the week-on-week comparisons are to a bank holiday, some market reports are further confirming that the market appears to have slightly higher supplies available. This commentary is supported through the live ring, with reports suggesting prices have eased over the last week, with some notes that greater support is holding within the market for well-fleshed animals.

Wider European markets are seemingly holding, with key wholesale indicators suggesting that the EU market remains stable. Further afield, we explore the impacts of how key international markets are impacting the global trade.

We await data to appreciate the latest demand side dynamics looking past the key occasions of Easter and Eid, with Qurbani in mid-June the next event likely to deliver significant demand side movement for the sheep meat category.