What is influencing GB cattle prices?

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The GB prime cattle price has been on a downward trend since the end of September 2018. What factors might have influenced this?

Despite a slight rally in May, the GB R4L steer price has fallen by 44p since September, the biggest drop since 2014.

Historically, GB prime cattle prices do tend to drop in the first half of the year. This reflects weaker demand for typical cuts from these animals at this time.

Even in 2017 and 2018, prices did show drops in the first few months of the year. However, high Europe-wide demand for manufacturing beef in the past two years ultimately more than compensated. This led to an overall rise in prices through from mid-2016 to mid-2018.

While declines early in the year are not unusual, there are a number of forces currently at play, which are explained below.

Pressure on cattle prices

Downward pressure

  • Poor consumer demand at retail level
  • Reduction in beef occasions in foodservice
  • Higher carcase weights giving increased production
  • Reduction in average UK export prices
  • Irish cattle kill up
  • Overall Irish exports up, at lower prices
  • European manufacturing demand subsided
  • Higher European cold store stock

Upward pressure

  • UK beef imports down including less from Ireland
  • UK beef exports up (although average price is down)

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