Cow Prices Running Lower Across British Isles

UK - Quotes for cows from the NI plants have always tended to show a great deal of variability across the plants and this week ranged from 230-260p/kg for O+3 grade cows, write Livestock and Meat Commission market analysts.
calendar icon 2 December 2013
clock icon 2 minute read

Cow slaughterings in the NI plants tend to show a peak in the autumn and winter months in line with current production practices in NI.

The plants have reported good supplies to meet demand in recent weeks with cow throughput during autumn/winter 2013 similar to the levels recorded in the corresponding period on 2011. Throughput is however well behind the levels recorded in the same period in 2012 when high barren rates and a shortage of forage encouraged a higher cull rate in both the dairy and suckler herds.

While there is no agreed specification for cows at present the processors have a preference for cows with carcase weights over 280kg. The processors also prefer cows to have an adequate level of fat cover, typically a 2+ or better. There are significant reductions in the prices paid for cows below 280kg and that are presented for slaughter without adequate levels of fat cover.

There are also significant penalties of up to £150 per head in place for cows that are not Farm Quality Assured at point of slaughter. This has become less of an issue as more producers have become Farm Quality Assured as 2013 has progressed. In the six weeks ending the 23 November 2013 97 per cent of the price reported cow kill were Farm Quality Assured compared to 65 per cent in the corresponding period in 2012. 

The average cow price tends to show a decline in the autumn/winter months as the availability of cows for slaughter improves. In 2013 however cow prices remained well above the levels paid in previous years until mid October before showing a marked decline as outlined in Figure 1. The average cow price in NI last week was 213.1p/kg, the lowest level recorded since April 2011.

NI average cow prices have been above average cow prices in GB since July 2013 and while average prices have come back in both regions the NI cow price has remained above the average cow price in GB.

The average cow price in GB last week was 208.4p/kg, 4.7p/kg lower than the average price in NI. When comparing prices in different regions it is useful to consider one grade rather than look at average prices. Figure 2 displays the average O3 cow price for NI, GB and ROI for 2013 to date.

The average price paid for O3 cows have shown a strong decline across all regions of the British Isles since the summer. The GB price was the lowest of the three regions at 233.4p/kg last week, 11.2p/kg lower than the 244.6p/kg paid for O3 cows in NI.

The O3 cow price in ROI last week was the equivalent of 253.2p/kg. While prices for cows have come under pressure in all regions producers can help maximise returns by liaising with the processors and marketing cows in appropriate condition for slaughter.

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