This month, Rory discusses what farmers were up to in October, the trade achieved at Thainstone and generally the agricultural community’s sentiment as we head towards the winter months. Rory also encourages farmers to support livestock markets with their stock during this uncertain period.

What were farmers up to during the month of October?

October has been a very wet month, leaving farmers frustrated as grass started to poach up forcing them to bring cattle inside. Fortunately, last week was drier and allowed farmers get on with their operations and provided a final opportunity for harvest. The arable producers still have quite a lot of potatoes to harvest and there are some late parts of arable ground that still hasn’t been combined.

How was trade during Thainstone’s October shows and sales?

Even though the beef price is still at a low level, demand has increased slightly at abattoirs and we are pleased that trade has definitely improved on September. Younger cattle achieved good prices and spring-born calves traded particularly well.

Demand is predominately driven by farmers’ confidence that they can finish cattle at a lower cost this year due to ample supplies of straw and fodder. Some also have large quantities of barley as they did not manage to get it away for malting due to not meeting the required specification.

We had a number of successful shows and sales in October starting with the autumn calf show and sale on Friday 11th October which saw the sale average reach 213.7 pence per kg for weaned calf bullocks and 210.2 pence per kg for weaned calf heifers. Strong demand was evident on the day and premium prices were paid for cattle with show and breeding potential.

The spring-born calf show and sale on Friday 25th October met an electric trade with cattle averaging about 240 pence per kilo and a strong ringside of buyers present.

The end of the month show and sale of in-calf heifers and breeding cattle took place on Tuesday 29th October and a top price of £3,500 was realised for a British Blue cross. We had really impressive cattle on show that day which helped trade achieve the well-above expectation sale average of £1,657. It is pleasing to see producers coming back to the market to restock.

We have been getting large consignments of calves from Shetland and Isle of Lewis which have been making a similar trade to last year grossing £50 to £60 more on the year. Sellers are attracted Thainstone as there are more cattle finishers in the area resulting in a strong buying power.

The prime lamb trade has been a little flat and I would describe it as steady. However, it was encouraging to see the prices rise during last Thursday’s sale. Breeding sheep have been a better trade than expected with prices for good gimmers making between £140 – £150 per head and strong ewe lambs achieving over a £100 per head. Longer-keep store lambs have met a good steady trade making over £50 per head.

What are farmers’ thoughts on factors influencing the agricultural industry?

Farmers are still concerned about the lower beef price and the potential increase in lamb trade tariffs of up to 40% on exports resulting from Brexit. Slaughterhouses are not paying enough for fat cattle just now and Brexit is the main reason used to justify the lower prices being offered. Farmers are reporting that the waiting list has decreased but unfortunately, store cattle prices are too dear compared to what the finished article is.

Looking ahead, November should see steady trade continue and many finishers will have completed their cattle buying to allow adequate time for cattle to settle before the Christmas period.

What is your advice to farmers?

Although a set price offered by abattoirs can seem like an attractive option, how can you be sure that  you received the best price? The auction ring offers a transparent way of achieving true market value for your livestock and competitive bidding always creates a better trade than any abattoir can. There just isn’t a better and more honest price discovery mechanism out there and I encourage farmers to support the Mart and use it to your advantage. 

My colleague Tim McDonald is reporting that handy-weighted, well-finished animals are currently commanding a premium in the ring. Butchers cattle regularly achieve 20 to 30 pence per kg deadweight more than what they would realise at the slaughterhouse. It is good to see an increase in independent butchers returning to the ring at Thainstone to buy prime stock.

Thainstone has a competitive ring for prime cattle and cull cows and there are buyers for all types of stock. You get paid on the day, there are free overnight lairage facilities for your stock and the whole process is simple and transparent.