Meat & Livestock News

Weekly Cattle and Sheep Market Update – 29 February 2024


  • GB deadweight prime cattle prices have plateaued with an increase in cattle coming forward, while cow prices continue to rise despite a seasonal fall in numbers.
  • Deadweight lamb prices have increased, albeit at a slower pace, with slaughter numbers rising but remaining lower year-on-year due to a smaller carryover of hoggets.
  • Beef and lamb demand remained strong through Christmas and Valentine’s Day, with beef production and imports low in December 2023, affecting supply.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has released its latest weekly market wrap for cattle and sheep, highlighting key trends and statistics. For the week ending 24 February 2024, overall Great Britain (GB) deadweight prime cattle prices have levelled off as more cattle were brought to market, with weekly estimated prime cattle slaughter now surpassing 2023 levels. Cow prices have continued their upward trajectory as numbers decline seasonally, yet throughputs remain higher than the previous year.

In detail, the average steer price remained stable at 497p/kg, while the average R4L steer price saw a slight decrease. Cow prices, however, have seen further appreciation, standing at 347p/kg, up 2p on the week but still trailing behind the same week in 2023 by 32p.

Regionally, Northern averages saw increases across all prime categories, whereas Central and Southern averages experienced mixed movements. Cow prices increased in all regions.

The AHDB’s weekly estimated prime cattle slaughter rose by 500 head to 34,700, marking two consecutive weeks of slaughter rates exceeding those of 2023.

However, year-to-date numbers are consistent with the previous year. Cow slaughter has followed its seasonal downward trend, totalling 10,000 head, yet still 200 head higher than the same week last year.

December 2023 saw notably low beef production and imports, leading to a reduced beef supply. Despite this, retail sales remained strong through Christmas, and Valentine’s Day demand was positive for beef, particularly steaking categories. However, recent reports suggest a slight softening in demand for cuts such as roasting joints.

On the sheep side, GB deadweight sheep prices continued to rise in the week ending 24 February, with the old season lamb SQQ averaging 699.6p/kg, a nearly 10p increase from the previous week and a significant 189p increase from the same week a year ago.

This price increase is attributed to tighter supply due to a smaller carryover of hoggets. The estimated sheep slaughter for the week stood at 216,700 head, a 1.8% decrease year-on-year but a 10% increase from the previous week.

Factors contributing to the reduced sheep meat supply on the market include lower production in December, likely due to adverse weather affecting slaughter rates, and lower than-expected import levels, potentially delayed by global conflicts.

Despite this, exports remained strong, with wholesale prices for UK lambs in the Rungis market (Paris) staying high. Like beef, Christmas retail demand for lamb was positive, although a significant portion of sales was promotion-driven.

This weekly market wrap aims to provide stakeholders with the latest insights into the cattle and sheep markets, offering a comprehensive overview of current trends and developments.