A shortage of fodder, rising prices for concentrated feed and a lack of profitability has prompted a dramatic increase in the number of cull cows being slaughtered in Scotland.
There is also anecdotal evidence from scanners of more barren cows than usual following the wet summer.
Stuart Ashworth, economist with Quality Meat Scotland, revealed to The Herald that the number of cull cows being slaughtered was up 7.5% in September compared with the same month last year. "Between January and September this year there has been a 3.5% increase compared with the same period last year," said Mr Ashworth.
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Confirming the trend, auctioneer Jim Craig, of Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd, said: "The trade for cull cows has been steady throughout the year, so this is an advantageous time to sell unwanted cows." He went on to say: "I heard that in Carlisle market they are getting herds of otherwise healthy beef cows to sell in the rough ring by farmers fed up with keeping them for no profit, but we haven't seen that in Ayr yet."
Lawrie and Symington Ltd sold 17 prime heifers in Lanark on Monday to a top of 254p per kg and an average of 225p (-4p on the week), while 11 prime, beef-bred bullocks peaked at 236p and levelled at 211.3p (+2.3p).
In the rough ring 37 beef cows averaged 110p and 47 dairy cows levelled at 95p. Twenty-three OTM cattle averaged 137p and four bulls levelled at 124p. There were also 1690 prime lambs that sold to £93.50 per head and 197.8p per kg to average 158.5p (n/c). The 342 cast sheep forward saw ewes sell to £98.50 for Texels and £44.50 for Blackfaces to average £47.38 (+£8.80).
The firm also sold 10 dairy cattle at their fortnightly sale to a top of £2000 for a Holstein heifer and an average of £1610 (+£168 on the previous sale).
Wallets Marts sold 1147 prime lambs at their weekly sale in Castle Douglas yesterday to a top of £80 and 194.4p to average 150.9p.
There were also 251 cast sheep forward that saw ewes sell to £61 for Texels and Mules, and £52 for Blackfaces, with the overall average levelling at £43.27.
Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 30 prime heifers in Ayr to a top of 221p and an average of 205.8p, while four prime bullocks peaked at 218p and levelled at 203.8p.
In the rough ring 128 beef cows averaged 119.6p, while 108 dairy cows levelled at 100.4p. The firm sold 15 dairy cattle to a top of £2280 for a Holstein Friesian heifer and an average of £1740.
The Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers Mart had 4535 store lambs forward at their weekly sale in Longtown that saw all classes up £2 on the week: Suffolks to £60 and averaged £51.90; Charollais £55.50 and £49.14; Texels £58 and £46.63; Greyfaces £55 and £44.57; Blackfaces £52.50 and £36.46; Hill Cheviots £46 and £35.88.