The prolonged period of dry, hot weather is beginning to impact on the livestock market as the effects of lack of forage availability, reduced livestock growth rates and a change in consumers' eating habits start to become evident.

According to Stuart Ashworth, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) Director of Economic Services, the reduced availability of forage supplies is having an impact on the cattle market with a significant increase in the number of store cattle going through the auction rings in the past week.

"Last week, store cattle price reporting auction marts reported an increase of 40 per cent in the number of cattle they sold compared with the same week last year," said Mr. Ashworth.

"This higher volume of store cattle being brought forward slightly younger and at lighter weights, is contributing to these animals typically trading £100 per head, or more, lower than this time last year."

In the prime cattle market, observed Mr. Ashworth, there is little evidence to suggest GB prime cattle are being marketed earlier. However, there is evidence to suggest cull cow marketing has increased in the past month.

Looking at the lamb market, with a smaller lamb crop the volume of lambs going through the auction ring although climbing seasonally, is lower than last year.

Additionally, and despite the tightness of forage supplies, the proportion of lambs reaching the auctions that are above the Standard Quality Quotation (SQQ) weight limit of 45kg live-weight is higher than last year as producers seek to maximise income per lamb. Returns from deadweight price-reporting abattoirs, however, suggest lambs are being drawn slightly leaner.

"The leaner fat level 2 lambs are discounted slightly by the market," said Mr. Ashworth.

However, he observed that the major influence on prime stock prices is the effect of the long spell of hot weather on consumer buying patterns and, in particular, the interest in barbecue meats.

"Steaks, burgers and sausages sell well in periods of hot weather, while roasting joints and stewing products fall in popularity, " said Mr. Ashworth.

"This consumer behaviour pushes towards increased demand for beef products at the expense of lamb," he added.

Market round-up

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 1632 prime lambs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £111 per head and 213p per kg to average 193.6p (+6.6p on the week).

There were also 4055 cast sheep forward when heavy ewes sold to £150 for a Texel and averaged £73.44 (-45p), while light/export-type ewes peaked at £72 for Blackfaces and levelled at £36.09 (-2.47). Rams sold to £128 for a Texel and averaged £70.34.