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View from the Rostrum - Are you getting true market value? Chris Dodds

Posted on: 22nd April, 2024

Liveweight prices continue to drive national trends and set record prices, with all categories meeting exceptional demand.

For those livestock keepers that use a livestock market to sell their animals they are more than aware of the additional value, competition, open and transparent marketing benefits the live auction system brings with it. There is no doubt that the primary driver for varying livestock values is supply and demand, BUT if it was not for the live auction ring bringing competition into the marketplace, we would not be receiving the strong trade we are experiencing today.

Latest throughput figures released by the LAA show that the popularity of the live auction system continues to grow, with more numbers in most sale categories being sold in 2023 compared to 2022, even at a time when we are experiencing reduced numbers in the national breeding herds and flocks. Store and breeding cattle, dairy cattle, calves, prime sheep and cull ewes all saw increased numbers sold through the live ring, with prime cattle and cull cows remaining largely similar to 2022.

2024 prime and cull sheep sale prices continue to reach new heights, with many markets reporting New Season lambs averaging in excess of 440p/kilo SQQ, Old Season lambs in excess of 405p/kilo SQQ and cull ewes averaging in excess of £140/head. The live market SQQ is based solely on live weight, whereas the deadweight prices reported are based on carcass weight and carcass conformation. Based on the old MLC killing out equivalents these live ring prices are the equivalent to 880p/kilo for New Season lambs and 861p/kilo for Old Season lamb.

Prime and cull cattle also continue to drive trends, with markets reporting averages in excess of 309p/kilo for heifers, 300p/kilo for steers and 277 p/kilo for young bulls. As with the sheep prices achieved through the live ring there are no deductions after the fall of the hammer for age, weight, number of moves or carcass conformation. This makes these prices equivalent to 542p/kilo deadweight for heifers, 526p/kilo for steers and 494p/kilo for young bulls. We must remember that a large proportion of young bulls sold through the live ring, and included in the market average prices, are too old and too heavy for many of the large retailers and had they been presented for slaughter through one of their supplying abattoirs they would have seen considerable deductions for being “out of spec”.

Cull cows continue to see increased demand resulting in many dairy farmers that are forced to sell direct by their milk buyers missing out on the very valuable marketing platform that the live ring provides and the prices that it creates. 

The very strong slaughter market is also reflected in the store markets, with store cattle and the tail end of store Old Season lambs seeing unprecedented demand and prices.

When national trends are being set through the live ring, as they have been for much of the past three years, I often wonder why some producers look straight past the live ring option and don’t use the system for what it is. Surely it is important that everyone knows and understands what their stock is worth and what the different marketing platforms offer.

In January the LAA launched their new Livestock Market Prices platform, the only true place where livestock keepers can keep up to date with English and Welsh market prices. Not only prime stock prices, but also store and breeding prices. The Daily package is offered free of charge to market customers (sellers and buyers) that regularly use one of the LAA member markets in England and Wales. 

The platform can be easily accessed by following the link on the LAA website: or through

Since the release of the new platform, we have received many positive and complimentary comments about the system, from all generations, which has been appreciated. Of course, it is new, and we must remember that change comes with criticism from some corners……It is different for many reasons, but importantly it will now allow us to adapt and change as the industry does the same. Since the launch we have listened to our customers, and we have made some significant changes. We will continue to make changes, as our customers request us to do so and as we develop new and exciting reporting categories.

Market customers, please enjoy your FREE access to the Daily plan and I hope you benefit from the service.