Prime cattle prices have remained stable and firm over the past month and continue to be around three to four per cent higher than last year, according to Stuart Ashworth, head of economic services at QMS.

Over the past couple of years prime cattle prices have peaked in mid-September, said Mr Ashworth. Prices then typically start to ease as the number of cattle presented for slaughter increases as a result of some producers selling cattle off grass prior to housing.

The trend over the past two years, has been a dip in prices through October, followed by an increase in November, although this was not sufficient for prices to reach the levels of mid-September, despite increased buying for the Christmas market.

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"However, evidences from BCMS (British Cattle Movement Service) suggests that the volume of cattle on Scottish holdings for sale in the short-term remains constrained, "Mr Ashworth reports.

"The move to selling lighter, younger cattle, particularly steers, has impacted on cattle numbers. Average carcase weights for steers killed in Scotland during August were 5kg lower than last year and the numbers killed slightly higher."

Heifer slaughter numbers also increased as carcase weights fell, he added. "As a consequence, there are fewer over-two-years-old prime cattle on holdings. Nevertheless, as we move towards the end of the year, increasing numbers of cattle born in the first half of 2016 will reach the market," he predicted.

Market round-up

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 215 store heifers at Ayr on Thursday to a top of £1100 per head and 245p per kg to average £881.12 and 207.6p (-4.7p on the fortnight), while 315 store, beef-bred bullocks peaked at £1175 and 242.7p to level at £930.66 and 216.3p (-3.1p). Ninety-three store, B&W bullocks sold to £995 and 180.9p to average £644.19 and 141.3p (-6.5p).

There were also 1230 store lambs forward that included a lot that were lean and weathered looking due to the wet weather, while all classes were again cheaper on the week. Top prices were £63.50 for Suffolks, £62.50 Texels, £59 Mules, £50 Cheviots and £32 for Blackfaces with the overall average levelling at £46.84.

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 3379 prime lambs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £110 per head and 244p per kg to average 168.9p ( (-1.1p on the week).

The firm also had their largest show of cast sheep for some time with 7831 forward. Heavy ewes sold to £150 for a Texel and averaged £66.91 (-35.93), while light ewes peaked at £78 for Blackfaces and levelled at £32.97 (-£8.43). Rams sold to £165 for a North Country Cheviot and averaged £74.53.