Prime cattle processed during 2021 were worth up to £145 per head more than in the previous year.

An analysis of weekly price reports compiled by the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) shows that U3-grading heifers averaged 397.7p/kg from 1 January to the week ending 12 December, with U3 steers at 392.3p/kg and young bulls at 386.4p/kg.

While there are still year-end prices to be included within the dataset, there is unlikely to be much deviation from the above figures.

In 2020, U3 heifers averaged 360.6p/kg, which is 37p/kg less than 2021, and equates to £130 on a 350kg carcase. Steers averaged 357p/kg in 2020, a 35p/kg difference, which works out at £140 on a 400kg carcase.

The price difference between the two years is greatest for young bulls, with U3 animals at 348.1p/kg last year. For a 400kg carcase, it is £144 less per head when compared to 2021.

Record prices

Beef prices in 2021 are the highest on record. Prices have peaked towards the end of the year. U3 heifers averaged 410.9p/kg in the week before Christmas, with steers at 406.8p/kg. Top-grading steers and heifers have averaged over 400p/kg since midsummer.

Lower conformation

Cattle with lower conformation also saw buoyant prices in 2021. R3-grading steers and heifers averaged 393.4p/kg and 393.9p/kg, respectively, with O+3 grades around the 389p/kg mark, up 37p/kg on 2020 prices.

Cull cow prices are also stronger, with U3 grades averaging 324.7p/kg in 2021, up from 291.2p/kg last year. R3 and O+3 grades are both up by around 30p/kg, to averages of 317.5p/kg and 309.1p/kg, respectively.

Current prices

With processors operating on a shorter kill week between Christmas and the new year, there is no price change for cattle and sheep.

Base quotes for prime U-3 grades remain on 394p/kg, although deals for steers and heifers are generally between 405p/kg and 410p/kg, with more available for butcher-type heifers.

Young bulls range from 394p/kg to 404p/kg for those meeting carcase weight limits.

The cow trade is holding at quotes of 290p/kg for R3 grades, although deals above 300p/kg are available for suckler types.


The sheep trade is also unchanged, with 580p/kg on offer to regular suppliers, while 570p/kg is being paid to those with smaller numbers.

Farmers should note that factories will be closed for the bank holiday on Monday 3 January.

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