Sustained downward pressure on deadweight prices Beef buyers probably have little to fear from the couple of pence per kilo gained by many cattle at auctions early in the week, partly because the market was still sorting itself out after the disruption caused by the fuel tax protests. More important than any bounce in the live trade is the sustained downward pressure on deadweight prices, some now almost 10% lower than a year ago. This looks surprising against the backgound of a relatively stable kill. As the chart shows, recent steer and heifer slaughter numbers have been nearly identical to abattoir throughputs 12 months previously. Admittedly, a significant rise in the young bull kill has taken the total slaughter rate higher, and it would be logical to expect a demand shift to undermine steer and heifer prices. On the other hand, the multiples tend to claim they are not much interested in the bulls. Ringside gossip is of the supermarkets being unenthusiastic about most cattle. At least one big plant in England is rumoured to be killing well below capacity because its major multiple customer is slow with the orders. MAFF's recently released June livestock census results, showing increased numbers of "other" cattle out on the farms although the breeding herd has contracted, also suggest the modest abattoir throughputs reflect demand rather than supply constraints. However, the story from the slaughterers was the same a year ago, and then they were delighted by an unexpected surge of profitable activity as the pre-Christmas market took off. {{MEAT }}