Slightly more beef, slightly less lamb and few surprises Stability the theme with stock trends persistent Retailers will rarely hear farmers admit this, but a fair degree of confidence has returned to the livestock sector and prospects for supplies and prices are broadly favourable viewed from both sides of the beef and lamb markets. The latest editions of MLC's Cattle and Sheep Market Outlook publications catch the mood of reluctantly admitted stability in the two closely linked industries. Beef supply is increasing and the availability of mutton and lamb diminishing, but neither trend is dramatic. For the beef sector, perhaps the most notable feature of the new assessment by MLC economists is the likely non appearance of an expected disturbing influence. It now seems there will be no avalanche of cheap manufacturing meat from fast finished dairy calves. "As reported previously, dairy producers have been increasingly crossing cows with beef breed bulls in order to improve the rearing potential of the calf," the analysts write. Although this is not strictly new, it is clear the MLC has subtly shifted its stance, now believing the main effect of the ending of subsidised culling will be a gradual increase in the supply of some good quality beef cattle rather than an early surge in numbers of poorer stock. Overall, the picture is of medium term beef supply increasingly influenced by contraction in the dairy herd and constraints on suckler expansion, while in the sheep sector a clear but not steep decline in breeding ewe numbers is under way. {{MEAT }}