Cattle prices at the first auction sales of the year have been surprisingly strong. Despite the predictable columns of minuses in the MLC's price reports, values for most steers, heifers and young bulls early in the week were close to or above 90p per kg liveweight. This price resilience was interpreted in the trade as meaning stocks remaining from the Christmas retail and catering beef trade must have been light. But even if the Christmas retail trade proves to have been disappointing, continued strong cattle prices might not be surprising. In the MLC's view the heavy pre-Christmas kill reflected disposals of cattle earlier than producers originally intended, meaning the predicted shortage is merely arriving rather late. {{MEAT }}