The livestock market in the Shropshire border town of Bishops Castle is enhancing its reputation as a prime UK centre for the sale of top quality suckler-bred, store cattle as demand for British beef booms in the run up to Christmas.

The most recent store cattle auction, on November 3, saw steers sell for up to £1,545 or 328p per kilo and heifers for up to £1,740 or 298p per kilo. The overall average for the 200 cattle on offer was £1,256.

Auctioneer James Evans, a director of Halls, explained that the current boom in market prices is fuelled by a shortage of beef cattle in the UK and also concern about the impact of bird flu on turkey availability for Christmas.

He stressed that buyers are paying a premium for top quality store cattle which are purchased by farmers for finishing ready for slaughter. The difference in price paid for top and lesser quality is widening.

Bishops Castle market attracts farmers from a 35-mile radius, with the Welsh Marches and Mid Wales hills renowned for the quality of their suckler herds. The market sells suckler-bred, store cattle aged from eight months to 30 months.

“There is currently a shortage in the UK of top quality beef cattle, the price of which continues to increase to in excess of £2,000 for slaughter,” said Mr Evans.

“Fortunately, Bishops Castle is strengthening its reputation as the place to sell and buy top quality, suckler bred, store cattle and calves and it’s good to see that farmers are being rewarded for their hard work.

“We have had a fantastic run of sales this autumn and it’s great to see this demand for these cattle from across the whole of the UK, as there are now fewer markets where they can be bought.

Explaining the boom in demand for British beef, Mr Evans added: “Because the pound is weak against other currencies, meat imports to the UK are more expensive which means there is a greater focus on home reared cattle.

“Consumers are demanding less food miles on the products they buy, so supermarkets are focusing more on British beef and lamb, which are also boosted by the uncertainty, caused by bird flu, surrounding the Christmas availability of turkey.”

Picture captions:

Store cattle in the sale ring at Bishops Castle market.