Prime cattle supplies in the UK are expected to be tighter over next six months according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

It says that prime beef cattle supplies are tightening. Over the week ending May 23 Scottish abattoirs handled almost 8% less slaughter cattle (of all types) then they did the same week last year – and supplies in England/Wales were down by 4% too.

As a result ex-farm prices have steadied and QMS has suggested this means supplies are at last moving into balance with market demand

It suspects prime cattle supplies will continue to tighten over the next six months as the damage caused by miserable spring weather in 2013 continues to come through.

However, more slaughter cattle are expected to come forward towards the turn of the year because there are more animals under 12 months old currently on farm than there was a year ago – and the first of this bulge will begin to be offered for slaughter around the beginning of December.

QMS has also noted a 9% increase in calf registrations over January-March which takes British numbers to the highest level for three years – and points to a relatively high level of slaughterings in 18 months too.

It also warns that unusually high levels of competition between supermarkets makes it unlikely that retail prices, currently 2% lower than they were a year ago, will be pushed upwards.

Robert Forster is a UK-based journalist who produces the Beef Industry Newsletter.