Auction marts reported fewer over-30-month cattle at sales this week, as farmers waited to see how the OTM scheme’s end would affect the trade.

Prices for the best older cows generally remained in the 70-80p/kg band, although some auctioneers reported the very worst Holstein Friesian animals fetching as little as 22p/kg.

Average finished cattle prices, deadweight and liveweight, slipped about 2p on the week to 196.5p/kg and about 100p/kg, respectively, but traders said it was too early to blame this on cull cows given the reduced numbers.

Bruce Daniel of Leek auction mart in Staffs, said: “We are facing a situation where some cows will fetch less than the OTM scheme compensation, but their flesh-to-weight ratio justifies that.

However, there are more buyers looking to feed these cows.”

Trade for older cattle had peaked at 84.5p/kg on Monday (23 January) he added.

“And that’s only about 10p/kg behind finished cattle prices.”

Meanwhile, new pre-movement testing rules for bovine tuberculosis have prompted a sharp rise in store cattle entries as farmers seek to avoid the anticipated cost of 9 a head.

From 20 February, cattle in England over 15 months old, from herds tested either annually or bi-annually for bovine TB, will have to have been tested within 60 days of movement.

Rules are expected to come into force in Wales in April.

Animals moved outside this 60-day window will have to be re-tested.

The Welsh Assembly puts the cost to the farmer at 9 a head.

Auctioneers in areas close to TB hotspots reported entries were up at many fixtures.

Halls’ Peter Wilcock saw over 530 head at Bishops Castle mart’s most recent sale, almost double last year’s entry.

Coupled with this, said Alastair Sneddon of Derbyshire auctioneer Bagshaws, the lack of single payment scheme cash in England was stretching cash-flows and encouraging farmers to sell cattle early.