31 March 1995

Big demand keeps store prices high

By Tim Relf

HARSH weather and a shortage of fodder have failed to depress store cattle prices.

Low marketings are helping to keep prices firm, with a steers all weights average in the week ending Mar 25 of 126.8p/kg.

"We are desperately short," says Paul Gentry at Newark. "And demand exists for virtually all store stock – although the better-quality, short-term cattle are particularly sought after."

He attributes the low numbers partly to a firm clean cattle trade, which has encouraged farmers to further feed animals and sell them fat.

But like many auctioneers, Mr Gentry questions whether the current store prices leave much scope for a profit. "Even youngstock is selling well," he says. He suggests the brisk store demand over the past two or three years has come partly from farmers looking to put money made from corn or potatoes into another enterprise.

"Even though silage and fodder isnt particularly short in this area, one would have thought that, with grass keep prices as high as they are, store cattle values might have weakened," adds Jim Wilson at Paisley. "But the best, strong stores are making £600."

Elsewhere, demand seems to have been more selective. "The 15- to 18-month-old animals are selling particularly well," says John Hughes at Lancaster. "But the weather has taken a turn for the worse again this week, so demand is unlikely to strengthen until it improves."

Buyers prefer to wait

Chris Jones at Ludlow agrees, suggesting buyers would prefer to wait – even if this means paying another £40 – rather than buying now and having to house and feed the stock for a month. "A months feed isnt cheap," says Mr Jones, "especially with silage at £18 a bale."

Auctioneers predict marketings will increase through April. At Paisley, for example, the 150 head sold at its weekly market is expected to double.

At Ashford, the 150 head of stores currently sold every week could rise to 600 head by mid-April. Here, store prices are slightly down on last year, reflecting a fat cattle trade down by 4p or 5p/kg. Good-quality yearlings are selling well. Those with green cattle identification certificates – and two premium payments to collect – are particularly sought after, making £420 to £460.

With the likely increase in demand through April offsetting the expected rise in numbers, trade is expected to continue brisk. &#42