15 May 1998

Big interest for best heifers

TOP-QUALITY heifers are selling well this spring, with buyers snapping them up for breeding.

Annual consignments, particularly from well-respected farms, are generating a lot of interest. And prices at such auctions are often way above those at weekly markets.

Last Wednesday saw the 17th annual sale of Blonde dAquitaine cattle from Gore Cross Farm, Devizes, Wilts. Passing through the ring were 550 one-year-olds. The average heifer price rose £17 on last year to £341, with show-potential sorts making to £640 (186p/kg).

Alder King auctioneer Trevor Rowland says good heifers are fiercely sought after, as people look to set up suckler herds. Other farmers, conscious that the over 30-month scheme compensation could be cut or abandoned, are replacing older animals with younger ones, he adds.

"If you buy good-quality heifers and put a good quality bull on them, you get good quality calves – it is as simple as that."

Since the BSE crisis began, people increasingly realise that quality is everything. Hence why steer prices were also so buoyant at the Gore Cross Farm offering, says Mr Rowland. "You would have a hard job to find 550 cattle from one farm at any one time that would have looked better than these."

Male cattle, on green and blue CIDs, averaged £466, topping at £730 (206p/kg). What is in demand, he says, are animals that respond to good feeding, are good at meat production and have a high killing-out percentage.

Herd manager, Keith Potter, was "pleasantly surprised" by trade at the event. "The heifers were well grown for a year old, buyers could see they would end up as big cows."

Auctioneer Michael Harrison says, however, the year-old heifers sold at last weeks Warter Estate sale in East Yorks were destined for fattening rather than breeding.

Averaging £471, they will be finished off grass this year, he says. Some of the steers, meanwhile, will be kept longer – allowing subsidy to be claimed.

&#8226 For a full pictorial round-up of this sale see page 34. &#42

Warter, Warter everywhere – and prices higher than youd think. Top stock is still attracting top prices, as was apparent at the Warter Estate offering in Yorkshire.