13 March 1998

Calves kept on to use up milk

CALVES are in short supply – but prices show little sign of increasing, with the beef trade still in the doldrums.

At Holsworthy, Devon, auctioneer Andrew Jennings has seen the offering contract, as farmers keep them to use up excess milk. "We could see some strong calves coming forward in April."

If you have animals to sell it may be better to do so before next month, when the offering could increase, he advises.

A few people are also postponing marketing, unaware that you can sell stock with just one tag. Having been a big problem at the turn of the year, however, this issue is now "ironing itself out" and over 80% are double-tagged, says Mr Jennings.

"If it is a good calf, it will make good money, even if it only has one."

Mid West Calves withholds £5 from the payment where there is no second tag. When it arrives, the money is paid and the group passes the tag on to the calfs new owner. "Were acting as a post office," says Mid Wests John Waine.

The shortage of calves now available reflects the trend towards later calving, with the peak expected in September.

While beef producers enthusiasm remains "minimal", interest in black-and-whites has increased. They attract the same premium as any other male calf and with grain so cheap, they offer good value, says Mr Waine.

Peter Hambleton of Warwick-shire Quality Calves also talks of the approaching seasonal low point in supplies.

Typical Continental cross bulls are in the £120-£150 range, with heifers at £40-£60. "Therell be more interest when farmers have got sheep out and are looking to restock buildings."

Up to 20%, meanwhile, still have single tags, says Mr Hambleton. "Surprisingly high."