Calves surge, prices fall
CALF prices have dropped as the seasonal increase in numbers arrives in the markets.
Black-and-whites fell more than £20 to average £136.40 in the week ended June 28. Auctioneers say that with marketings now likely to remain high, trade is unlikely to show any short-term improvement.
Carlisles Robert Addison saw black-and-white bull calves level at £109 on Monday, down about £30 on two weeks earlier. Trade in Continental calves has also been slower, he says. "Suckler farmers are not looking for them at the moment and it is still a bit early for bull beef producers to want them," he adds.
At Northampton best Friesian calves have been selling between £150 and £180. Second-quality animals have been trading in the £70 to £100 range.
Auctioneer Keith Rose is still waiting for the surge in numbers. Trade is holding, he says, but will do so only until the flood arrives. "Demand will also ease off in the coming weeks as farmers become increasingly busy with harvest," he adds.
The growth in numbers going to market at this time of year results from farmers changing their calving patterns to take advantage of the milk pricing regime, claims auctioneer Hugh Evans at Carmarthen, where black-and-whites have fallen about £25 over the past month.
"Some of the herds which once calved in the autumn now calve in May," he says. "But, overall, there is probably a more even spread throughout the year."
At Chelford auctioneer Nigel Ashley points out that high-quality calves were helping to support prices. "At this time of year the stock has been outside and it is looking good when it comes to market," he says.
Not all have seen a fall in prices, though. At Avon Livestock Centre on Monday black-and-whites were up nearly £40 on the week before. Auctioneer David Brown describes the rise as unexpected.
"Perhaps prices were artificially low the previous week," he says, adding that they were now likely to fall. *