26 May 1995

Cell counts give sales added edge

By Tim Relf

TRADE for dairy cows has eased, with a selective demand leaving second-quality sorts particularly hard to shift.

At Crewe, where the best commercial animals have been making between £1100 and £1300, second-quality heifers have been changing hands at the £700 to £900-mark. Poorer cows, meanwhile, have been trading between £400 and £700.

Cell counts have become increasingly important, as producers anticipate tighter milk quality legislation.

Clive Norbury, auctioneer at Crewe, stresses the importance of "publishing all cell counts where possible".

He also points to the "general reverse relationship" between the price of quota and the price of cows. "Quota prices may come down later in the year, and then dairy cows could go dearer," he says. "But for the best-quality animals, its unlikely there will be any price rise in the immediate future."

Auctioneer Malgwyn Evans at Cardigan agrees: "People are not prepared to go out and buy cows when quota is expensive. And there is a general feeling that quota is too expensive at the moment.

"I think that the price of quota will come back," he says, "and the price of cows could, therefore, go up again."

At Carmarthen, meanwhile, auctioneer Geraint James has also noticed that buyers main concern is the cell count regime. "They are concerned that a high cell count is the main reason that a cow is on the market," he says. "Indeed at some dispersal sales, purchasers are as interested in cell counts as in butterfat or protein levels."

Top price at Carmarthen last week was £1090. A year earlier, leading prices were in the £1200 to £1300 range.

The importance of cell counts in determining value is also stressed by Cooper and Tanners David Millard. At a dispersal sale in Somerset this week, he gave all the animals individual counts, with the result that "a few proved difficult to sell, but a number also sold very well indeed."

At the sale, 106 cows and in-calf heifers averaged £753. "Of course," he adds, "the information isnt always available to give." &#42