25 February 2000

Continental calves settle

CONTINENTAL calf prices are beginning to level out after a spate of strong sales over recent weeks brought about by tighter supplies.

The upsurge had been welcome by many centres following a gloomy pre-year end period when many Friesian bulls were at £18 a head and Charolais bulls nearer £108 a head. Since then, Continental breeds rose strongly with Charolais peaking at £152 and subsequently falling back to £141 a piece last week (Feb 18), according to MLC figures.

Jon Pullin of Bruton Knowles says the strong trade has reflected a supposed shortage of prime cattle which has rubbed off on calf and store cattle sales. The rise in bull calf values has put forward heifers as a better proposition despite attracting no beef subsidy. Females that were fetching £40 each at the end of last year are now being bid at nearer £100, he says.

But demand for Continentals remains keen for the best quality. "We had a run of Simmental heifers in this week to average £113; the top ten bulls averaged just short of £197 each. Even the killing price for plainer Holstein calves has come up – fewer will be shot on-farm and some will also going forward for rearing."

The weekly all-market average has eased with the levelling off of some Continental calf prices. According to MLC figures the weekly average had risen consistently to £75.52 a week ago, but has now levelled out. Coincidentally, prime cattle prices have also relaxed.