14 November 1997

Cow quotas rarer than hens teeth

By Tim Relf

WITH just a few weeks to go before the trading period closes, suckler cow quota is in short supply.

"Rarer than hens teeth," says Richard Hyde of Sunderlands.

Less quota is on offer as farmers, facing lower cull cow values, are keeping animals longer. The aim is to get another subsidy and calf, rather than accept the £300 over-30-month-scheme compensation.

Its a similar story with over-age heifers which, says Mr Hyde, have been "bulled rather than binned."

The quota shortage is not, he says, an indication of the faith in the beef market. "But with other sectors of farming under pressure, every penny counts."

Suckler cow premium this year is £117/head, compared with £124 last year. For stocking densities of 1-1.4 livestock units/ha, there is an extra extensification payment of £29/head (£42/head at rates of lower than 1 livestock unit/ha.)

Most agents, meanwhile, are trading lowland quota at £30-£35/unit for leasing and between £115 and £130/unit for sale.

Richard Bray of ADAS says, in these days of low and variable beef prices, farmers are keen to claim the premium – representing, as it does, a guaranteed contribution to margins.

But with the Dec 6 deadline looming, anyone who has left sourcing it until the last minute may be disappointed, says Mr Bray.

James Sheppard of Townsend says the situation is the reverse of last year, when there was plenty of quota and hardly anyone looking for it.

And LFA quota is even scarcer, worth about £38 and more than £120/unit for lease and sale respectively, says Mr Sheppard.

For those who will find themselves unable to source it, this marks another blow. "For some, the premium represented just about the only thing they had to look forward to," says Mr Sheppard.

Dreweatt Neates Simon Partlow is also expecting an upturn of activity in the market, as people look for last-minute bargains. As he says: "You dont get any premium money if you havent got the quota."