9 June 1995

Cull cows in plenty keep price steady

By Tim Relf

TRADE for cull cows continues steady, as high marketings have surprised auctioneers and kept a lid on prices.

"We sold a lot from January to mid-March as producers reacted to their over-quota situation," says David Lock at Yeovil. "But the relatively high numbers have continued."

He now expects entries to tail-off within a month. Prices for the better sorts could then firm, he suggests.

Similarly, at Beeston Castle – where there has been "not much movement in the trade" – Stephen Welch has noticed people to be still culling quite heavily. "Cell counts continue to be an important factor," he adds. Last Friday at Beeston Castle, 420 head levelled 92.5p/kg.

The MLC put April cullings 29% higher than in 1994.

And although entries in some markets have begun to decline, prices – at 89p/kg in the week ending June 5 – remain about 10p/kg below those at the same time last year.

The MLC points out that, although 8% lower than 1994, current prices remain firm compared to 1993 levels. And the falling supplies of manufacturing grade beef will help to ensure values continue so.

Auctioneers point to the large variability around the average price.

At Chelmsford, where trade has been steady for about a month, Tom Whirledge says that variations in overall averages reflect the quality of cows rather than fluctuations in numbers. "Since turnout, the quality coming forward has improved.

"The amount of conserved grass in East Anglia is between one-third and one-half down on last year," he says. "And apprehension about the grass situation is encouraging some culling."

A resurgence in demand for animals with BSE-free certificates has also been seen at Chelmsford. "Six weeks ago, there was very little difference in value between those with certificates and those without," he says. "Now, for the best cows, those with papers can make as much as 10p to 20p/kg extra."

At Skipton, meanwhile, the difference has also been up to 10p/kg, according to auctioneer David Brown.

Marketings at Skipton have been gradually declining. "Most people have already sold their problem cows," he says. "Entries should stay at about this level for the rest of the summer. And prices should stay quite firm."

One exception to the generally level trend is Derby, where last Friday, 98p/kg was taken for 250 head, up almost 4p on the week.

"If it carries on at this level, numbers wont decline," predicts David Cook. "When prices are good, there are always some animals to cull."