31 May 1996

Dairy cows see poor market

TRADE for dairy cows is lack- lustre and it looks set to remain so at least until the 30-month slaughter scheme begins to speed up.

In markets across the country the story is the same, with farmers unwilling or unable to buy dairy cows. With culls having built-up on farms, lack of accommodation and fodder are causing problems as are interrupted cash flows.

But the best stock is finding new homes. "Demand is entirely dependant upon quality," says auctioneer David Millard at Frome, Somerset. Trade for first- and second-calvers is reasonable, he says, having seen the £1000-mark topped once last week.

And this is reflected in the national average for first-quality Friesians which, in the week to May 21, stood at £821. (This was only £45 less than 12 months earlier.)

"Trade is quieter than would have been expected at this time of year," notes Stephen Dennis, auctioneer at Gisburn, Lancs. There, newly-calved heifers averaged just under £900 and cows £825 last week.

With some of the retained cows contributing to milk production, quota limitations are a consideration for some, he adds. Meanwhile at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, auctioneer David Giles says a lot of would-be buyers are "conspicuous by their absence".

Entries at Shrewsbury have been hit by the poor trade, with only 26 heifers and not a single cow forward last week. "Understandably, people do not want to take a lame price." But four-figure sums can still be made for the best, he adds.

Recent rain and warmer weather may have eased the forage worries for some, suggests Mr Giles. But, like many, he thinks the slaughter scheme is the key to kick-starting the market. &#42