12 April 1996

Demand for grass-keep

still soaring

By Tim Relf

WITH the season drawing to a close, grass-keep continues to make strong prices.

As earlier in the year, the reduction in the maximum CAP stocking limit, and the shortage of forage many farmers face, continue to prop up demand. But now there is the effect of the BSE crisis, too.

Demand is strong from beef farmers who anticipate having to retain cattle until more normal trading resumes, says Bristol-based chartered surveyor David James.

Private treaty arrangements have been at about £247/ha (£100/acre), up 10% on last year, he says. His recent auction, meanwhile, saw values average £262/ha (£106/acre), up 18% on last year.

Even areas within the Country-side Stewardship scheme – where husbandry practices are limited – values were making over £247/ha (£100/acre), says Mr James.

Meanwhile in the Welsh borders, Glyn Owens of McCartneys reports a buoyant start to trading. Their annual offering of 146 acres at the beginning of the month topped at £470/ha (£190/acre).

The buoyant sheep trade is helping give confidence to anyone who wants sheep-keep, says Mr Owens.

The strong demand later in the year than typical means anyone with any spare grass should still consider letting it, urges Elizabeth Butler-Stoney of Newbury-based Dreweatt Neate.

"We have been inundated with inquiries after the season would have normally closed."

She agrees the BSE issue has led to increased demand for grass-keep. "The alternative to finding extra grass is buying expensive compound feed."

Prices have also been buoyed up by the introduction last autumn of farm business tenancies, she says.

"Some annual agreements have been converted to two- or three-year FBTs and the higher rents seen for these may have had a knock-on effect on the rest."

Farmers may be expecting another dry summer, says Shona Walker of Lincoln-based J &#42 Walter. "If they secure extra keep, they can use it if they need it; or sell it at high prices again off the field."

The recent J &#42 Walter sale at Lincoln saw a top price of £346/ha (£140/acre), paid for a 34-acre lot, which had received a top-dressing prior to the auction. &#42


Recent grass-keep auctions

Average prices£/ha(£/acre)

Lincoln269(109)

Bristol262(106)

Knighton242(98)

St Olaves213(86)