19 December 1997

Dispersals head for records

DISPERSALS of dairy herds could reach record levels in 1998, as farmers continue their exodus from the industry.

Lower milk prices and the drop in cull cow and calf values leaves many producers facing a stark choice, says Keith Flemington of Bruton Knowles. "Either tighten the last notch on your belts or say enough is enough and quit.

"The decision will, in many cases, be a forced one at short-notice as farmers hit financial problems.

Cashing quota and cows will, however, be less of a motive for selling-up in the months ahead than in 1997, as values of both have fallen.

Such comments follow a hectic sales year for Mr Flemington, the highlight of which was a dispersal at Acle, Norfolk in April, when 800-head went under the hammer in two days. The 443 cows averaged £604.

Values of young, high genetic merit animals increased towards the end of the season as their availability dried up, says Mr Flemington.

David Giles of Halls also talks of a recent rally in trade, with the best stock in market making £1000. People who havent bought replacements for cohorts are now "catching up."

For farmers now considering dispersing the big question, says Mr Giles, is what to do now if they want to stay in farming. "The alternatives are not too mouthwatering."

Barry Colton of Kittows expects the springto be busy next year, motivated by quota factors. "If youre left with clean quota, you can then sell it at any time you like."n