21 March 1997

Dont let dirt affect prices

IF youre about to sell finished cattle, then make sure they are clean and not caked in mud and dung.

That is the message from auctioneers, who reckon dirty animals are being discounted by between 8p and 15p/kg. And thats if buyers want them at all – some are simply keeping their hands in their pockets and not bidding.

As Stephen Dennis at Gisburn, Lancs, puts it: "The buyers just arent that desperate for beef."

According to auctioneer Alan Webber at Exeter, Devon, farmers are taking on board the message that a dirty animal can mean a 10p/kg drop in price.

"The exact amount depends how heavy, and how clatted, the dung is. If it can be easily raked off, prices are not penalised so much," says Mr Webber.

Like many, he points to insufficient strawing as a primary cause. "But even if they are heavily bedded, some cattle will lie in muck," he says.

This has prompted one farmer to shear – at a cost of £7 a bullock, says Mr Webber. Another expense for the beef producer, he points out.

Auctioneers say that a 10p/kg discount might mean £60. And this at a time when prices remain below the 100p/kg-mark.

Values turned up marginally this week, partly on the back of last weeks intervention adjudication which saw 524t and 2158t of young bull and steer beef accepted from GB traders.

Facing such prices, straw represents an expense some farmers have tried to save money on.

But Nick Baker, who finishes 300 cattle a year at Bainton Heights, East Yorkshire, says that can be false economy.

"The requirement is cleanliness, so we spend a lot of time bedding cattle and use a lot of straw.

"We are, however, in the centre of an arable area: It only costs us about £2.50 per big round bale – which is a lot cheaper than in other areas."n

Its the end of winter and cattle need cleaning before sale.