By Farmers Weekly staff

WITH the prospect of plenty of milky summer grass, demand for heifers favours animals able to maximise on production immediately – and that does mean two-year-old down-calvers.

But depressed milk prices are limiting overall demand.

Auctioneer Derek Biss, of Greenslade Hunt, Taunton, was unable to report a rush to buy replacements this week, even with a liberal supply of Holstein heifers available.

Milk producers who follow management consultants advice to get heifers in-calf in time to be in production at two years of age are realising lower prices for their surplus down-calvers than producers who have adopted a more relaxed approach to heifer rearing.

“Priority demand is for young cows or heifers capable of producing what cows would produce, and that means 35 litres a day, not the 25 litres yielded by a two-year-old,” says Mr Biss.

This is important for herds planning dispersal sales. “When we go to take details of a sale, the first thing I do is to ask how old the heifers are.

“People who run flying- or nearly-flying herd replacement policies arent interested in two-year-olds.”

As a rule of thumb, he says, current prices for two-year-old down-calvers are in the £500s, while those six months to a year older attract £700 or more.

A heifer aged 2.5 years and giving 35 litres/day reached £920 in a farm sale last week.

Milking heifers and cows with calves at foot averaged £995 at the recent Reaseheath sale, reflecting the herds 10,000 litre average.

“Theres a big difference between quality and non-quality,” commented Clive Norbury, of Crewe auctioneers Wright-Manley.

“People are looking for a quick return on their investment, and they want a lot of milk. But the animals have got to look as though they will last.”