28 July 1995

Export demand lifts black and white calf trade

By Tim Relf

BLACK-AND-WHITE calf prices have stopped falling as a strong export demand, and a slightly smaller entry in some markets, have shored up the trade.

After a period of rising prices, values had decreased continuously since the end of May as marketings swelled seasonally. But this weeks early markets indicate prices likely to average about £110 in the seven days to July 26. (The week before, black-and-whites levelled at just over £95.)

"Export movement is very steady for the better calves," says David Gray, auctioneer at Lanark. "But a large number of heifers have been calving, so there are a lot of smaller sorts forward."

Prices for the plainer stock have been well back. But animals at about the £80 price tag are meeting a demand from buyers who will take them on and sell them bigger, he adds.

Beef calves are in short supply at Lanark. "Absolute gold", Mr Gray describes them as, having seen Charolais and Limousins regularly hitting the £300 mark.

At Carlisle, auctioneer Robert Addison has also seen a large number of plainer black-and-whites.

"Milk is a valuable commodity at the moment and farmers who otherwise may have kept the calves a little longer are shifting them," he says.

Gloucesters Mike Credland agrees: "People would rather sell the milk than hang on to the calf in an attempt to get another £50 for it," he says. This, he reckons, has been particularly noticeable among the Belgian Blues.

He says it is the high cost of dairy replacements that has prompted farmers to breed their own and this is resulting in the high marketings of calves born out of heifers.

"Export demand, more than the number forward, will continue to be the main factor determining prices," says Mr Credland. &#42