5 June 1998

Fine-tune entry for best returns from the market

By Simon Wragg

MORE can be done by livestock producers and livestock auctions to improve returns and help retain a healthy auction system, say consultants and auctioneers.

Getting the best return from auctions requires careful selection and consigning of stock and for many producers there is room to improve their marketing skills, explains John Martin, Livestock Auctioneers Association secretary.

"It is important to present pens of equal weight and finish to give buyers confidence, especially with lambs as there is a great deal of variation between breeds."

MLCs head of sheep strategy, David Croston, says the difference last season between correctly consigned lambs and the rest of the market was about 10p/kg liveweight using sheep quality quotation figures.

While weight and size are important, assessing finish is essential, adds Mr Croston. Producers must get accustomed to feeling fat cover across the corrugations of the loin and around the tail head. "The fine-tuning must always be done with the fingers," he adds.

Independent sheep consultant, Lesley Stubbings, says the price differential between poor and better quality lambs has been more evident than ever in the past six to eight months. "This is a good impetus for producers to improve selection and sorting of stock and marketing."

Both producers and auction markets should work together to ensure stock are presented well and realise a price which better reflects their quality. Markets could even take the lead in helping their farmer customers improve the standard of stock forward, adds Ms Stubbings.

Signets John Southgate urges producers to take account of differences between breeds and feeding regimes. "A Suffolk x Mule at 43kg lw should produce a 20.5kg carcass at fat class 3L-3H. But when fed creep it will finish faster, probably at 38-40kg." Females also finish at lower mature weights, he adds.

Oxon producer Robert Nunnerley drafts his lambs into weight bands of 2kg before sorting into taller, longer and plainer types depending on finish. "We always get above average market price," he claims. For beef cattle, ADAS head of beef and sheep, Neil Pickard, suggests finish is all important. Producers should take a hands-on approach to grading mature cattle when it can be done safely. "There are significant penalties for under and over-finished stock. When it is fit to go, it should be in the market."

Deadweight sellers get results back from the abattoirs which show whether they are grading cattle correctly. But liveweight sellers must learn from experience in the market, says Mr Pickard. "Price is always a good indicator of whether you are getting it right." Producers could eliminate price penalties of 10p/kg liveweight for poorly selected stock, he adds.

Ian Lawton, partner of Midlands-based Bagshaws markets, says feedback from live auctions is immediate. "Do the job properly, and buyers will be looking for your stock the next week," he says. Stock must be as uniform as possible, and sold when ready for the market rather than as the result of trying to catch the best prices and miss the worst, he adds.

Mr Lawton emphasises the importance of keeping farmers in touch with buyers requirements. "Talk to us and use our knowledge of market; dialogue is what it is all about." &#42

IMPROVING RETURNS

&#8226 Careful selection of stock.

&#8226 Match buyer requirements.

&#8226 Dialogue with auctioneers.