20 March 1998

Grass keep hit by milk prices

GRASS keep is making as much as 25% less than last spring, as farmers look to limit spending.

As Phil Blackman of Bruton Knowles at Gloucester says: "Milk prices are down, theres the on-going problems with beef and lamb as values have fallen. No one has a bright story to tell."

Jonathan Smith of nearby Hamiltons says land, which made £117/acre and £90/acre last year, changed hands for £94/acre and £75/acre this season. Location, fencing and sward condition are key to value, says Mr Smith.

"The market hasnt collapsed, however. Theres always someone looking for it. In the present economic climate, you need to expand to stand still. But I wouldnt like to hold an auction this year."

But Alder King is doing just that today (Mar 20) at Chippen-ham, Wilts. The firms Tom Killen reckons this seasons deals will be between 5% and 10% lower in value than 12 months ago, with fewer cattle about and more fodder in store.

Values will probably range between £50 and £90/acre, depending on access, water and local competition. "But it can be variable – you can have keep making £50/acre on one side of the fence and £100/acre on the other."

The selective cull and reduced beef cattle numbers have hit demand for grass. But there are farmers looking to expand – and take on more forage acres to maximise subsidies, says Mr Killen.

Andrew Wallace of Wright-Manley at Crewe expects good blocks in the right location, near farmers that are heavily stocked, to maintain their value. But the poorer offerings could be £10-£15/acre less. "

There are a few new blocks coming available, in the face of lower stock numbers, he says.

But Richard Nancekivell of Bristol-based David James and Partners hasnt seen a bigger area available than usual. "The flush of acres expected to come on the market hasnt materialised." Mr Nancekivell puts the drop in values at about £10-£15/acre.

GRASS KEEP

What makes the most money?

&#8226 Productive sward.

&#8226 Good location/access.

&#8226 Flat, fenced land with water.