By Tim Relf

GRASSKEEP is making similar – or slightly less – money to last year, with trading now getting into full swing.

Private deals are being done at £80 to £100/acre, says Andrew Wallace of Wright-Manley at Crewe.

Though some of the smaller farmers are leaving the business, plenty of the bigger ones are expanding to combat lower milk prices.

“Some of the bigger farmers are looking to put another 30 to 50 cows on their herds,” says Mr Wallace. “They are looking to put the youngstock somewhere else so they can mow more ground at home.”

Key considerations are finding a good sward in a convenient location, he says. It also boosts prices if the land has mains water and access to buildings for sorting and loading stock.

Fencing is also important. “People want to know that, once theyve put 50 heifers there, theyre going to stay there.”

Another “spark” to demand is the keenness among beef farmers to get extra ground and boost subsidy entitlement, adds Mr Wallace.

Chris Turney of Gloucestershire-based Hamiltons, has seen big variations in prices. At the top end of the scale, some is making £80 to £100/acre. In less desirable locations, demand is more selective – particularly if there have been TB problems: “People are absolutely petrified of that.”

Most deals, however, are done for about the same – or marginally less – than 12 months ago. “Theres been no major collapse in prices,” says Mr Turney. Demand has been maintained with farmers carrying similar stock numbers to last spring. “There has not been a massive exodus out of cattle in this area.”

Average blocks, meanwhile, are at £60 to £70/acre. Exceptional ones can still hit £100/acre.

Sward condition and location are key points. “Will it grow a decent crop of grass, and is it within striking distance of home? They are the two questions,” says Mr Turney.

The best is snapped up by milk producers. “The dairy boys still have the deepest pockets.”

Bernie Hutchinson of Barber & Son at Market Drayton has also seen private deals reach the £100/acre mark this year. Underpinning values, he says, is the drive by farmers to expand their acreage and, therefore, subsidy entitlements.

Values overall look similar to 12 months ago, says Mr Hutchinson, when rough ground changed hands for £50/acre, the best made about £120/acre and the average was about £75/acre.