15 September 1995

High exports but low prices

DESPITE the buoyant export trade, high marketings of Friesian cross calves – including many poorer sorts – have pushed prices down to their lowest level since early this year.

Prices fell to £85 a head in the week ending Sept 6, about £35 down on the same time in 1994. And Monday markets suggeted little or no increase in values likely this week.

David Gray at Lanark points out that a lot of the calves marketed are those born out of heifers. And this, he says, is reflected in their size and condition.

"By the end of the month, there will be more mature cows calving, and the typical calf may then get stronger," he suggests.

The smaller, poorer calves currently being seen, says Mr Gray, have resulted from the drive towards younger herds as producers attempt to control cell counts.

Producers primary concern is with their milk cheque, he adds. "They are taking the attitude: If youre getting it in the pail, youre not getting it in the calf."

As elsewhere, Banbury last week saw a large range around the £87 average taken for black-and-whites. "With numbers having more than doubled compared to April or May, the trade is bound to have fallen," remarks auctioneer Brian Pile.

And at Gloucester, auctioneer Mike Credland says that considering the high numbers and the effect that the forage shortage is having on other stock prices, he is surprised calf prices have not fallen even further.