15 November 1996

Just like old times for dairy cattle values

By Tim Relf

DAIRY cow values have risen as the over 30-month cull progresses and the cost of quota drops.

"Just like old times," at Frome, Somerset, last week, according to auctioneer David Millard. There, three heifers topped the £1000-mark last week and 21 calved heifers made over £800.

The cull has quickened and the upward trend has been evident for a month, as "latent demand" is realised, says Mr Millard. He now expects values to settle just below last weeks levels. "People will probably expect to pay about £800 for a decent heifer."

Combined with the lower cull compensation (75p/kg), the higher values mean the old adage of "selling two culls to fund one replacement" is now again near the truth.

People who dispersed dairy stock a month ago may be a bit disappointed, he says. "But quota was worth more then – so taken together the returns may not be too different."

Henry Simon of R B Taylor and Sons says: "There could even be some commercial milk producers who leased out quota at 17p and, if they could lease it in again at, say, 12p, may do so.

"They might then even be looking for a few extra cows to fill this."

He also highlights the link between quota and cow values. "Most dairy farmers tend to be happier when dairy prices are a bit higher and quota values lower, rather than the other way round, because quota is paper wealth and this may make people feel vulnerable."

The big differential between the best and the worst animals, meanwhile, continues to be seen. Some of the poorest are still only making only about £450, points out Mr Simon.

"In weekly market sales, documented low cell counts are essential to reasonable prices."

While the improvement has been about £150 apiece over recent weeks, the older cows are still worth a lot less, agrees Mike Elliot at Uttoxeter, Staffs.

And this is reflected in the big price variation seen for third-calvers – making between £580 and £820 – while second-calvers have been at £900-£1000.

lFrank R Marshalls milk quota leasing auction at Chelford, Cheshire, on Monday saw values between 12.6p and 15p/litre, with an average of 14.2p/litre. The centres previous sale, two weeks before, had averaged 16.02p. &#42