16 October 1998

Members able to target the right markets

SELLING cattle through a producer group allows targeted production of animals to meet market requirements.

East Anglian Suckler group members Paul and John Cherry, of Weston Park Farm, Weston, Herts, have sold cattle through the group for the last four years.

Although predominantly an arable farm they have 175 Hereford x Freisan suckler cows put over Simmential and Limousin bulls on 162ha (400 acres) of permanent pasture and parkland. All progeny are finished but some heifers are kept as replacements.

The Cherrys market about 180 finished cattle during the year, split between autumn and spring calvers. Last year spring born bull calves were kept entire and sold at 11-13 months old with average grades of E-R3L. Autumn born male calves are sold as steers at 18 months old and average R4L. Heifers average O+3.

Previously, stock were marketed through the electronic auction and sold direct to abattoirs. They started using the marketing group because they didnt trust the system and were never convinced they had the best price. It was also time consuming, says Paul.

"Weve always had a quality product to sell, but because were out on a limb in East Anglia, joining the group was the best way of finding a market. It would be flippant to suggest we get the top price every time, although all things considered Im happy with prices offerred.

"To begin with there was a lot of phone contact, which wasnt reassuring when selling, however this has improved now that Mr Warrener comes round when weve any queries," he says.

"The group keeps us informed with a newsletter which helps us plan ahead. Last year they found a good market for young bulls under 14 months, so we were able to target production and boost returns."

"Im sure we will see more producer-run groups in the next few years – individual producers have little clout in the marketplace," concludes Paul.