14 January 2000

Milk producers sit on fence over sales policy

By Jeremy Hunt

WHILE several leading pedigree livestock auctioneers report a higher than average number of tentative inquiries for dairy herd dispersals, many milk producers are still undecided about their future and not prepared to commit themselves to a definite sale date.

The high price of quota set against the falling milk price is creating instability in the market for dairystock but with collective pedigree sale averages for heifers hovering at £500 and plenty of commercial milkers available at £400 and less, the temptation to try and overcome a lower milk cheque by increasing output is still regarded as a worthwhile gamble.

Auctioneers Norton and Brooksbank expect the coming weeks to see a spate of sale dates confirmed but they already have several high-profile fixtures on the calendar. May 11 sees the dispersal of the Olympian Holstein herd of Messrs Spiby and Partners who will move the remaining 140 head in their Sussex-based herd to the Sale Centre at Kirby Thore in Cumbria.

The Moet herd, now settled in at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, will stage the first home sale from its new base on June 6 with Norton and Brooksbank on the rostrum. And the partnership are holding the "New Century" sale at Kirkby Thore on Apr 12 attracting Holstein females of all ages.

Well known Holstein breeder John Hunter from Essex will move his 300-strong Watergate herd to the new dairy sale facilities at Beeston Auction Mart in Cheshire when he disperses on June 6 via Wright-Manley who started the New Year with 25 sale dates confirmed.

Carlisle auctioneer Edward Brown of Harrison and Hetheringtons pedigree department says the firm has several "exciting" black and white fixtures in the pipeline but still under wraps. It has just announced a new sale to be held at Borderway Mart on June 17.

"The Best of Britain sale will present all dairy breeds with an opportunity to sell stock and we hope that Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire breeders will support this occasion alongside the Holstein fraternity," said Mr Brown.

Limousin breeders have also been busy staking a claim on sale dates. Harrison & Hetherington will officiate at the first sale of 40 bulls to emerge from the new Lim-Test UK evaluation centre on Richard Bradleys farm near Leyburn in the Yorkshire Dales. The sale will take place on the farm on Apr 8.

The Borderway Mart team will be working from the new sale centre created by Doug Mash who is holding a production sale from his own Brockhurst Limousin herd at Chesham, Bucks on Apr 15.

Other Limousin sale dates confirmed include a joint offering from Norman Cruickshank (Normande) and Paul Byas (Middledale) on June 15 and a production sale from the Balfunning herd of Jim McFarlane on July 8.