5 April 1996

Now crisis hits dairy dispersals

By Tim Relf

DAIRY dispersals have become the latest casualty of the BSE crisis, with a number postponed.

But those that have gone ahead have produced surprisingly good results, according to auctioneers.

The offering of 141 Holstein Friesians at Rowe Farm, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, last week saw a top price of £860. "Cattle sold better than any of us dared to hope for," says auctioneer Richard Willcock.

With people anticipating a shortage of dairy stock, the value of the youngstock was dearer than it otherwise might have been, he adds.

Withdrawal

But the planned entry of 36 store cattle had been withdrawn from the sale. Similarly, 21 older cows were not offered. "They probably would have been heading for the barreners ring," said Mr Willcock.

Barreners have no value – or perhaps even a negative one, as it may cost to have them taken away, Christopher Norton of auctioneers Norton and Brooksbank said last week.

But with dairy animals, especially top-class pedigrees, farmers are thinking long term. And this may be a good time to make an investment, he says.

"There is a distinction to be made between relatively young pedigree herds and older commercial ones," agrees Paul Lewis of Symonds and Sampson.

The 167 Holstein Friesians which he was due to sell at Wimborne, Dorset, last Thursday have been postponed for three weeks. "I could see no bottom to the market for barren cows," he says.

Jersey postponement

Also postponed have been the sales of the Laurelbank herd of 65 Jerseys due to take place on Mar 29 at Abergavenny and the 407-strong Lytham Friesian Holstein sale due for Apr 9 and 10 near Blackpool.

People with sales arranged for late April and May, meanwhile, seem to be proceeding for the time being, says auctioneer Gwilym Richards, "especially if they have already advertised the sale".

And though the lack of confidence may justify temporarily calling off a dispersal, it is not always practical, he says. "The farm may have been sold or it may be on behalf of a tenant who is leaving."

And with the early part of the new milk year traditionally seeing a large number, a backlog could build up for future months, fears Mr Richards. "They may end up clashing with each other."

For full details of last weeks largest dispersal, see page 36.