12 January 1996

Opinions split over cull cows

CULL cows are meeting a variable trade, leaving opinion split as to which way prices will go now.

Most markets have seen a surge in numbers as the backlog following Christmas comes forward.

At Sturminster Newton, Dorset, for example, 180 culls were sold on Monday (Jan 8). Auctioneer Mark Lewis says this is almost twice what he would have expected at this time of year.

The Christmas slow-down, the SBO dispute and the lower prices resulting from adverse BSE publicity, all prompted farmers to postpone marketing, he says.

Many of the entries are also plain animals. And with more still to be sold, trade could ease, says Mr Lewis.

Similarly at Paisley, Strathclyde, auctioneer Robbie Wilson believes there are still a large number of cull cows to be sold.

With some buyers still boycotting the market due to the SBO dispute, farmers have held off marketing. "But they can only do this for so long," he says.

"Prices certainly wont rocket up, because theres no sign of either the home or the export trade taking off," suggests Peter Kingwill at Chippenham, Wilts.

He saw last Fridays entry of 287 head average 79.8p/kg. This is about 0.5p/kg lower than the mid-December level; and almost identical to the figure this time last year.

"What happens to prices now depends on supplies," he says. "Some farmers may have had a chance to calculate their fodder situation over Christmas; and, if they are short, they will sell a few.

"But a lot have already been killed, so prices should hold reasonably firm."

Auctioneer Clive Evans at Welshpool, Powys, agrees. With last Monday showing an average of £441 and a top of £765, prices look set to "hold their own", he says. The entry of 206 was almost four times that of the previous week. &#42