25 August 1995

Prices level in dairy cow trade

DAIRY cow prices continue fairly level, the average for first quality Friesians having only once moved outside the £800 to £850 range since the beginning of June.

But this still represents a considerable fall on year-earlier figures, which consistently topped the £1000 mark.

And despite the falling values seen during the second half of 1994 many auctioneers are reasonably bullish for the rest of this year.

Usually a large number of cattle are sold in the coming months, so buyers have had more to choose from and prices fall, suggests Mark Elliot at Uttoxeter. "But this year, with more dispersal sales having happened in the spring and summer, we may now see fewer forward."

Similarly, auctioneers point to a strong barren cow trade as supporting dairy cow values. Auctioneer David Lock saw over 300 barreners forward in Yeovil last week, for example. This was up over 100 head on the same time last year.

And at Beeston Castle, where cull cow entries reached almost 600 head recently, Stephen Welch says that represents "a record" for August.

"The higher barren cow numbers may mean fewer will come forward later in the year," says Mr Elliot. And firm prices in the barren ring are reflected in the dairy ring, he adds.

Most auctioneers agree that the quota and forage situation will be crucial factors in determining dairy cow values.

"I have been amazed how the trade has withstood the current situation of high dispersal sale numbers combined with a forage shortage," says auctioneer John Brereton at Oswestry. "But it has, and so if the rain comes prices could increase."

The prolonged dry weather could also have a firming influence on prices, according to Hugh Evans at Carmarthen. "The dry conditions may mean that people hang on to cows to maintain production levels. Nobody wants to end up below quota," he says. And the lower marketings could, therefore, support the trade.

Last week Mr Evans saw cows average £620 and heifers £790. The gradual decline he has observed in prices has, he says, been partly due to less demand from the south west.

"We usually have a lot of buyers from that area but the higher number of dispersal sales there has reduced this," he remarks. &#42