13 October 2000

Sales strong for suckled calves…

By Simon Wragg

LANARK provided the high spot of the early suckled calf auctions with the recent two-day show and sale attracting over 3400 head and recording a healthy improvement in returns for rearers.

With over 2200 head to be sold on the opening day, auctioneers Lawrie & Symington had their work cut out. Despite concern over quality after a mixed grazing season average weights were up with bullocks averaged 448kg and heifers 412kg.

That helped values, with bullocks levelling at £465.27 – an increase of £10.94/head on last year – while interest in heifers helped trade reach £364.14 (up £16/head).

However, finishers are being careful not to invest too hard in some stock, report auctioneers. Prime cattle values are easing leading to heavier, more forward types being difficult to cash.

The closing days entry also showed an improvement on the year. Steers notched up an extra £28.75/head, although this was largely due to an increase in average weight of 23kg/head. Heifers improved £20.52 with a smaller weight gain.

At United Auctions Perth venue a few days later the mood was steadier with wet weather again taking its toll on quality. But buyers were also expressing concern over winter housing costs, reports auctioneer David Brown. "Theres a lot of wet, short straw still about and many are wondering about this years supplies. Prices of £35/t ex-farm are quoted before haulage and that will affect margins."

For these reasons, some calves were down £20-30/head on the previous weeks sale. Overall, bullocks levelled at 107p/kg and heifers 86p/kg – roughly in line with the same time last year. "Most of these animals would be ready between December and April and at least finishers will be getting the higher slaughter premium by then."

Sales are just starting further south. At Cutcombe Market, Somerset, the early sale gave something back to rearers but didnt hurt buyers too hard either, reports auctioneer Peter Huntly. "Its been wet down here too and weaned calves left out on grass have suffered. But finishers should see a big improvement once stock has been indoors for a week or two."

Steers, mainly Charolais and Belgian Blue crosses, averaged £370/head and heifers £215; the latter being a slight improvement on last autumns trade, reports Mr Huntly. Auctioneers are now hoping the sliding prime cattle price does not suppress interest from calf finishers just as the main sales get under way. &#42