3 May 1996

Slack trade in dairy sector

DEMAND for commercial dairy cattle is being influenced by the standstill in barren cow disposals, and slow grass growth in some areas.

Prices recovered well after the usual end of milk marketing year dip. After holding at just less than £850 a head for a fortnight, the national average plunged to £770, before rising to £810 last week.

Spring grass has, however, started growing well on some farms, encouraging producers to buy spring-calving replacements, and adjust over-quota milk production later in the year.

But auctioneers report that others who are short of fodder, or who need cash from sales of barreners to buy fresh calvers, are staying away from markets.

As a result top quality heifers and cows are selling well, but the national average is being depressed by lacklustre demand for second-quality animals.

In each of the past four weeks, prices stayed below the level of corresponding weeks in 1995.

But at early markets this week prices were firm, or rising.

Malgwyn Evans of Cardigan auctioneers J J Morris, reported that good quality cattle made up to £1000, and he detected underlying confidence in the sector.

"Producers are not expecting a big herd slaughter, and they know that they will eventually get a very fair price for their barreners."

"At our first quota sale of the year on Monday the price of clean, leased quota averaged 11.7p/litre; and 3.9% butterfat quota sold for 60p/litre."

John Brereton of Jones Peckover – who operates markets in England and Wales – said top quality commercial cows are making over £1000 a head, and heifers between £1000 and £1300.

"But it is very important for the market that the scheme to dispose of cattle over 30 months old gets going soon," he said.