31 August 2001

Some go for early restock

By Jeremy Hunt

SOME of the first farms in south-west Scotland to be hit by foot-and-mouth have taken delivery of suckler cows and calves, with prices slightly up on pre-February levels.

Although best quality outfits are expected to firm in value in the coming months, the main uptake of beef cows for Cumbrias restocking programme is unlikely to affect the trade for some time.

Lockerbie farmer Tony Dempster lost his herd as part of the contiguous cull on Mar 28, but he was determined to restock at the earliest chance. "I wanted to try to get back into a cash flow situation as soon as possible. We should now have some strong suckled calves to sell in January," said Mr Dempster.

He has bought a whole herd from Ayrshire through Carlisle-based Harrison and Hetheringtons sales register. Although he is not disclosing how much he paid, he says it was in line with the market price prevailing pre-F&M.

"I wanted to buy a whole herd so we could pick-up from where we would have been at this time of year.

"I know some are preferring to leave restocking until later, but I decided it was essential to get back in the game as soon as we were given the all-clear," said Mr Dempster.

David Thomlinson of auctioneers Harrison and Hetherington says farmers fall into distinct categories over restocking plans.

"There are those who are genuinely still in a state of shock and are doing nothing and others who are prepared to wait until the disease has completely gone before they even think about restocking.

"At the other extreme there are those who are already buying suckler cows and bulling heifers on contract. These men want to hit the ground running as soon as they can restock and are aiming to have suckled calves to sell in March next year," says Mr Thomlinson, who has just clinched a forward contract for 300 bulling heifers for a client.

The companys sales register includes a lot of suckler cows with prices ranging from £600 to £1200.

Trade is up £50-£100 per outfit, compared with six months ago says David Brown of United Auctions at Perth. "It is good but not silly and there are plenty of whole herds for sale. Average prices for spring calvers taking them on a whole-herd basis are £700-£800 per outfit.

"South-west Scotland farmers are looking for a cow with some native blood, such as a Shorthorn or Angus cross weighing 500-600kg. They do not want a three-quarter Continental bred 700kg cow," says Mr Brown.

Alan Webber of Exeter-based auctioneers Husseys says good quality second and third calvers with a bull calf at foot are the most sought after in the west country, with prices slightly higher than six months ago. "I think we will see more cattle offered for sale in the coming months as farmers off-load stock to cut winter feed costs," says Mr Webber. &#42

SUCKLER COW SALES

&#8226 Prices up slightly.

&#8226 Some looking to restock.

&#8226 Average prices for spring calvers £700-£800.