Suckler cow quota value well up on last year
By Tim Relf
EARLY signs show suckler cow quota to be in strong demand, with values well up on those of a year ago.
Agents are reporting GB lowland quota to be making between £140 and £150 a unit in the days since the trading period began on June 16. Leasing values are about £40 a unit.
The buoyant start to trading reflects the high on which last season closed when "panic-buying" drove prices up, says Richard Goodman of Newbury-based Dreweatt Neate.
This may have prompted some farmers to source quota earlier. "But there will always be a few last-minute merchants."
Do your sums, work out what you can afford to pay – and get quota sooner rather than later, is his advice. "The management of subsidies remains a vital ingredient to profitable beef production."
The strong demand follows a period when trade for suckler cows and calves firmed as farmers, many with ample grass, looked to run them alongside other enterprises, says Mr Goodman.
Nick Gorst of Russell Baldwin and Bright at Hereford says enquiries are coming from people who have quit milk production. "For those with no arable options, a suckler enterprise is the natural alternative.
"Beef finishers, particularly in the lowlands, have stopped buying store cattle. There are not so many stores around – and, in many cases, people are fed up with losing money on them."
Part of the appeal of suckler cows, says Mr Gorst, is that they have a guaranteed premium payment. Many also go for the extensification premium. Some farmers like to get the quota early, triggering the retention period and allowing them to sell cows part-way through the winter, before they have cost too much in feed and bedding.
According to Caroline Carr of Ian Potter Associates, GB lowland quota is now selling and leasing for £150 and £40, respectively, compared with last seasons averages of £114 and £30.
English LFA is changing hands for £160 and £50, compared with 1997 averages of £117 and £38, adds Mrs Carr.
lMAFF has announced a 1998 basic suckler cow premium of £112 a head. *
Suckler cow quota is making big money. But it is still good value for money, say many, with the guaranteed premium one of the few certainties in beef production nowadays.