15 March 2002

Tight supplies see stores fly

STORE cattle trade is flying with tight supply and a healthy demand from finishers forcing prices.

Most auctions are reporting trade well above last years values when buyers had to bid on farms.

In the north-east, stock volumes are down because of the multiple drop-off rule, preventing buyers from making up lorry loads of cattle, reported Hexham auctioneer Trevor Simpson this week.

"There is a good company of buyers, but if they dont believe they can make up a load, they are going away empty-handed," said Mr Simpson. "Being able to make multiple or even two drop-offs would be a big help to trade."

But cattle are moving freely around the region and prices have been strong, with about 2000 stores passing through Hexham since it reopened. Cattle with both claims still intact have been making better prices than finished animals.

Steers with one claim left are at the 115-120p/kg mark and those with both are at 140-150p/kg. The heifer trade has also been brisk, with smaller animals making better money at about 120p/kg.

At Wooler market, fieldsman Alastair Ralston said there had been no difficulty moving cattle on. Heifers have averaged 105p/kg, with about 800 cattle being sold. Steers with both claims left have sold for 130-135p/kg, and those with one claim intact averaged 125p/kg. Bullocks with no claims left levelled at 115p/kg.

Demand for store cattle is far outstripping supply in Wales. "The trade is absolutely flying," said auctioneer Dai Lewis as he prepared to sell 250 stores at Newcastle Emlyn this week.

"At our last sale, local farmers could not compete with dealers from places like Cheshire, Cumbria and Notts. Even plain cattle are making good money, and good steers on which no premium has been drawn are making well over 150p/kg."

Richard Gwilliam, of McCartneys, which operates several store cattle auctions, reported entries at some centres down by about one-third on 2000, but prices are buoyant.

Across Wales, steers still eligible for one premium payment are trading at about 120p/kg and heifers about £1/kg. &#42