Dairy cattle trade holds up despite milk price crash

Trade in dairy cattle is holding up well despite farmers’ incomes being hit by the crash in milk prices.

The four biggest dairy companies slashed their farmgate prices by more than a penny in the past few weeks, as commodity prices continue to slide.

But auctioneers have reported strong demand for dairy cattle at the markets, with farmers looking to maintain herd numbers.

See also: August milk production highest in 11 years

David Giles, director at Halls, said prices had dropped only slightly and there was definite demand for cattle, which would only increase moving into the autumn.

At Shrewsbury market in Shropshire, better heifers were making about £2,000 a head, with the second quality making from £1,400-1,800 a head. Good-quality cows were making similar prices.

“It has been remarkably good, with all the milk price drops we have seen,” he said.

“The people in the job are committed dairy people, they have got to keep their numbers up.”

Clive Norbury, director at Wright Marshall, also said prices had been very good, particularly for heifers as there were not large numbers around.

He said many farmers had enjoyed a more profitable spring and the effect of the heaviest milk price cuts had not yet been felt.

“Probably the effect won’t kick in until they see their milk cheques in November,” he said.

Prices in the two August sales at Beeston Castle, Cheshire, had been £200-300 a head dearer than in July.

On Tuesday (9 September), 56 of the 186 milking cattle sold made more than £2,000 a head.

“People have put money into new set-ups – they need to keep the numbers up to maximise milk production,” Mr Norbury added.

At Frome livestock market on Wednesday (10 September), an entry of nearly 40 good-quality dairy cattle sold very well to make their full value.

Heifers averaged £1,760 a head and sold to a top of £1,920. The smaller entry of cows sold to a top of £1,750.

Trevor Rowland of Frome Livestock Auctioneers said numbers were much better on the year, with weekly entries of 35 head compared with about 20 animals 12 months ago.

He added that farmers’ bottom lines were probably being helped by good returns for cull cows and calves, as well as sliding feed prices.