Tight supplies and strong demand have forced flying herds to dig deep for replacements this autumn, making commercial fresh heifers more than £160 a head dearer on the year.
This is according to AHDB data, which shows autumn prices for commercial heifers have averaged £1,578 a head and cows have levelled at £1,234.
Demand remains stoked by the cost-saving trend of switching to flying herd systems. TB-enforced slaughter is also maintaining demand in some regions as farms acquire restocking licences.
Exeter and Holsworthy
Mark Davis and the Kivells team have regularly seen strong, commercial, 30-litre heifers make £1,800-£2,000 apiece.
“Spring calvers have been harder work at some sales but demand for fresh milk is strong,” Mr Davis said.
However, delivered barley straw prices of £140/t in parts of the south-west meant vendors should expect resistance to youngstock prices, he added.
He said online bidding had worked well via the Irish system Marteye. Recent dispersal sales and collective sales had seen 20-50% of cattle knocked down to online bids, Mr Davis confirmed.
He said cattle supplies were likely to stay tight for the rest of the winter, which would keep trade for fresh calvers elevated.
Milker prices have recovered at Whitland Market in west Wales after falling behind English prices during the spring lockdown, when Freshways producers in the region felt the full force of high street closures.
Huw Evans of JJ Morris said Tuesday’s sale (17 November) was “on fire”, with an entry of 70 cattle levelling at £1,820 for heifers.
Strong cows regularly made £1,500 and more. Twelve lots made more than £2,000 and a further 12 hit £1,900-£2,000. Mr Evans said five new bidders moving into dairying had lifted demand.
He added that cull cows, while on a seasonal slide in value, had still been making £800-£1,000 for stronger, well-fleshed animals.
Auctioneer and valuer Gwilym Richards said buyers had recently sought productive young cows to maximise seasonality payments.
Market Drayton’s first two weekly sales in November saw heifers level at £1,915 and £1,653 and cows average £1,573 and £1,640.
“Trade is certainly very strong,” Mr Richards said. “Previously, the brakes used to be put on at £2,000, but now it can be £2,200 before bidders put the brakes on.
“Lockdown and coffee shop closures showed farmers just how important the milk contract is and where your processor sells its milk and what your milk price is exposed to.”