Rearing calf trade strengthening in April

Rearing calf trade has remained firm despite the price fluctuations coronavirus has brought to other sectors.

The arrival of spring has even strengthened trade at some auctions where prices are breaking the £400 barrier for strong continentals.

A lack of demand for hides has dented processing calf demand, but auctioneers are reporting solid averages for middle-quality dairy-sired calves and stronger beef-cross types. 

See also: Coronavirus: Why rise in mince sales can undercut beef price


Calf numbers have tightened at Skipton since last month’s 129-head calf show (16 March). Blue-cross bulls topped trade, averageing £263 and topping at £405.

An entry of mostly four-to-eight-week-old calves topped at £400 on Monday (13 April).

Blue-cross bulls levelled at £293, while Angus bulls averaged £240 and topped at £310 and Fleckviehs averaged £172 and sold to £205.

Junior auctioneer Kyle Hawksworth said grazing conditions had improved in his area over the past two weeks and store cattle vendors were still buying calves and offloading cattle as normal.

Mr Hawksworth said: “We have more buyers on more accounts. Older farmers are staying away from the mart in line with coronavirus advice. Younger family [members], friends and neighbours are buying calves for them.”


A recent tightening of weekly calf supplies at Frome is mostly likely due to a bumper 520-head entry last month (March 18) when vendors anticipated mart restrictions, said Frome Livestock Auctions calf auctioneer Tim Hector.

He said coronavirus wasn’t having an impact on a reasonably firm calf supply and trade as yet, which had not quite recovered all the value lost during the beef price crash.

“Those farms that are geared up for bTB breakdowns probably have the sheds and will rear all their calves,” he said.

“Those people without sufficient space can only hang onto calves for so long. I don’t think farming systems will change much overall.”

He said the entry – of mostly three-to-five-week old calves – was topping at £370 a head with the best end of the Blue-cross bulls and many good-quality lots over £300.

Lots of decent-shaped, strong, medium-sized continental-cross calves had sold recently for £200-£260, he added. 

He added that entries of around 150 calves currently felt at least 20-30 calves short and that during normal times they would be around the 200-head mark.

The numbers

Increase in price (per head) for Hereford-cross calves up to six weeks old for the first week of April, taking the national average to £103.

Average price for continental-cross bulls up to six months of age for the first week of April.

Price being seen at Frome for best Friesian calves, with younger and second-choice Friesians and the best Holsteins at £70-£80.