HOWEVER busy you are with other jobs in the next few weeks, do not neglect to sell cattle at the optimum point.
That is the advice of Peter Kingwill, who says that when silaging and harvesting are in full swing, stock marketing can get relegated to a maybe-do-it- the-week-after-next-if-time-allows job.
"It is critical to sell at the right time – when the stock and the market are at their optimum. Auctioneers should be able to tell you which day there will be most buyers in the market for your animals," says Mr Kingwill.
"There is also a range of other information available daily to help you with the job. It is worth looking on the internet and at Meat and Livestock Commission data.
Quickly past their best
"People are more conscious of the dangers of postponing selling sheep – which can go from thin to fat in just a few days – but cattle also go past their best quickly."
And there is a big discount for those outside the "just-so" specification, says Mr Kingwill, with current prices ranging from 60p to 100p/lw.
Most sought after bullocks are the O+ to U conformation ones, weighing about 600kg lw, grading 3 or 4L. "Nobody wants fat, thats for sure."
Farmers, he says, have reacted to changing market demands. The 650kg-plus steers, traditionally sent abroad, have become far less common since the export ban began. And the 30-month rule means that people now use better rations – possibly with more home-grown cereal. "They have become better managers of the timescale.
"It is a shame after all this money, time and effort has been invested in the cattle to see them suffer a discount because of an oversight in marketing."
Those farmers that do sell animals in the coming months may feel the beneficial effect on the market of tighter supplies. Numbers in May have been plentiful, but mid-summer numbers are certain to shorten.
Whether this will make any difference to prices, however, is another matter. "We thought April would be better than March, and that May would be better than April. But this has not been so. Prices have stayed constant around the 80p/kg lw point."
The calf slaughter scheme is also affecting supplies. "Whether it has been because of the generosity of the slaughter payment or because it is a simple tool for management purposes, farmers have adopted it wholesale. It has taken more calves out of the system than would have gone abroad in the absence of the export ban. We wont see a lot of Friesian steers coming through the finished market this summer."
Some beef producers have also quit the business after such a depressing time. "Especially the older generation, who have not only felt the tough times, but also may have had more problems coping with the mountain of paperwork foisted on the industry." *
Silage making and harvesting may be time-critical jobs – but do not neglect to sell cattle at the optimum time or returns will suffer.