By Simon Wragg
FRESH and spring-calving cattle are proving to be the bright spot in an otherwise difficult dairy trade, despite the looming super-levy threat.
“Theres an increasing number of producers in the west looking for replacements and trade has been brisk,” says Carmarthen-based auctioneer Hugh Evans.
He suggests heifer values have risen 30/head and second and third lactation cows by up to 100 in recent months.
That means heifers are worth 500-570 and better cows 480; such prices could remain firm if herd owners have reserved enough quota to cover milk production this spring.
“The good managers will have dried off older cows early and got culls away,” says Mr Evans.
Over thirty month scheme numbers have remained firm, confirming the latter.
North of the border in Lanarkshire, auctioneer Brian Ross also reports firm demand for fresh calvers.
“Although numbers are down, buyers are at the ringside. But trade has been fussy with many going home with the odd two or three.
“Older cows have taken the knock with many 100-140 down on last year; indicative of the dairy trade,” adds Mr Ross.
While the bottom end of the market is still being determined by an OTMS price of about 278/head, some buyers are looking to secure older stock to milk for another year before culling.
“But even for these cattle, fresh calvers still have to have some cell count records, good feet and be correct in the bag to catch the buyers eye.” says David Millard of Frome market.
With milk output likely to exceed quota this milk year, many auctioneers suspect that older stock values will stay depressed for the next few months at least.
“When tidy outfits can be bought for 450, nobody in their right mind is going to pay over the odds for older cows,” adds Mr Millard.
Reserved bidding is also having a knock-on effect for bulling heifer and heifer calf prices.
The availability of fresh-calved heifers still out-weighs the on-farm cost of rearing replacements for many producers, say auctioneers.
And another round of dispersals is expected this spring, triggered by the likelihood of further milk price cuts.
Forward leasing of milk quota – with supplies being traded at 4.8p/litre for 4% this week – add weight to auctioneers fears.
“Its very much the way of the market,” says Mr Wilson.