CPAS end hits calf prices

04 August 1999

CPAS end hits calf prices

By Vicky Houchin

POOR-QUALITY calves taken to market for the first time following the end of the Calf Processing Aid Scheme (CPAS) are not worth the trip, say auctioneers.

David Lock of Frome market, Somerset, said it was likely that farmers bringing poorer quality animals to livestock auctions would only have to take them home again.

Before the end of the CPAS scheme, 200 calves a week would have gone into the scheme through the Frome market, he said.

Since the CPAS scheme finished last weekend, these would now have to be absorbed on the open market, he added.

Mr Lock said some farmers were shooting calves, but added that there were a number of options available for producers who couldnt face the prospect of doing so.

“Local kennels are taking them and slaughterhouses will also take them if [they are] delivered,” he said.

But it is unlikely many farmers will relish the prospect of paying one local abattoir the £8 it is charging for each calf – especially as the animals are worth about £4 apiece.

Beef calves, however, are a different matter.

At Frome market on Monday the ring was packed with people, and good demand for quality beef calves saw 20 continental bulls make more than £150 each.

The top price was £177, but some of the calves were less than perfect and were discounted.

Meaty-looking Friesian calves sold for slaughter at £8-14 each, although poorer samples made between £2-£5.

At Chelford market, Auctioneer Roy Waller said buyers were hesitant even though entries were low, with only 13 calves marketed compared with the usual 100.

The best black-and-white calves fetched about £40 each, while average samples made only £13.50.

The lowest price paid was £4 for a calf which Mr Waller said was not worth bringing to market, especially when the cost of tagging was included.

“If you bring in the cost of tagging and the cost of passports at £7 – if that comes in – it will create welfare problems,” he added.

At Gloucester market, auctioneer John Pullen said calf prices could fall dramatically if numbers started to significantly increase, as often happened at this time of year.

The best continental calves sold for £242, but real Holstein animals were fetching only between £8-£12.

Mr Pullen said it would become increasingly important to select which calves should be put through the market and which calves should be shot on-farm.

But he said better calves should be kept for 10-18 days to get some shape before being sold at a price which would hopefully cover the cost of rearing them in the meantime.

Mr Pullen is concerned that a lot of farmers selling direct off-farm are trading calves well under their real value.

Only the poorer animals should be sold straight off the farm, and if producers fed better calves on waste milk, then keeping them on wont have cost them anything, he added.

There has been only one week of trading since the end of the CPAS and many in the industry believe it will take a couple of months before the market settles.

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