Cattle entries to slip but
By Simon Wragg
ENTRIES of cattle into the over thirty month scheme are expected to slip as producers await the removal of the upper weight limit next month. But few auctioneers expect to see a backlog build up.
Word soon spread following last Fridays meeting of the beef management committee in Brussels. Reports outlining the removal of the 560kg ceiling for compensation on June 5, coupled with talk of a recovering • clearly had an impact.
Many producers decided to withdraw culls provisionally entered for disposal, report auctioneers. "The phones have been red hot," says Frome markets David Lock.
Others had anticipated an announcement. David Kivell of Holsworthy market, Devon says OTMS entries have been in decline over the past month. "We have provision to send 250-300 cattle a week, but numbers have been nearer 100."
Not all producers will benefit from holding cattle back. Dairy producers have done a good job of ensuring barren or cull cows are not carrying excess weight, says Peter Kingwell of Chippenham. As a result, those with stock under the limit should continue entering them on to the scheme.
Throughput at OTMS plants could be reduced further in the two weeks before the scheme starts. Owners are already concerned that running costs are increasing. Numbers fell following the end of the milk quota year. Latest Intervention Board figures show 10,220 cattle were killed in the week ending May 5, just two-thirds of capacity. After the changes are introduced waiting lists may be full for the first few weeks, suggests Greg Gagie of Bagshaws Uttoxeter market. However, he doesnt expect producers to be in a rush to send stock away. Many are grazing cattle cheaply at grass and are under little pressure to reduce stocking rates, he suggests.
Auctioneers agree suckler producers stand to gain most from changes to the scheme. Those trading bigger Continental-bred cows could be better sending stock direct to OTMS abattoirs. Here, payments will exceed the liveweight alternative for those animals which kill out at over 50%; the same applies for stock bulls and over-age feeding cattle. Plainer sorts should continue going through markets to take advantage of the payments based solely on liveweight, suggest auctioneers. *
Cull ewe values fall no surprise
A predictable fall in cull ewe values has been recorded at many centres following the end of retention period this week.
Mainland markets are still under pressure from Irish imports after retention ended on April 28. Notably, at Longtown market, Cumbria auctioneer Neil McCleary saw over 8000 cull ewes forward of which imports would account for about 40% of the entry. "The trade has been reasonable. Volume coming over would suggest the Irish have tried to shift their culls before our retention ended, but we may see numbers decline in the coming weeks."
Longtowns Thursday market last week saw averages fall by about £2/head. But while plain sorts were trading at £8-12/head, strong ewes were making up to £35 apiece with the best at £44.50, reports Mr McCleary. Cull values continued to slip over the weekend. At Tauntons Saturday market auctioneer Robert Venner saw another big entry, but prices eased back to average £23.55, a fall of £2.55 on the week.
Monday was the threshold for ewes on retention. At Welshpool entries were up about 15% with more hill-type ewes pushing averages down, says Glandon Lewis. "It would appear a lot of plainer ewes had been kept for subsidy. The poorest sorts were back to last autumns levels at £2-£6 each. Mules were £8-£18 and strong Suffolks with any stretch were up to £29 each."
Similar signs were seen at Melton Mowbray, Leics on Tuesday. Auctioneer David Willars said: "It is disappointing to see prices come back by £10/head even on the better ewes. The next few weeks will be difficult." *
Cull ewes (GB) w/e May 6
Weight Average Change
Light £22.06 -£1.92
Heavy £29.32 -£5.68
Source: Meat & Livestock Commission