31 March 1995

Dairy cows see the best trade since last July

UPWARD pressure on dairy cattle prices continues, with auctioneers suggesting that the current levels will be maintained or improved upon.

Short supplies, combined with strong demand as buyers seek to replenish herd numbers, took the average price to £905 in the week ending Mar 24.

"The best trade since last July," was how auctioneer Derek Biss described business at Taunton last Saturday. He saw prices reach £1180 for a second calver. As elsewhere, heifers were in short supply.

"Farmers will want to produce as much milk as they can in April and May – especially those who have missed one or two milk cheques – so demand looks like strengthening," he says.

Similarly, trade in Exeter has been strong, with cows averaging £802 and heifers £904. "Quite a few made into four figures," says auctioneer Terry Hamlin.

Demand is being underpinned by farmers choosing to buy now, in anticipation of further price increases.

"I think demand will be strong in the next four to six weeks," comments Mr Hamlin. He predicts that, although numbers sold will begin to rise soon, trade will remain at a firm level for the rest of the season.

And these are sentiments with which Andrew Wallace at Beeston Castle agrees. "The best will probably stay at between £1000 and £1200."

"Whether trade remains strong in the autumn depends on what kind of summer we have," says John Thornton at Holsworthy. "A long summer will mean milk production will be high and cows will be less sought after in the autumn."

Demand currently remains selective, however, with first- and second-calvers strongly sought. Older animals are proving more difficult to shift as buyers become increasingly aware of cell counts.

A strong trade in the cull ring continues to fuel demand. "Farmers are selling cull cows for £500 to £600 and then buying freshly-calved heifers for £800," says Andrew Templeton at Carlisle. He saw a top price last Friday of over £1100, with heifers averaging over £800.

Mr Templeton suggests, however, that after a hectic February, trade has now steadied. He points to the shortage of silage as causing caution among some potential buyers. &#42