Gloomy signs at ram sales

6 August 1999

Aid scheme finish sees entries drop

By Simon Wragg

FEARS that Friesian calf prices would flounder in the first few days trading following the end of the calf processing aid scheme have seen vendors hold calves back.

Early market reports reinforce the expectation that prices for poor quality calves would take a hammering, while medium and best quality sorts continue to achieve reasonable values from finishers.

At Chelfords Monday auction, Roy Waller saw entries down by 100 head as cautious vendors watched the days trade. "Medium quality Friesian bulls made £40 and the poorer sorts between £4 and £8 each. Our average for the day was £13.50 a head."

A similar decline in trade was seen at Frome. David Lock of Cooper & Tanner reports that entries were down from 180 to just 80 Friesians on the same day. "Numbers could be down as we had a special collection on Friday to get bull calves away for the scheme which saw 165 collected."

Likewise, a reduced entry at Rugby kept rearers deprived of calves. An entry of just three Holstein Friesian-types saw trade between £1-9. According to Rugbys Tim Ball the trade could be depressed for up to six weeks.

"Producers are going to have to get used to these prices," warns Mr Ball. "There is a trade for better presented calves and always will be. But the poor, Holstein types wont be worth selling.

"Producers have to make the choice; either pay to tag the calf and pay commission to sell it through the auction ring or have someone collect it from the farm and take it away for next to nothing."

Mr Lock is equally direct: "At the end of the day were at the mercy of the market. It has to be said that plain Holsteins are not even worth marketing. They are a by-product of dairying and producers must accept that."

Mr Waller is in complete agreement: "If its a good Friesian, feed it; if its a Holstein, take the money and run."

But for many, the single-figure auction prices for plain types will not cover the cost of tagging, transport and commission. Auctioneers suggest a break-even cost could be £17, including the prospective £7 charge for a passport. Indeed, some producers will be sent bills for low value calves which fail to cover commission charges of between £4-£6 a head.

Some abattoirs are already sourcing these sorts direct from farms. Cheshire-based calf processor Brian Hewett is currently handling up to 400 calves a week and says the average farm gate price is £3, but admits the poorer calves – of which there are many – are getting a token £1 a head.

"That looks a poor price, but weve got meat inspection, vet and MLC charges on these calves, plus £2 to dispose of offal and the head before we start looking at our own costs," explains Mr Hewett.

The skin trade is currently offering processors upwards of £5.70/calf hide for volume supplies. The carcasses, which are boned-out, are supplying a fickle veal market which is only just re-establishing itself, says Mr Hewett.

While Holstein-type calves are taking the full impact of market forces, the top end of the calf market is stable. According to Jon Pullen, trade at Gloucester market is still seeing a healthy trade for strong Friesian bull calves.

These averaged £30 each this week, but those fed extra milk and marketed at between two and three weeks old were fetching up to £50 a head for rearing. "It will pay some producers to give these calves extra milk at todays milk price; theres always demand for the better presented stock."

The market for Continental types remains almost unaffected, says Bagshaws, Bakewell. &#42

Gloomy signs at ram sales

BREEDING stock bids fell sharply at this weeks National Sheep Associations Wales & Border ram sales reflecting the current pressure on the sheep sector, with shearling ram averages down by 25%.

The downturn was "predictable" says the NSAs John Thorley who adds breeders had anticipated the fall given the current lamb price.

No breed can be singled out as an example, but prices achieved for ram lambs appear to have been affected strongly. Mr Thorley agrees that flock-masters could be mirroring dairymen who are generally willing to only pay more for stock which are ready to perform.

Suffolk shearling rams averaged £276.10, down £89.40 on last year. Similarly, Texel rams were down £77.32 to average £241.59, and Charollais were back £90.72 to level at £304.62.

While the breeding sale picture looks gloomy, it avails an opportunity for producers to invest in fresh stock, adds Mr Thorley. "For those looking to ensure they have a young flock its got to be good news. Yes, weve hit a trough, but industry is shaping up and that must be taken into consideration." &#42

Pushing on… cattle sales have held up well against poor summer grazing, reports auctioneer Robin Tough of United Auctions Stirling market. Here, Belgian Blue X Simmental bullocks belonging to Mr Hill of Crawfordwalls (left) made £1.07/kg – the days average. And these Charolais heifers from Mr McWhirter of Grimmer Farm (right) made 86p/kg – just over the average of 83p/kg. Demand favours cattle on blue or white tickets which are close to a claim. Stores from Stirling are finished on farms from Aberdeenshire to the north of England.

Aug 7 Sale of 50 Holsteins, tractors and grassland equipment. Gloucester. Gwilym Richards (01453-521600)

Aug 7 Sale of South Devon cattle from nine pedigree herds (54 head) including this years Royal Welsh champion. Moreton-in-the-Marsh. Norton & Brooksbank


Aug 7 Sale of registered Jacob sheep (175 head). Lichfield. Straker, Chadwick & Sons (01873-852624)

Aug 9 Sale of 400 suckled calves, mainly Continental breeds up to 13 months old. Wheddon Cross. Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctions (01643-841231)

Aug 9 Dispersal of the Cardestream herd of Holsteins (440 head) and grassland kit. Ellesmere. Wright-Manley (01270-250500)

Aug 10 Sale of pedigree Charollais sheep. Portadown sale (143 head). Automart (01762-333012). And Shrewsbury sale (90 head). Shrewsbury Auction (01743-462620)

Aug 11 Sale of Ayrshire dairy cattle (37 head) mainly heifers. Carlisle. Harrison & Hetherington


Aug 11 Dispersal of tractors, grassland equipment and vehicles. Ulverston. Ulverston Auction Mart (01229-582014)

Aug 11 Fortnightly sale of prime and store cattle including Angus breeding bull. Kendall. Kendall & Preston Auction Marts (01772-712066)

Aug 11 Fortnightly sale of 8000 store lambs. Skipton. Craven Cattle Marts (01756-792375)

Aug 12 Annual draft sale of 1500 wethers and 1000 ewe lambs from Manod Estate. Llangurig. Russell, Baldwin & Bright (01597-824915)

Aug 12 Dispersal sale of MF tractors and combine, arable and hay making kit. Eversley. Thimberley & Shorland (01189-508611)

Aug 12 Fortnightly sale of store lambs. Otley. Wharfedale Farmers (01943-462172)

Aug 13 Sheep sale (4800 head) including Half-bred, Mule, Suffolk X and Continental rams. Carlisle. Harrison & Hetherington


Aug 13 Annual show & sale of Beltex pedigree sheep including 443 rams and 220 females. Carlisle. Harrison & Hetherington


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