Grass-keep values dropped slightly in 98 letting season

17 April 1997




Grass-keep values dropped slightly in 98 letting season

The green, green grass of home… Jean Bonnell and son, Andrew Nicholas, inspect some of the grass-keep they offered at Adderley Lane Farm, Market Drayton, Shropshire. Average price was £115/acre – down about £30 on 1997, says Wright-Manley auctioneer Andrew Wallace (right).

The green, green grass of home… Jean Bonnell and son, Andrew Nicholas, inspect some of the grass-keep they offered at Adderley Lane Farm, Market Drayton, Shropshire. Average price was £115/acre – down about £30 on 1997, says Wright-Manley auctioneer Andrew Wallace (right).

GRASS-KEEP prices have ended the letting season at between 10% and 20% down on last year.

Average values at auction have been between £50 and £80/acre, but this conceals a wide range, with the best topping the £100/ acre mark.

Attracting most demand has been the flat, fenced ground, with a productive sward. Smaller blocks have also been high on lessees shopping lists, with people bidding hardest for lettings of 30 acres or less.

As Stuart Long of Howkins and Harrison says: "Theres more risk with the big blocks – they cost more and you may have to buy more animals to put on them."

The best plots have sold as well as ever, says Steve Egerton of Bagshaws, after the firms auction which saw a top of £120/acre. "Its the location which sells them.

"Its mainly dairy farmers looking, who have bred their own replacements, and need somewhere to put the heifers.

"The difference between good and bad has been really evident this year." At the bottom end, plenty was changing hands in the £30-£50/acre range, well down on last spring.

Overall, a 15-20% drop has been seen, reckons Mr Egerton. But putting a bottom in the trade, however, has been the drive by farmers to increase forage area and subsidy payments.

As Malcolm Wakeling of Abbott Anstey Reader says: "If there wasnt the extensification payments, grass-keep values would be a lot lower." The firms auction this season saw bidding rise to £113/acre.

"Two people wanted it and just kept bidding – each determined that the other wouldnt get it," says Mr Wakeling.

The auction saw a 12.5% drop in the value of land without restrictions, but values for the 134 acres of ESA land rose marginally. Private treaty sales, says Mr Wakeling, have typically been between £45 and £90/acre.

"In spite of falling beef, lamb and milk prices the market has definately not collapsed," says James King of Bristol-based firm James B King, whose auction averaged the same as in 1997.

"Its not what it is, its where it is," says Mr King, after seeing some land at Congresbury make nearly £119/acre, nearly four times the amount paid for other plots in the Brislington and Keynsham area.

Chris Jones of McCartneys says a lot of deals have been done privately, rather than at auction, with fears of a difficult market at auction. But demand has been surprisingly strong at auction, he says. Private treaty sales, meanwhile, are typically between 5% and 10% down on 1997.

Average grass-keep prices


Auction venue (£/acre)

Warwickshire 78

Shropshire 75

Staffordshire 67

Oxfordshire

Unrestricted land 73

ESA land 54

Somerset 50


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