By Simon Wragg
GRASSKEEP values have slipped since last season, reflecting tighter margins and a reluctance among producers to take extra acres to qualify for extensification payments.
Stuart Long, of Rugby-based Howkins & Harrison, saw over 900 acres auctioned at the annual sale of grazing rights recently in Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to an easier trade.
The average slipped to 60/acre, down 10/acre on last year.
There appears to be more grasskeep available as some farmers scale down activities towards retirement. That may have eased competition, but while there was a good attendance at the sale, few were bidding.
There is also a reluctance to take extra forage acres to enhance extensification claims. Some farmers are intimidated by the amount of detail needed to get an extra 22-28 a head in subsidy, says Mr Long a view reiterated by others.
Fewer producers are looking for marsh grazing, says Jeoffrey Bowles, of Thomas Gaze & Son, Diss. This week saw a 30% cut in the letting value over 900 acres at Haddiscoe, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.
Because it is an ESA area, with vendors retaining environmental payments, it is normally grazed by dairy heifers and sucklers.
“But haemorrhaging in the dairy sector has contributed to the fall in demand and hence values, from 68/acre last year to 43/acre this year. Private lets are likely to follow suit.
In the north-west, auctioneers Richard Turner & Sons achieved an average of 60/acre, a fall on last years values. Many have renewed agreements, but the interest in new ground has not been strong.
In Scotland, the annual letting of grass parks started in earnest this week with two sales covering a total of 3400 acres.
Caledonian marts offering of 850 acres saw the best pasture fall to 130/acre, down 10 on last year, but mixed grazing suffered a 30/acre fall, says auctioneer Jim Dunn.
However, competition for new grazing in the south-west is strong, although bids have been tempered by lower incomes, says Okehampton-based David Vick.
With 320 acres cleared in a recent tender sale, many bids were entered between 70-90/acre after accounting for the vendors application of 75kg/acre of fertiliser.