Lots of bargain cows available
ITS a good time to be buying cows, because they are cheap, according to Andrew Templeton, of Harrison & Hetherington. And there are a lot of them about.
They are clearly being bought by people who are committed to the industry in the long term. "A lot of the small men went out last year. Now the remainder are increasing their herd size by 5-10%," says Mr Templeton. "In this region (the north west and Borders), there has been a lot of cold, wet weather, grass hasnt been good, and some producers realised they were running below quota, so they need a few cows to top up.
"The trade is not bad, considering the number of cattle on the market," he comments. "Genuine herds, with a bit of pedigree and reasonable performance, are averaging about £500/hd."
Milk price, quota price, cull price and calf value are all considerations, even before potential yield is considered. Cow value may be much less than it was even five or ten years ago, but with quota at almost 30p/litre, a further investment of £3000 is required to service each animal. Top price for barreners is now no better than £280 – so it takes two cull cows to pay for each replacement.
A further consideration for in-calf cows of extreme dairy type is the value of the potential calf. "If its a black-and-white, the calf is virtually valueless," says Mr Templeton. "It would once have been worth £40."
Tom Brooksbank, of Norton & Brooksbank, has a number of dispersal sales in the next few days and confirms that dairy cattle are plentiful, although, he says, "Its not turned out to be the great flood of people out of the industry that some were predicting."
What people are looking for, he says, is instant return. "Theyve got to be full of milk or about to calve. Theres a good demand for new-calved or down-calving animals."
But buyers have plenty of choice. "People can afford to be picky, and avoid, for example, high cell-count animals."
Normal commercial cattle can make up to £700/hd, says Michael Mashiter, of Kendal & District Auction Mart, but there is a discount if they are in-calf to a dairy bull.
In the extreme south, Roger Walters, of South East Marts, sold 100 head of Holstein Friesians at Redhill last week to average a little above £500. August-October calvers fetched around £600. The top price was £650, with 30 selling for between £550 and £650.
"Trade was better than we had anticipated, and prices firmer than they were a few months ago," Mr Walters commented. "A lot of people down here milking 100-120 cows are increasing their herds." *