Shortage of dairy stock lifts prices
By Tim Relf
THE drive to fill quota and the prospect of the selective cull have sent farmers shopping for dairy stock, driving prices up.
First-quality in-milk Friesians averaged £961 at markets last week. Thats over £50 up on the previous week, and nearly £100 above the values of 12 months ago.
Auctioneer Derek Biss at Taunton, Somerset, says this is a time of year when supplies of dairy animals are short, further boosting values.
"Farmers like buying at dispersals, but with few taking place until the spring, they are looking to markets to make up any shortfall. Low cell count animals are most in demand."
Plenty of "milk and kill" cows are being entered at Taunton, says Mr Biss. Some may be animals that were put back in calf last year, because farmers were unable to cull them in the over-30-month scheme.
At about £650 or £700, they are worth up to £300 above their killing value, says Mr Biss.
Auctioneer Stuart Long at Rugby, Warks, agrees quota is the driving force. With some silage samples not as good quality as last year, a few people are struggling to fill quota.
Figures from the Intervention Board show at the end of December, for example, the country was 70m litres (0.66%) below profile cumulatively.
The imminence of the selective slaughter scheme has also been a factor as farmers, fearing they could lose a substantial part of their herd, seek replacements, says Mr Long.
Such factors have helped dairy sales top the £1000-mark every week this year at Rugby, with average values between £200 and £300 up on three months ago. Last Monday (Jan 27), one-fifth of the entry made four-figure sums.
The upturn in trade has taken the gap between the value of a cull and the price of dairy stock to an all-time high, according to Mr Long.
John Thornton, who sells at Holsworthy, Devon, says until recently, a replacement was about the same value as the combined worth of a cull and a beef-type bull calf. "But not any more."
The milk and kill cows are being snapped up by people who, having their own heifers in the pipeline, are merely looking for short-term milk.
But those that fear they may have cohorts taken, are looking for better-quality cows, adds Mr Thornton. "A trend that is increasingly evident as milk prices reward quality and penalise the poorer samples."
• From Feb 1, compensation to farmers sending cull cows under the OTMS will fall to 69.1p/kg, following the change in the green £.n