Store heifers of quality finding ready buyers

31 July 1998

Store heifers of quality finding ready buyers

GOOD quality store heifers are meeting a brisk trade, with many getting snapped up for breeding.

Such buyers are taking the better conformation black Limousins and Belgian Blues. And theyre paying good money, too. As auctioneer Jonathan Farrall at Chelford puts it: "People are valuing their potential, rather than valuing them there and then."

According to Peter Elkington, who sells at Hereford mart, such heifers will be put to the bull straight away. Black Limousins and Herefords and Belgian Blues, typically about 450kg, are most sought after.

Farmers who traditionally fattened stores are breeding their own animals, rather than having to rely on bought-in stock. "Its a bit longer term, so theres a bit slower turnover – but there may be money at the end of it."

At Lancaster, auctioneer John Hughes has also seen people taking good conformation heifers between 380kg and 420kg for breeding. "Its established suckler men replacing numbers." At times they are paying around the £400 mark.

According to Mr Hughes, the store steer trade has weakened slightly. "The weathers so bad, people are not looking to buy."

The weaken finished trade is also taking its toll. And, while bad weather is limiting the number coming forward, marketings of cattle off grass will soon build up, putting further pressure on values.

But many commentators say store steer prices are buoyant. Too strong, some say, given the present finished trade. "Its been looking wrong for a long time," says Mr Elkington. Good blue-carded, steers are making around £1/kg. "People are farming them for the subsidy and nothing else."

According to Powys farmer Garth Williams, finished animals are making about £65/head less than a year ago. He sold a batch of 540kg heifers recently for 86p/kg. The weather isnt helping the progress of stock. "Its too wet. The cattle are not lying enough – theyre standing under hedges.

"We also keep 1200 ewes – which helps keep the job going," says Mr Williams, who recently sold some 40kg lambs for £45/head.

Meanwhile at Knighton, auctioneer Glyn Owens stresses the importance of buying quality when buying stores, with the difference between the best and the worst finished animals as much as 40p/kg.

A sale two weeks ago at Knighton saw steers and heifers average 109p and 91p/kg respectively. "Farmers are hopeful that prices might improve a bit – I hope it is not misplaced optimism."

Cattle supplies do seem to be getting tighter, says Mr Owens. "But shorter numbers dont necessarily mean a better trade."

Some of the heifers sold as stores are destined for suckler herds.

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