Ups and downs of suckler calf trade

17 October 1997

Ups and downs of suckler calf trade

SUCKLED calf sales are showing steers to be worth the same or slightly less than last year, while heifers are worth the same or slightly more.

At Wooler, Northumberland, 1400-plus Charolais heifers averaged £397 last Wednesday, marking a £3.81 increase on the year. Their typical weight, at 408kg, was up 7kg, reflecting the better season, says auctioneer Scott Donaldson.

The following day, the marts offering of Charolais steers averaged £502, down £18.61.

And earlier this week, 1742 Continental cross calves went through the ring at Wooler. Among the Limousins, steers (typically 421kg) averaged £506, down £13.50. In the case of heifers (380kg) the drop was just £3 to £382.

"The emphasis was on well-drawn stock," says Mr Donaldson. "People didnt want mixed pens."

Auctioneer John Dickins at Thame, Oxon, says trade for the bigger heifers has been very brisk this autumn.

The younger ones, however, remain difficult to place, with buyers put off by uncertainties over finished cattle values, says Mr Dickins. "A bunch of light, six- or seven-month-old heifers last Friday didnt get a single bid."

At Hereford, meanwhile, auctioneer Peter Elkington says heifers are changing hands for about the same as last year, while steers are worth about £50 less.

Age documentation remains important for females – those without paperwork are discounted by about £30 or £40, according to Mr Elkington.

And at Hexham last Friday, across-the-board average price was £441, down £5 on the year.

"But buyers have had two bad years – so theyre not going to come out firing on all cylinders," says auctioneer Trevor Simpson.

The action in full swing at Woolers suckled calf sale on Monday.

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