Wash and clip cows before sale as first impressions count

1 May 1998

Wash and clip cows before sale as first impressions count

FIRST impressions count, says Norman Walker, a Preston-based contractor who prepares stock for sale.

Cows should be washed a day or two before the auction and then again on the big day, he says. Plus they should be clipped in the 10 days prior to the event.

"For a lot of farmers, dispersing a herd marks the culmination of a lifetimes work. Its the only chance they get – and making the maximum effort usually pays off.

"Admittedly, its hard to quantify the value of such preparation. You cant, after all, sell the same animals twice to see the potential difference in price."

But with buyers becoming ever more choosy, its vital to make sure the stock is looking its best, says Mr Walker.

"Years ago, people would have had more time or staff to do the job themselves. They might have made do with the help of neighbours. Now, their neighbours might not have the time – or the inclination – to help."

The cost varies between £12 and £20 an animal. "In these difficult times, people will cut back spending on certain items," says Mr Walker. "But with less staff, they will probably continue to make use of contractor services."

More and more farmers recognise the importance of ensuring the cows look in tip-top order, says Mr Walker, who covers about 20 sales a year. One of the highlights for him in 1997 was the dispersal of Tom Copes Huddlesford herd, where the top price was 30,000gns and the 80 cows and calved heifers averaged £3857.

Also key to the smooth running of a dispersal is its layout. Penning has to be arranged so the cattle go through the ring in the order shown in the catalogue – and that they have somewhere to go afterwards. This isnt as straightforward as it might sound, says Mr Walker. At the dispersal of the Mendlesham herd (see Stock and Sales last week), he helped ensure more than 500 animals went through the auction ring at a rate of 77 an hour.

Despite all the preparations, the value of cows can, in some cases, still be negligible compared with the value of the milk quota. This is partly why the bulk of dispersals occur in the spring and early summer now, rather than the autumn. "Potential buyers arent so worried about their milk production and quota situation so early in the milk year."

When it comes to presenting stock well, much depends on the starting product. "Animals in good health with sound feet typically sell well, as do those in-calf to good bulls. Make sure, too, that the cows are well fed and watered so they are full and look like they are going to milk," advises Mr Walker.

Norman Walker: Preparation of stock is not just "window dressing" – it makes a difference to prices.

Visitors inspect some of the offering at the recent Mendlesham herd sale, where stock preparation took the best part of a week.

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