Trade Talk By Stuart Hassall

13th February 2017

The dairy industry has certainly seen its fair share of volatility over the past 12 months. We have felt every part of this, the diversity of milk contracts has certainly translated to the sales ring and we have seen such a huge spread of trade.

Prior to Christmas we witnessed dairy cow trade lift significantly, almost overnight. We operate weekly dairy sales and we notice lifts and changes very quickly. This was never more evident than the early weeks of December when the overall average of our weekly dairy sales at Barbers Auction, Market Drayton Livestock Market, saw a £280 rise in a week to the overall average of fresh calved cows and heifers.

Many factors have contributed to this. Firstly, with more and more milk producers under pressure to deliver greater volumes of milk into the bulk tank, this has had a significant impact on supply and demand as milk volumes have been chased. Certainly it is noticeable that cows need to be giving large volumes of milk and the in-milk heifers need to be clearing the 30kg mark. If they are in this category many buyers keenly compete to secure.

Another factor is the shortage of animals, with many herds culling hard early last year to minimise costs. These cows have left the system when they would currently be calving into the herds again, which has left a void. Coupled with the poor quality silage that many have reported, this has certainly impacted on production. The poor milk prices during 2016 made many look at feed costs and by reducing these, created sustainability to survive the turmoil’s of the industry. However, this has long term impacts such as reduced fertility and lower milk yields. It has never been easy to ‘turn the taps back on overnight on milk production’ and that is what many have found themselves trying to accomplish.

In early January trade lifted further with many milking cows and heifers, both pedigree and commercial, selling for £2000 or more and experiencing the highest averages in 12 months, heifers averaging £1680. I have never been over keen on rapid lifts in trade as I believe in consistency to trade. Supplying a level number of animals on to the market weekly certainly helps. Trade seems to have settled over the past few weeks to a firm level, and demand for fresh milk continues. The order of the day is still animals with strength through the chest and rump, medium sized, good well attached udders which can produce large volumes of milk.

Stuart Hassall
Hassall Brothers Auctioneers & Valuers