Rising fertiliser prices push up bidding to graze Solway marshes

Spiralling fertiliser prices helped push bidding for marsh stints on the Solway up by 30 per cent during one of the season’s first letting auctions.

At Hopes’ annual auction at the Greenhill Hotel, averages peaked at £110 for a two-cattle stint on Newton Arlosh and Saltcoats Marsh.

Average prices on Burgh Marsh went to £35 for a stint while on Skinburness and Calvo, graziers bid to an average of £60. On these marshes cattle can be grazed at one per stint.

Stints do not need fertiliser and their salty grass has proved to be a good forage especially for young beef and dairy stock. A shortage of land to let and buy has prompted more farmers to consider grazing the marshes.

Around 300 people gathered for the stint and grass letting sale on Wednesday night last week.

Auctioneer David Bowman said: “There was a very good trade for the stints and prices were about 30 per cent up on the year.

“There is no burden of fertiliser costs on the stints, which is making them more attractive. Farmers obviously talk to each other and have mentioned their cattle have done well on the marshes.

“It’s a good place to put growing stock as there are no worms because of the salt.”

A small number of stints were sold, making just over £2,000 each. This was significantly up on previous years, according to Edwin Harrison, vice-chairman of Skinburness and Calvo Marsh where there are 400 stints.

He added: “One of the reasons the stints were so expensive is because there is so little land coming up for sale and people are looking for extra grazing.

“Up until this year, it was more or less the same people taking the stints but more and more people are now interested. People are often surprised at how well their cattle do on the marsh.”

Farmland prices in the north west reached an all-time high of £7,000 per acre in the second half of 2010, which is having a knock-on effect on letting prices.

Also up for rent at Wednesday’s auction were 1,100 acres of grazing land in the Wigton and Aspatria areas.

It rented for an average £170 per acre for grazing between March and November. This was around £25 up on the year, largely because of the cost of fertiliser already applied to the land.

On Tuesday Croft House Farm with 80 acres at Mealrigg, Aspatria, reached £730,000 at auction but was withdrawn and sold later to a local farming family.

Then three field enclosures totalling 25 acres at Thornthwaite, Wigton was bid to £100,000 and sold later at an enhanced figure.

A pony paddock of less than an acre near Stockdalewath sold for £12,500 while at another auction on Wednesday, land at Seaville, Silloth was sold.

The first lot of 18 acres sold to Messers Bowe of Calvo Farm for £142,000 (£7,897 per acre) while a single field enclosure of 4.3 acres was bid to £36,000 (£8,333 per acre) by Messrs Hughes of Seaville Farm.