Farmer Focus : Neville and Margaret Stacey - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus : Neville and Margaret Stacey

NOTHING GIVES the Welsh a lift more than winning the Grand Slam. Our neighbour, Andrew, and I were doing some stone-walling round the house that day and so were kept posted on the score throughout the match.

We are also indebted to Andrew for turning out to help load cattle for Dovecote Park at 4.45am recently. Thanks to his quick thinking we narrowly avoided having a steer over the slurry pit wall. Steers averaged 313kg deadweight and heifers 253kg.

We hope this will be the last season selling finished cattle out of sheds. We must cut our costs, maybe finish them off grass in autumn or sell them as stores. Keeping them here for a second winter will be questionable.

We have had the results of the blood tests for Johne’s disease. The results came back positive on the bull, a bit of a blow, as he is the most valuable animal we have. But before arranging for his removal, I phoned his breeder to see if he had experienced any problems with the disease.

His tests are clear, but his advice to us was to ask for a DNA-based test called PCR before doing anything drastic. Thankfully, the results of that have come back negative. So, if the results on the dung samples are clear, the bull should live to sire many more calves.

Lambing is fast and furious. We had two special helpers in the lambing shed this weekend, our granddaughters. Their Mummy, wife of our eldest son, Simon, has breast cancer, and, after surgery, has started on her first course of chemotherapy. It came as a huge shock to everyone, particularly in one so young. But being positive is the order of the day. The girls have gone home to Gloucestershire, jingling money in their pockets.

We write five weeks before SFP/IACS forms have to be returned and still no sign of any paperwork. They are not still celebrating the Grand Slam in Cardiff, are they?

Farmer Focus : Neville and Margaret Stacey

T-Sum is a good guide to soil temperature, but ground conditions have to be right before it”s go, go, go on the fertiliser front. At the time of writing, fertiliser is still in the shed. We have stored it all winter and will pay for it at the end of April – 21:8:11 at 143/t.

Snow is still hanging around in the gullies on the hills. But by the time you read this we hope it will be long gone, fertiliser will be on grazing ground, turnip ground will have been mucked and ploughed and lambing well under way in idyllic balmy spring weather.

It”s called the power of positive thought. Alas, positive thought is not enough to put the spring back in this farmer”s heels.

However, help is at hand from family and friends. Our youngest son, the McCormick engineer, will be home for Easter with his wife Gemma and young master Fred. Besides lambing, there are 30 cattle to be clipped out for Dovecote Park. They know better than to expect a rest when they come home.

Still in positive thought mode, we have joined SAC”s Cattle Health Scheme. We already vaccine cows against BVD and leptospirosis and as Hybu Cig Cymru are footing some of the bill we have signed up. We think it may help our herd sell better when we finally hang up our wellies.

Unfortunately, the feeder blew up the other day. A bar off the bed chain was chopped up doing considerable damage and the cattle did not appreciate a high iron diet. Our local dealer delivered a new, dent free model the next day.

Sticking with machinery, the quad bike has been serviced in readiness for spring work. The latest refinement available is a heater on the thumb throttle, so I”ve ordered one. My cup runneth over…

Farmer Focus: Neville and Margaret Stacey

EWES HAVE now been scanned, Lorna Brown”s efforts revealing some pleasing results. Yearlings scannedat 170% and the rest averaged 166%. We have taken the chance to sell the barrens, 12 averaging 23 a head in Welshpool.

 Older ewes have been sorted and twin and triplet bearers in their four-star accommodation. Tending to them makes a welcome change from the bovine shovelling job.

 Regular readers may remember the Texel Cross hogg – her with ears like rotor blades who we gave to our granddaughters. She is enormous and so was put with the rams instead of wintering away, and wouldn”t you know it – she”s barren.

In the interests of good management I thought she should be sold – there”s no room for slackers here. At the first mention of this I was set upon by the females of the family who reminded me, forcibly, that she is no longer mine to sell.

The Soil Management Self Assessment form has been submitted, so I hope we are over the first hurdle to SFP. The final check date form for extensification payments has also been sent, with an IACS 22 relating to our daughter”s building plot.

Unfortunately, we missed Perth bull sales and the excitement of seeing the 30,000gns Angus bull being sold. David Leggat must have been doing a Highland Fling on the rostrum.

 Instead, we went to a Waitrose do in honour of Richard Saddler, who is retiring. Richard was once described to us as a visionary. It”s true – where Richard has led, others follow.

In his long buying career with Waitrose he has been the driving force in setting up many producer groups to the benefit of all concerned. A man with so much energy, drive and enthusiasm will not be idle for long. We wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement. But we can”t see him settling for slippers by the fireside quite yet.

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