27 November 1998

Attack tackle &labour

CUTTING labour and machinery costs are two ways of surviving into the millennium, one West Country upland producer told an MLC/NSA conference.

"Two years ago I suspected we would be farming without subsidies by now so I planned ahead with this in mind," said Peter Delbridge, Blindwell Farm, Twitchen, South Molton, Devon.

His 178ha (440-acre) farm is stocked with 850 April lambing ewes – 400 Swaledale, 400 Mules and 50 Exmoor horns – and 60 Limousin cross suckler cows.

"We still have subsidies but with low prices our economic situation is similar to farming without subsidies," he said.

Mr Delbridge explained how he decided to reduce borrowing for the future by renewing machinery used for feeding and mucking-out animals and buying lime to ensure high grass quality and production two years ago.

Spending money to ensure good grass and up-to-date machinery means less needs spending now.

"Reducing fixed costs is essential, so when our employee left we didnt replace him and now use casual labour at busy times like lambing."

"A contractor is used for other operations that involve expensive machinery, like silage-making." &#42