7 November 1997

Banking on good advice to tackle rising charges

Better use of bank facilities

has been the focus of

discussion at Gelli

Garneddau this autumn as

Robert Davies reports

CONCERN over rising bank charges and exceptional outgoings has resulted in a meeting with the Daltons account manager.

The 45p a go cost of issuing cheques was discussed at length. One solution suggested was to make all weekly payments simultaneously by faxing details to the bank. For £50 the Midland offered to set up a special arrangement handling any number of debits for £2 plus 28p an item.

"The trouble is we would have to fax details at a precise time on a particular day, or face penalty charges," says John Dalton. "Sometimes this would be fine, but when we are very busy it would be easy to miss the deadline. But sometimes we write over 100 cheques in a month, so the saving over time would be significant."

He was also advised to make the most of times when the contracting current account is in credit by temporarily transferring funds to a deposit account. If that had been done over the past year the interest would have covered bank admin charges.

The banker accepted that the cost of resurfacing the farm drive and erecting the new cattle shed has pushed the farms overdraft close to the limit. He was also relaxed that income from lamb sales is coming in more slowly than usual, and that cash is needed to replace the main Charolais stock bull that has stopped working.

Margaret Dalton has found the bull she wants on the farm of a Scottish friend who supplies her with ewe lambs. But the price tag on the 18-month-old son of a Royal Show winner is over £3000.

"We could buy a much cheaper bull, but I believe beef producers must concentrate on producing quality and high meat yield," says Margaret. "We are breeding some Angus x replacement heifers out of our Hereford x Friesian sucklers and he would be a marvellous sire for premium earning stores and finished cattle." A decision will not be taken until John has time to visit Scotland to see the bull for himself.

After a spell of bad weather the first 30 cows and calves are housed. Conditions will dictate when the rest come in. The finishing touches are being added to the shell of new L-shaped cattle shed. This was built mainly of materials bought from ADAS Pwllpeiran. John estimates the cost at about £10,000, but fitting it out will add to the bill.

Recent high spending, which included replacing the essential JCB Loadall that was destroyed in a fire, means purchase of a labour saving straw chopper will probably have to be postponed indefinitely.

Tupping is going well, but providing enough grass for flushing was a headache because 26ha (65 acres) of pasture could not be grazed after a dressing of sewage sludge. Margaret did not mind changing the grazing schedule as the 131,040 litres/ha (12,000gal/acre) application saved 10t of bagged fertiliser.

Other farmers are also showing increased interest in sludge injection, and in hiring Johns high speed tankers for hauling slurry long distances before surface spreading.

The ewe flock is looking fit, but the month long withdrawal period after enzootic abortion vaccination of bought-in yearling ewes has upset the tupping schedule. As a result two extra Texel tups are needed to cover 100 ewe lambs. The partners hope friends might loan animals, but hiring would be considered as a last resort.

Lamb selling is slow and 250 have still to go on a falling market. But the Daltons are delighted with the quality of the lambs marketed so far, which they feel vindicates efforts to use superior rams on good conformation ewes. They say the detailed reports they get back from the abattoir have also played a big part in improving the type of lamb produced.

Of a recent load of 63 lambs entered for the Waitrose Farm Assured Welsh Livestock contract, 60 matched specification. Lambs classified E3L made up to £51 a head, while those outside the specification made little more than £30 a head. The overall standard was so good that the whole load averaged over £43 a head, or 250p/kg dw. The aim is to send two more draws before the scheme closes for this season.

The 800 turkeys, ducks and chickens being reared for Christmas are growing fast, but there is concern about increased fox numbers. &#42

Id rather be rounding up sheep… Percy the sheepdog and Margaret Dalton are counting down the days to Christmas. So are the turkeys.

FARM FACTS

&#8226 A 125ha (310-acre) less favoured area beef and sheep unit in mid-Wales farmed by Margaret Dalton and her son John, who also operates contracting services.

&#8226 Managed in association with an ADAS full-farm advisory package.

&#8226 Quota for 435 ewes. Scotch Mules are put to Rouge tups and the female progeny used to produce Texel sired prime lambs.

&#8226 Quota for 85 sucklers, Hereford x Friesians, Welsh Blacks and Longhorn x Welsh Blacks, used to breed Charolais cross stores.

&#8226 Small poultry enterprise.

&#8226 One full-time stockman, and variable number of full and part-time contracting staff.