Bill and Jonathan Metcalf
rent 89ha (220 acres) of
grassland, plus moorland
grazing, near Barnard
Castle, and own a further
unit 12 miles away, both
are situated in the Less
Favoured Area of Teesdale.
Farms are stocked with
120 sucklers, including 20
dAquitaines, and 1200
ewes with 200 replacements
IN SOME ways it was a relief when DEFRA rang up to give us 90 minutes notice that they were coming to count our sheep, because it was a sign that normality is returning.
The two field officers went to Shipley first, giving me a chance to gather moor sheep before they arrived at Barningham.
They are apparentrly concentrating on people who lost stock during foot-and-mouth and those who, like ourselves, had stock on the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme near the end of the retention period.
After all the counting going as expected, we went through the paperwork with comments on how efficiently everything was going. Then came the DEFRA size 12 steel toecap to the groin, when I was told the forms would have to show an incorrect inspection.
One sheep had died on May 5 last year. It was included as having been crossed off our flock record when we wrote to DEFRA on May 6 advising them of our position. But because of severe problems facing us due to F&M restrictions, we failed to state separately that this sheep had died.
I was informed that we may have to repay subsidy for this one sheep, but I wonder how many incorrect counts DEFRA is going to come up with and does this make UK producers look like the major fraudsters of Europe?
By the time this article appears, calving at Barningham should have started. This is a little later than anticipated because of the bulls being in the wrong place at the wrong time last year.
With this and lambing at the same time, Ill be burning the candle at both ends, but hopefully in a more positive mood than this time last year.
All crossbred, twin-bearing ewes, older ewes and those closest to lambing are being fed concentrates twice daily. Where we can, Swaledale twin-bearing ewes and some singles are being given sugar beet on the ground to supplement their feed.
Finally, fencing is still underway – Jonathan and Derek have been doing a great job – and I almost finished hedge laying before budding started. *
A visit from DEFRA to count sheep on Bill and Jonathan Metcalfs farm was a sign that normality had returned to livestock farming.