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Bill Metcalf

29 March 2002

Bill Metcalf

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

pedigree Blonde

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. &#42

A visit from DEFRA to count sheep on Bill and Jonathan Metcalfs farm was a sign that normality had returned to livestock farming.

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Bill Metcalf

1 February 2002

Bill Metcalf

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.

The farms are stocked with

120 sucklers, including 20

pedigree Blonde

dAquitaines, and 1200

ewes with 200 replacements

OUR remaining wether lambs have recently been sold to one of our regular cattle buyers. Direct selling of store cattle and lambs to a regular buyer is worthwhile, when we can feed relatively cheaply and sell on potential.

Thats better for us – putting flesh on at an early age to make them in an auction marketable condition. The last batch of Blonde x bull stirks that he took graded U, except for one E, which we were happy to hear.

This winter, we have seen compensatory weight gain in some heifers which had it tough through the summer and autumn, due to foot-and-mouth restrictions.

They have put on between 60kg and 100kg in the 50 days since they were brought inside, with young pedigree bulls putting on similar amounts.

Three more breeding bulls have been sold locally in the last couple of weeks, with two just over a year old to one purchaser.

On the sheep front, scanning took place this week. Results show a lighter crop, as expected, particularly in the batches which have been struggling for grass because of extra mouths to feed. The lambs we have kept had to be given grass which would usually have been used to flush ewes.

We recently had a night out at our county NFU dinner. One of the guest speakers was a working director of Morrisons Supermarket who gave his opinion about what the customer wants. Put simply, this is quality food at competitive prices.

It has tried selling organic and other supposed assured quality lines, but in general customers did not want to pay a premium for these. He said we should take note of this before signing up to any higher costs in the hope of charging more for end products.

This reminds me of a joke: "Why is it the rest of Europe is up to its waist in the quagmire of red tape and bureaucracy, when Britains farmers are only up to their ankles? Its simple, we dive in head first."

This appears to be true, as we agree to even more regulation from the government – modulation, welfare and assurance – and dont even get stricter import checks in return. &#42

This years scanning results are disappointing, yet expected for Jonathan Metcalf – ewes were short of grass at flushing.

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Bill Metcalf

14 September 2001

Bill Metcalf

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. The farms

are stocked with 120

sucklers, including 20

pedigree Blonde dAquitaines,

and 1200 ewes with

200 replacements

R RECENTLY I went to a foot-and-mouth task group meeting at our local council offices entitled Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

One of the several speakers in attendance questioned why producers were not taking up the free advice available. Producers replied that free advice does not pay bills and the advice from DEFRA was not to invest in stock to return to where you were when it was not a good place to be.

John Bainton, rural director of the north-east government office, was questioned on the wisdom of allowing sub-standard meat from countries with F&M into Britain. He said the government believed the country benefited from this trade overall, which surely ought to mean it should be responsible for the consequences. By the end of the meeting I felt that rather than seeing the light, I had actually lost the tunnel.

At Barningham, no stock moves in or out and we are beginning to wonder what the situation will be later in October if we cannot get tups back to ewes. There is talk about possible changes once we move to county-based restrictions, but we have to wait and see how the situation unfolds.

We have received an inquiry from one of our regular customers for store heifers from Shipley, who is hoping to begin restocking. Initial discussions with Leeds Disease Control are promising; they say they can organise a special licence for this purpose.

We are about to send our first batch of lambs away. These include the only single Texel cross weighing 58kg, built like a brick outhouse, and a few others over 40kg. There should be about 40 to go, along with some of the older Swaledale ewes which will have to make way for us probably having to keep our own Mule gimmer lambs.

Hopefully, the tunnel will soon be found again and the light not too far in the distance. One thing I have learned is once you are told what you want to hear, do not question it. Just take a name, a contact number and do it. &#42

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