25 December 1998

Consider all sources of extra income

OPTIMISING farm income from subsidy claims, environmental schemes and possibly organic conversion should all be considered to bolster income when beef prices are lacklustre.

Signets Ian Ross says that, for many producers, maximising alternative income should start with subsidy claims. The most obvious is Beef Special Premium paid on the first 90 steers at £86 a head for up to two years. Effectively, 180 BSPs can be claimed in each year, says Mr Ross. "It is implicit that suckler producers keep calves through to finishing to boost income."

Claiming extensification payments of £28 a head will also add to beef income where producers can keep overall stocking rates – including sheep – below 1.4 livestock units a hectare (0.57/acre).

With many extensive suckler herds already operating low input systems it is possible to attract environmental grants without restricting day-to-day management. "Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Countryside Stewardship schemes are two that immediately spring to mind," he says.

Where producers are using less than 125kg/ha of nitrogen (80 units/acre) and claiming extensification payments, another option could be to consider organic conversion. Artificial fertiliser could be replaced by slot seeding white clover, and herbicide use replaced by mechanical weed control to comply, adds Mr Ross. &#42