27 July 2001

D restrictions mean no time to look ahead

FORWARD planning on units trapped under form D restrictions has been nigh on impossible as farmers struggle to cope with day-to-day management.

Such is the challenge that most have adopted short-term strategies to get through the crisis and have had little time to consider long-term business plans.

Trying to generate some cash-flow has been a priority on many D-notice farms, particularly as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been slow to make welfare payments.

Ian German, who normally sells store cattle and finished lambs off his unit in Moelywigoedd, Tregynon, near Newtown, has been forced to fatten his remaining 45 store cattle because he has been subject to form D restrictions since mid-March.

It has cost him though. He calculates at least £3780 in feed and keep alone, without adding labour or interest charges.

And his system is not designed for finishing cattle, so he has had to buy in 12t of extra cattle feed costing £115/t. He has also had to hire extra grass keep. "I could not keep cattle in any longer, so I leased out another 24 acres of grass until September for £100/acre. Everyone is after keep, so it is expensive."

Mr German is contemplating giving up farming and concentrating on his contracting business. "A couple of my neighbours have decided to let out their farms. I sometimes wonder why we keep struggling on, when I could let all my farm out and spend more time doing contract work."

With cash-flow stemmed on many units under form D restrictions, most farmers would expect hassle from their bank managers.

But Carl Stephenson, who farms pedigree cattle and breeding sheep at Pikestone, Woodlands, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, has nothing but praise for his bank. "It has is been very supportive. We have not had a problem at all."

Mr Stephenson has been farming under a D notice since the end of February and has seen all his neighbouring farms lose their livestock to the cull.

His revenue has dried up and he now has to keep and feed extra stock, like the suckled calves that would have been sold in the spring.

"I have already used 40 acres of this years silage ground, so I am going to be short of forage this winter.

"It is costing the business and it is extremely worrying. I lost the sale of five pedigree Limousin bulls when the restrictions hit. I had the buyers, but I could not shift the bulls." This sale was worth £10,000, he says.

Mr Stephenson has no big restructuring plans for his business, which he says is constrained by its resources. "We are restricted in what we can do. Farming at 1250 feet above sea level, it is pretty exposed. I think we have the best mix of stock for the resources." &#42

FARMING UNDER FORM D

&#8226 Day-to-day management.

&#8226 Cash flow gone.

&#8226 Generating income a priority.

&#8226 No time for forward planning.