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David Hormann

27 September 1996

David Hormann

Welsh beef and sheep producer David Hormann farms 107ha (265 acres) near Llandovery, Dyfed. His 65 sucklers produce finished calves for slaughter and he also carries 440 ewes plus 120 ewe lamb replacements. He sells another 160 speckled-face ewe lambs for breeding, and finishes 550 lambs for slaughter.

WITH the annual sheep sales now well under way it looks like a boom year for anyone selling breeding stock. Finished lamb prices are also up roughly 25% on this time last year, so the short-term prospects look good for this autumn.

Certainly the feel-good factor is showing through the beef blues, but with all good things, some are wondering what level ewe premium will be next season. After this years high lamb prices, will we be back to the boom-and-bust scenario of the mid-80s, when the last mass exodus from cattle into sheep happened? Quotas, without doubt, will cool the ardour of some wishing to expand.

So far we have sold only our cast brokers, to a top of £32.50 a head – a good £6 a head up on last year. Our main sale of 160 ewe lambs wont occur until Sep 26 in Llandovery. So heres hoping the boom continues.

With all the sheep dipped with Crovect again this autumn we should have full cover against scab, and save any problems with fly-strike should we have a warm October.

The tups are due to go out with the ewes on Sep 28, whilst this years ewe lambs will have to wait until Oct 20 to see the rams.

Looking forward to next month, we shall continue to spread straight N up until the first week in October to ensure a plentiful supply of grass for cattle into November. It worked well last year, so why not try and follow the New Zealanders example and save on winter housing costs.

With October comes the start of a series of farmer meetings organised by the BGS and funded by MAFF, MLC and MDC. The first one is on Oct 3 at the Halliwel Centre, Carmarthen, and costs £10 (to cover the cost of refreshments).

It is a day not to be missed by anyone growing grass for profit. I for one will be there trying to pick up some tips to improve our beef margins which shouldnt be too difficult after this years disastrous sales.n

Short term prospects look good for sheep, but David Hormann wonders whether its the start of another boom and bust scenario like the mid 80s.

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David Hormann

12 April 1996

David Hormann

ANGER and despair at how this BSE saga has been handled by the politicians has been felt throughout Wales. Even the two farm unions are working together to get swift action taken over lost income.

Like many other upland farms in the area beef plays a substantial role in our system. Without cattle I doubt I could survive on the income from sheep. Even if the value of our lamb sales increases there is a limit to what the consumer can afford and, therefore, a limit on our income in the light of quotas.

Those of us in the beef industry have never amassed a fortune from cattle but have maintained a living and continued to keep the balance of cattle to sheep, which is all important when attempting to get the most out of our grassland.

It is ironic that extensively reared grass beef, which was just beginning to get a good image of being welfare friendly and environmentally sound, could in the short-term lose out to intensively reared factory poultry and pigmeats. Saying that, it is probably a matter of course before these industries go under the spotlight, too.

So what is to be done to get consumer confidence back and export markets to take British beef again? The government must implement a culling policy quickly to prevent a log-jam of cows on-farm. Otherwise with over 15,000 cows a week building up, even more incinerators will have to be built. Taking these culls out will be the only way to get the best beef back on the shelves and into our school meals once again.

Farm assurance schemes are another avenue that we as farmers could take. The emphasis here is on assuring the retailer and consumer that every animal we rear is of the highest standards and can be traced to its origins, something that we will be looking at when it comes to selecting our own breeding replacements in the future.

Meanwhile at Fan Farm it is time to batten down the hatches, stop all unnecessary spending and assess what impact this crisis will have on the future viability of the farm. After last years drought our margin a hectare has already dropped £100 on the previous year to £600/ha. What will it be this year?

We will just have to wait and see if the ministers have done enough or whether more drastic action still awaits us. Until then it is a case of looking after the sheep with a little more care and hoping the subsidy cheques keep coming.n

David Hormann feels anger and dispair at how the BSE saga has been handled by the politicians. He doubts if he could survive on the income provided by sheep alone.

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David Hormann

19 January 1996

David Hormann

FIRST, I am pleased to announce the arrival of Alex Ross our "number two" son just before Christmas. After a difficult pregnancy Sarah was pleased to see him arrive safe and sound in time to be home for the festivities.

With all the excitement it was easy to get complacent about the farmwork. But in true Hormann tradition we ended up foot trimming and drenching ewes from Boxing Day onwards to ensure we could house all the sheep before the impending blizzards. But as usual the forecasters erred on the side of caution and the snow stayed away to be replaced by freezing rain. Anyway the end of the year saw us house the flock in near perfect conditions, with fleeces really dry for a change. This has helped stop the humidity problems we usually get.

This year I have made sure of securing enough Heptavac P to do the whole flock. I certainly learnt the cost of not vaccinating fully last season. In 1995 we lost lambs to pasteurella-type pneumonias, which would probably have been far worse if we had had a wet season – live and learn.

The drier silage that we made last summer is lasting better than I expected, as we have only just used half of the first clamp. Don Wilkinson, a fellow Farmer Focus contributor from up north, told me this would be the case when he visited us last winter.

He also said the muck would be much drier from the cattle. That, Don, must be a myth. I have never seen such rich slurry coming from the cattle.

Our last silage analysis came back at 12ME, so perhaps it is "just too good for suckler cows". That, too, may be a myth put about by dairy farmers who have not seen the value of good grass silage. Having fed calf finisher pellets to some cattle this autumn, and lost 50p a head a day by doing so, I am even more convinced that, barring another hype in BSE scaremongering, the way to profitable beef is in using grass and/or silage to its full potential. &#42

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David Hormann

24 November 1995

David Hormann

HAVING succeeded in keeping the cattle out at grass until November 10 without damaging the swards, it does make me wonder if there is something in this "extended grazing" fad after all. But I must admit my approach this year is more luck than management, and must therefore consider the consequences of what would have happened if we had a normal wet Welsh October!

The problem I foresee is not growing the grass but utilising it once the weather turns wet. Farming heavy soil in a high rainfall area is a recipe for failure when the odds are against you. So this year Ill count my blessings and be grateful that the 20 inches of rainfall needed to fill out normal quota didnt arrive before we grazed the fields off. Needless to say Im relieved to say we now have sufficient silage to see the spring: Isnt mother nature wonderful if you have the patience to wait!.

We have now completed selling this years cattle, with autumn finishers going off a little leaner and lighter than I would have hoped for. But with a price of 220p/kg dw for heifers I mustnt complain about the returns of about £450/hd. Of course if we were able to get more weight on it would make them more saleable to the meat wholesalers; something to act on for next year.

As far as joining the Farm Assured Scheme is concerned, we have not seen much of a return financially as yet. Being members of FABBL within Wales doesnt give us access to the more lucrative FAWL outlets and has therefore been a regrettable loss this year. Hopefully by the next year more collaboration between the two organisations can plan a strategy to the mutual benefit of consumer and producer rather than the fragmented and disjointed effort that is not doing the livestock industry justice at present.

In a bid to do something about the quality of lamb that we supply to the industry we are participating in a three-year Hill Flock Im-provement Scheme. This scheme is being initiated by the MLC/ Signet team in Wales, thanks to MLCs Huw Thomas foresight in gaining funding from the EU to directly improve the muscling on lambs off the hill flocks. &#42

"In a bid to do something about the quality of our lamb we are participating in a three year Hill Flock Improvement scheme," says David Hormann.

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