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David Jones

29 November 1996

David Jones

David Jones has a 105ha (260-acre) all-grass farm near Welshpool, Powys. His two main enterprises are 80 mainly Hereford x Friesian suckler cows and 800 Mule and Beulah ewes.

THE extra 107 acres added to the farm on a farm business tenancy has enabled me to keep the 95 sucklers out for another month.

Unfortunately the 15 acres of third-cut silage had to be grazed by the Mule ewes to finish off their flushing. This leaves only 900t of suckler silage and 90t of sheep silage going into the winter.

The extra animals I bought to cover cohorts will have to be wintered away. Therefore 16 in-calf heifers and 14 sucklers will be housed and fed on a local farm at a cost of £6.75/week until they start calving in mid-April.

The silage will have to be metered very carefully from housing for the remaining 81 sucklers, 90 store cattle and the 900 ewes.

My normal policy of leaving the calves on the cows until late January will have to be changed. Once they have settled in, half will be weaned and the remaining younger ones weaned a month later. When the cows are dry a significant saving of silage can be achieved using this years cheaper wheat straw to fill them up.

The store cattle are taking 1.8kg of a 50:50 barley maize gluten mix along with ad lib silage with our aim being 1kg a day liveweight gain.

As we really caught a cold with our entire bull enterprise all male animals will be castrated this year. With bull beef relying very much on the export market, I believe castrating gives us many more options, and with extra land available, a chance to graze them next summer if necessary.

Our one and only teaser ram, Bill, died four days before his work was about to start – what a disappointment for him. Last year he was put in with 860 sheep in varying groups. I thought that his presence wouldnt be missed.

How wrong I was. In the first fortnight after the rams had gone in, only one out of 440 mules had been served, and after the three-week cycle only 78. His epitaph should be "A chap who worked so tirelessly with so little to show for his efforts."n

Silage is in short supply for David Jones. The grass destined for third cut silage had to be used for finishing flushing the Mule ewes instead.

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David Jones

1 November 1996

David Jones

David Jones has a 105ha (260-acre) all-grass farm near Welshpool, Powys. His two main enterprises are 80 mainly Hereford x Friesian suckler cows and 800 Mule. and Beulah ewes.

AS I write were enjoying our annual holiday. The cost of the BSE crisis has put paid to our trip abroad this year so weve taken the kids to Centre Parc in Suffolk.

The contrast in the countryside here compared to back home is quite startling. Huge flat fertile fields, no hedges as boundaries and hardly a farm animal to be seen.

But now I am home, theres plenty to be done. As Ive said in the past Ive been looking for ways to profitably extensify my farming activities. The last two dry summers have been demoralising to a certain extent. With exact fertiliser management, lime soil testing and overall good grassland management many things may be achieved, but without moisture all this goes through the window.

Ive managed to add 107 acres to my farm on a two-year business tenancy. It is situated on the same estate, and just half a mile down the road. I am hoping that the two-year term will be renewable for a number of years.

My intention is to maintain stocking levels at 95 sucklers, 17 bulling heifers and 900 sheep. The extra rent and work should be covered by reductions in bought in silage, sheep cake and straw.

Adequate winter grazing for the sheep alone will reduce winter housing costs. In the past stocking levels for sheep in early summer has been as high as 12 Mule ewes and their twin lambs an acre, so its no wonder lambs dont hit the market at the magical 12 weeks of age.

But my thoughts on farm business tenancies are two-fold. Firstly they have been successful, allowing more land onto the market. However, thats at a price that many people cannot afford, and so it is no use for young people wishing to enter the industry. &#42

Extra land on a farm business tenancy will help reduce purchased silage and concentrates, says

David Jones.

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David Jones

14 June 1996

David Jones

AT last the cold north-easterly winds have gone and for the first time the grass seems to be gaining on the sheep.

Many of the older generations say this is the worst spring in their memories. In my time at Trefnant Hall Ive not experienced such difficult and expensive times.

The earlier lambs seem to be doing quite well having gained an advantage due to the fact that pastures were rested for six weeks prior to lambing. Having said that Ive just picked the first ones for market, three weeks later than last year with only 28 being ready out of 330. The major problem lies with the mid-March to early April-born lambs. The totally stagnant grass growth at that stage, even though extra concentrates were fed, checked the milk production of the ewes leaving many lambs stunted.

The lambs in my opinion started grazing at too young an age and scoured. After two wormings at three weeks apart they still have not dried up. It looks like I will have to dip them to keep away blowfly as their dirty back ends will be an obvious target.

We sold our first store cattle four weeks ago on what I thought was a reasonable trade. After the cattle were out at grass for three weeks we got 133p/kg for bulls and 120p for heifers.

The following week saw a drop of 10p/kg on the heifers and since then the trade has plummeted. I still have 37 to sell but I really need the grass theyre eating for the 20 sucklers still housed.

Our 24 bulls are proving to be even more of a headache. With no export and no real home market for this type of beef, Im left between the devil and the deep blue sea. I could sell them for 80p/kg liveweight losing £250 an animal on last years output, or pay the £700 a month to keep them ticking over till something happens.

Between the store trade and this I look like loosing £10,000 to the BSE crisis and unlike the dairy sector there will be no compensation to cover this. &#42

A drop in sale price of 10p/kg on the heifers means that David Jones has

cattle fit for sale grazing grass that is needed for suckler cows still housed.

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David Jones

16 June 1995

David Jones

David Jones has a 105ha (260-acre) all-grass farm near Welshpool, Powys. His two main enterprises are 80 mainly Hereford x Friesian suckler cows and 800 Mule and Beulah ewes.

AT LAST were having some decent growing conditions. Heavy showers of rain combined with much milder weather and warm nights is helping to keep grass in front of the animals.

On our high stocking rates here at Trefnant Hall this is our most stressful time of the year. With 12 acres of barley, 10 acres of hay and 95 acres out for silage, the remaining 138 acres of useable ground has 820 ewes, about 1100 growing lambs and 80 sucklers and calves to cope with. Just as well the dry spell ended, or there wouldnt be any need to brush the hedges this year!

Our third application of fertiliser has been put down (2cwt of 29:5:5) on the grazing ground (May 30). This should see us through until the aftermaths become available.

The prolonged dry spell has produced problems on the silage fields on the steep drier banks. Seeding has occurred while the crop only stands about 6in high. To bulk up, which we need to do on first cut, will require us to wait until mid-June before cutting. As our silage stocks have been exhausted for the first time in five years, the 10t/acre of wet material required will be low in quality. One of the unavoidable problems of a difficult spring. Lets hope some good second cut can be made for the sheep.

Ive sold my first lambs of the season. Forty Texels off Mules sold for £47 at 37kg at 9.5 weeks of age with no creep feed. These, of course, were off singles. Its down hill all the way from now on though, as we wonder where the trade will bottom out at this year.

On a brighter note, the store cattle trade has rallied a little. The heifers I sold off grass last week made 128p/kg, while my first bullocks made a respectable 138p/kg.

The farms cash flow is a major problem this year. The remainder of the Welsh sheep premium has still not been paid out as I write. It was promised before the end of April. This, coupled with the fact that weve not started selling our bulls yet, is causing difficulties. What it really means though is that we have a larger pile than normal of "red hot" bills to be paid. &#42

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