2 January 1998

Elite stock pay-off

Cornish producer David Cray runs 850 ewes, 100 ewe

hoggs and 140 single

suckler cows at his 146ha

(360-acre)all-grass farm at

Tichbarrow,Camelford.

WHERE do we go from here? I am sure many farmers will be wrestling with this problem during the New Year.

We have seen the advantage previously using high merit AI bulls. The calves have not been weighed yet, but they are bigger and of better quality previously.

The problem of course has been price. Store cattle have sold no better than last year and the lack of "top-up" has made the beef account look very sick. The sudden collapse in lamb prices made me thankful that we sold 250 store lambs in October.

Even if we had registration and/or quota there would be no temptation to change to either arable or dairy considering the present problems of these sectors. The sensible option is to sell up before things get any worse, but I dont think we will do so.

What we will be doing is to cut costs wherever possible. Any capital expenditure will have to have a very short pay-back time. We need to spread our existing overheads over as much output as possible. Land purchase at present prices is out of the question, but if the opportunity arose renting at sensible rates could help spread overheads. I am very wary of cutting stock numbers, particularly breeding herds, because of the time it would take to rebuild when things improve.

I am not a political animal but the present crisis has stirred even me into action. I have started to take an active part in the National Cattle Association in the belief that there is need for a specialist body to represent beef producers.

My great hope for the New Year is that the Minister can a) make the regulations on imported meat stick and b) get us relief on the green £ and high sterling value.

David Cray will cut costs wherever possible and rely on improved genetics.