3 April 1998

Extensive farming gives lIttle gain, says study

THERE are few economic benefits from switching to extensive agriculture, according to a recent study carried out by Harper Adams agricultural college.

The extensification premium, now in its third year, was introduced to cut the environmental impact of beef production.

After examining 43 farms in the environmentally sensitive areas of Shropshire, Harper Adams senior lecturer Graham Tate concluded that a typical farm could be at least £7000 worse off by stocking at the required lower levels.

The extensification premium payments require farmers to stock at under 1.4 livestock units/ha (0.57/acre), returning an estimated gross margin of £450/ha (£182/ acre). But farmers stocking at 2 livestock units/ha (0.81/acre) could receive payments under the suckler cow premium or beef special premium schemes instead, which could give gross margins of £550/ha (£222/acre).

Mr Tate said: "The current system of headage payments means farmers who want to help the environment are penalised."