5 July 2002

First victim in county soldiers on regardless

By Wendy Short

North-east correspondent

THE first farm to contract foot-and-mouth in the county of North Yorkshire is now looking forward to a bright future after re-stocking with a brand new dairy herd this spring.

Despite facing some extremely difficult times last year, William Lambert says he has never even considered giving up farming at the 80ha (200 acre) Raygill House, near Hawes.

"Im really glad to have my old job back," he says.

Although his return to production coincided with a sharp downturn in the milk price, Mr Lambert is convinced the market will pick up again.

No good old days

"I dont think we will see a return to the good old days where farmers were getting 23/24p/litre but I think prices will have moved up to a more realistic level by this autumn," he predicts.

The farm sells all its milk on contract to local cheesemakers Wensleydale Dairy Products and is paid a premium on quality. With this in mind, Mr Lambert has used his new opportunity to add 20 in-calf Meuse-Rhine Issel (MRI) heifers to the black-and-white herd. These have been imported from Holland and will be calving from July to December.

"The MRI has a reputation for producing good fat and protein figures – the records for these animals show they can achieve 4% protein and 5% fat without losing yield.

"They are something of an experiment but I plan to breed them pure as there seems to be quite a demand at the moment."

The main milking herd consists of 66 commercial British Friesian-type cows similar to those culled during the crisis. They arrived on Jan 7 this year, exactly 10 months after the disease was confirmed.

Mr Lambert says being employed by the government to cleanse and disinfect other local farms while his own holding was empty has kept the business afloat. He worked with many other local farmers and slaughtermen and says that their local knowledge was a major influence on eradicating the disease from the area.

One significant change made to the farm since re-stocking is that the sheep enterprise has been abandoned. Previously there was a flock of 150 Swaledale ewes, which were put to a Blue-faced Leicester tup.

"I have occasional help from my wife, Claire, but we have two young daughters so she is often busy in the house," Mr Lambert points out. "Other than that, I work on my own and I only bring in contractors for silage-making.

"I felt the sheep were too time-consuming. They also took up valuable acreage which I thought would be used more productively for grazing the dairy herd."

Mr Lambert is very keen to maintain biosecurity levels on his farm – not just to try and prevent the recurrence of F&M but also to combat other diseases which might affect his animals. To this end he has installed a concrete-lined disinfectant bath for all vehicles visiting his property.

"There is a danger that people will forget about biosecurity now that the worst is over. But I really hope that everyone will keep up the high standards that prevailed during the crisis," &#42

he stresses.

Bath time…Mr Lamberts disinfectant bath.

Faith in the stock market…William Lambert has restocked after F&M.