11 December 1998

MLCs formula for sheep men to stay solvent

By James Garner

FINANCIAL planning and cost management are vital to ensure sheep producers survive current low prices, while safeguarding next years lamb crop is essential.

Speaking at last weeks launch of the MLCs new sheep document Seeing the Winter Through, MLC product manager Martin Grantley-Smith said that factors causing the current crisis were beginning to weaken. "But right now, remaining viable and not affecting next years lamb crop are key objectives for sheep producers.

"It may be too late to save costs or increase yields for this year, but dont compromise next years results: ensure ewes are managed well now."

Reacting to industry criticism that there is nothing new in the document, Dr Grantley-Smith said that if there were new ideas then they would have already been launched to help producers. "But adhering to advice in this document should give businesses a stronger edge, enabling them to survive the current crisis.

"We are not trying to tell producers how to farm as many are technically good. But this document is full of sheep-keeping tips and business management advice that may help farmers through the crisis," he said.

"There are some simple activities that any producer should be doing to stay in business; prepare a cashflow, work out winter costs and try to reschedule loans.

"The MLC has been speaking to banks, explaining current problems, so bankers should understand your plight. But visit your banker armed with appropriate financial information," stressed Dr Grantley-Smith.

Other financial moves are possible: "Reduce interim payments on last years tax liability by speaking to your accountant, business advisor and the Inland Revenue.

"Also, where incomes are low, find out whether you are entitled to family credit by visiting your local DSS office and asking for claim pack FC1."

Among six pages of advice in the document producers are urged to maximise subsidy claims despite currently increasing quota values. "Margins will be tight, so producers who are over quota should purchase or lease in extra units before the February 4 deadline to maximise ewe premium claims," said Dr Grantley-Smith.

Speaking at the press conference, Signet consultant Peter Fairbank said that in the short term making efficient use of forage is important. "Forage production costs have already been incurred, so maximise its use this winter. But ensure you know its quality."

In addition, buy concentrates in bulk where possible, saving up to £20/t, he said. "Other options are feeding ewes unprocessed home-produced cereals such as barley and wheat or purchasing cheap straights, such as soya and maize gluten."

set in box please

SHEEP SURVIVAL

* Financial planning vital

* Reschedule loans and tax

* Watch winter feed costs

SHEEPSURVIVAL.

&#8226 Financial planning vital.

&#8226 Reschedule loans and tax.

&#8226 Watch winter feed costs.