9 November 2001

Movement restrictions put pressure on stock

Livestock movement

restrictions are causing

management problems at

Pen-yr-Ochr and could force

the use of the light lamb

disposal scheme. Wales

correspondent

Robert Davies reports

EDWARD and Eunice Wozencraft will do all they can to prevent any of their livestock ending up in a landfill site. But they could end up being severely overstocked and left with no alternative.

To be on the safe side, 60 lambs have been entered into the light lamb disposal scheme. But the Wozencrafts still hope that there will be enough grass to finish them for human consumption. One key factor will be whether grazing pressure can be eased by away-wintering 230 sheep.

The Cardiganshire farmer who normally provides tack is happy to take them but, even though Pen-yr-Ochr is just a few fields from the county border, it is still located in an at-risk area. "We hope the designation of land on our side of the main road will be changed in time," says Mr Wozencraft.

Some inward stock movements from off-lying land have been completed, including the return of 20 cows and heifers from one site and 10 bullocks from another. But obtaining licences proved far from straightforward.

"The trouble with the movement licensing system is that there are no hard and fast rules that all the people at the end of the telephone use," says Mrs Wozencraft. "Some people are very helpful, while a few are not a bit interested in understanding and solving our particular problems.

"Veterinary surgeons are very busy so inspections can be delayed and every movement involves spending money on disinfection. Things we did not even think about in the past have become big headaches and take up a tremendous amount of time."

Ewes have also been moved back from common grazings and tupping started on Oct 23. Inspection revealed that most were in good condition and very few had feet problems. Thin ewes have been put on the best available grazing and any that do not improve will be culled.

As soon as raddles show that ewes are pregnant they will be returned to the hill until Christmas.

As part of a group improvement scheme, 40 of the best Welsh ewes have been sponged for artifical insemination using semen from one of three high-index rams.

The Wozencrafts are completely committed to flock improvement, including the elimination of scrapie. Clinical cases of the disease have not been seen on the farm since they started genotyping rams four years ago.

Now only R1 and R2 genotype tups are used. The benefit was clear when the first 140 ewes were blood-tested recently. Only 25 proved not to be resistant to scrapie and these will be cross-bred until they are culled from the flock. Resistant ewes now have identification rumen boluses.

"The government wants all rams in the country blood-tested, which would be good start to getting rid of scrapie," says Mr Wozencraft. "But testing millions of ewes is another matter because breeders cannot afford to do it after years of low incomes."

None of the 2001 lamb crop has been sold because prices have been so poor. The lack of cash flow has not been too worrying because bank borrowings are not very high and income is earned from transporting livestock. But as grass growth slows the Wozencrafts hope to start marketing.

Around 50 ewes are due to go on the welfare disposal scheme for £10/head and 10 heifers will be finished in 6 to 8 weeks. These and 10 bullocks that will be ready later should go through Safeways Welsh Producer Club.

After some concreting and wall repairs all the cattle have been housed to prevent poaching of very wet pastures. The high price of straw is worrying, so little is being fed and less than usual is being used as bedding.

"We should have enough silage and hay to take us through a normal winter, but we could end up needing more because of the stocking rate. There seems to be plenty on the market so we will look out for possible deals," says Mr Wozencraft.

The local community group linked to the TIR technology transfer project has met for the first time since the start of foot-and-mouth. The venue was a pub and everyone was responsible for their own biosecurity.

"It was really very good to get together again, but it was clear that members still cannot see an end to the crisis. One thing we all agreed on was that we cannot wait for the livestock auctions to reopen and create a true market," says Mr Wozencraft. &#42

"At the moment buyers have producers over a barrel and we have no idea of the true value of our stock."

The theme of the meeting was grassland weed control. Mr and Mrs Wozencraft returned home with a better grasp of the subject and a determination to do something about controlling their dock problem.

The approach of winter has reminded Mr Wozencraft that he needs to do something about buying a second-hand vacuum tanker to empty the dirty water lagoon, so he is browsing farmers Weeklys classified advertisement section for a bargain.

FARM FACTS

&#8226 Pen-yr-Ochr, Llangurig, Powys, home farm for a business extending over three blocks of land totalling 184ha (442 acres), farmed by Edward and Eunice Wozencraft.

&#8226 All land is classified as severely disadvantaged. One 53ha (131 acre) rented block is unfenced hill grazing. Much of the land is extremely steep and exposed.

&#8226 The business runs 850 Elan Valley-type Welsh Mountain ewes, including a 60-head nucleus flock of elite females that are part of a group-breeding scheme. Forty crossbred suckler cows are run with Blonde and Limousin bulls. Calves are marketed as stores.

&#8226 The partners are members of community group linked to a technology transfer project focus farm, and are involved in a scrapie genotyping scheme.

&#8226 There is one part-time worker and casual help is hired as required.