19 April 1996

No profit for livestock farmers to plough grass

TALK of a sharp rise in combinable crop plantings due to the BSE scare is largely unfounded, according to the industry.

Few farmers have been tempted to plough out grass, says ADAS consultant Neil Pickard.

"At least 90% of the grass area is not eligible for arable area payments. Without that support, farmers wont want to plough it out – its just not profitable."

Of those that do qualify, about half farm heavy land, and have little chance of growing a decent crop now, he believes. Others are inexperienced in growing arable crops. Summer grazing prices have risen since the scare, he adds.

Signet consultants around the country report very little ploughing. "Farmers are waiting to see what is going to happen," says northern region business manager Jim Stark.

Seed merchants report little extra activity on all crops, including flax, which being outside the AAP scheme could have been a prime target for sowing. "We have several extra enquiries, but only one or two small orders," says Nigel Bazeley of Hants-based Robin Appel.

Scottish barometer grower Mike Cumming, Lour Farms, Forfar, Angus, has ploughed out 40ha (100 acres) of a planned three-year ley 12 months early and sown malting barley. "We intended to stock it with 200 stores but didnt want to take the gamble."n