7 March 1997

Penalised for planning…

By Shelley Wright

MAFFS intransigence, and the lack of support from the NFU, has angered an Oxon farmer who stands to lose up to a third of his cows to the selective cull.

Philip Jackson, who manages 150 milking cows at Manor Farm, Islip, says the ministrys insistence that in-calf heifers have to be included in the overall herd numbers for selective cull compensation is unfair. "Especially for people like us who, once we knew the cull was definitely going ahead, went out and bought in-calf heifers to replace the cows we thought we might lose."

Just before Christmas, when farm minister Douglas Hogg confirmed the selective cull, Mr Jackson knew that he would lose many of his cows. And, having spent £62,000 last summer installing a new parlour, he decided to buy replacements quickly so that they were calved and milking by the time the herds cohorts were identified and slaughtered.

"Putting the new parlour in was a big commitment, and also meant we had borrowed a lot of money, so it was essential that we kept filling the milk tank to keep the milk cheque coming in," he says. So the farm invested almost £25,000 on 24 heifers which arrived on the farm in January and are all due to calve in the spring.

But, having planned ahead, Mr Jackson was furious when the MAFF vet arrived at the farm this week and insisted that the 24 Dutch heifers plus 10 home-bred pregnant heifers had to be included in the herd numbers.

That bumped the herd up to 184 head and Mr Jackson warns that many farmers could find themselves penalised if they too had tried to manage their businesses by thinking ahead. The MAFF vet identified 50 cohorts on the farm, although Mr Jackson plans to appeal to try and save seven.

Additional government compensation is available to those losing more than 10% of their herds to the cull. Mr Jackson says that many farmers could lose out if in-calf heifers boost their herd numbers and prevent them hitting the 10% figure.

He is also unhappy that the NFU has not fought for farmers on this issue. "I went to a local NFU meeting recently on the selective cull and they seemed completely unconcerned about including in-calf heifers. I think its absolutely disgusting. "

"The NFU has done a complete U-turn – first they were totally opposed to the selective cull and then suddenly it was politically correct to go along with the Florence agreement. And all the time farmers like me are left trying to cope with all the indecision and manage our businesses. And to be penalised for trying to plan ahead seems unbelievable," he says.

many farmers could lose additional compensation if in-calf heifers have boosted their herd numbers, warns Philip Jackson.