By Jeremy Hunt, north-west England correspondent

REALISTIC prices and personal selection are the essence of a Cumbria farmers new business to import beef and dairy cattle as replacements for herds hit by foot-and-mouth.

Andrew Johnston, who quit dairying in January, already has orders for 5000 head of cattle.

They have been sourced through links he established in Holland when setting up a herd of Meuse Rhine Issel milkers at his farm at Sebergham, near Wigton.

Partnered in the UK by Russell Dickinson, who has worked as a breed evaluator with Avoncroft for five years, and operating in conjunction with well-known Dutch cattle buyer Joseph Broek, Mr Johnston has set up JD Cattle Imports.

He says his main aim is to ensure that cattle can be bought by UK farmers at realistic prices and that buyers will know exactly what they are buying before stock arrives.

Mr Johnston says visits to allow farmers to personally select stock will be arranged in the coming months.

Cattle are being sourced primarily from Holland and Germany, although they are also available from Denmark.

“We are taking orders for all types of dairy replacements from month-old calves to proven milk cows.

“In-calf heifers for January delivery are costing 1150 for delivery to Newcastle,” says Mr Johnston.

Although most orders have been for dairy cattle, about 1000 head of threequarter-bred Limousin suckler heifers have also been ear-marked for Cumbria farms.

Other Continental crosses are also available, with threequarter-bred in-calf Limousin heifers costing 950.

Mr Johnston says there is already a large number of cattle in Holland that have been bought and paid for by UK farmers. But he doubts that any will arrive before January 2002.

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