19 July 2002

Top wish is an end to 20-day movement rule

SCRAPPING the 20-day movement regulation is top of the wish lists of many Welsh livestock farmers.

The 30 suckler cows Iain Roberts runs at Solfach, Aberdaron, Gwynedd, will start calving soon and he will have to buy in 30 calves to be able to double suckle them. But each purchase will stop him selling lambs through his local market, which he is working hard to keep open.

"Like so many of the regulations that are piled on the industry, this was thought up by somebody who has no idea how farming works," says Mr Roberts. "I cannot see why we have to accept this movement restriction when the government is doing almost nothing to stop illegal meat imports."

He is angry that farmers who have done all they can to turn out high quality and safe products, and to market them efficiently, do not enjoy political support.

At Solfach he has started using semen from composite Stabilizer bulls developed in the US, and Stabilizer cows will replace the present Belgian Blue crosses.

Farm assured

Most of his finished cattle are already sold through Cwmni Biff Lleyn, which is a 280-member producer group, dedicated to turning out farm assured cattle for a Booker Group contract. This means meeting tight specifications, but it can earn him a premium of 50p/kg deadweight.

Like many Welsh farmers his 367-ewe flock now includes about 300 Welsh Mule half-breds.

Mr Roberts and two friends also tried to boost their incomes by taking on the tenancy of nearby Bardsey Island, where he was born. They ran the 181ha (450-acre) island for seven years, building stocking up to 400 ewes and 10 Welsh Black cows, before losing the lease in 2001.

He still drops in on Bardsey when tending the 100 lobster pots he is licensed to use. Fishing takes up about 40% of his time, but it makes an essential contribution to the familys income.

With only 30ha (74 acres) owned and another 50ha (125 acres) rented, much of which is rough grazing, he acknowledges that he has to be prepared to be flexible to survive.

"Farmers must be prepared to change, and turn our hands to new enterprises. We also have to co-operate a lot more. To survive it seems that we have to help ourselves, and not rely on the government to ensure we get a fair price for feeding British people." &#42