WE RECENTLY sold all our male lambs for the Muslim festival of L”Aid el-Kabir which is becoming a more important market for us, writes Tim Green.

Restrictions on slaughtering practices tolerated in the past have restricted the market for some dealers who have been saddled with many unsold lambs. We have fared better because we have concentrated on working with abattoirs. That has helped maintain a good average price of about 87, but it involves much organisation, telephone calls and time.

Lambs have to be in perfect condition and it can be frustrating when one is refused because of a ripped ear tag or a partly broken horn. Any lame sheep are rejected. We hope to develop this market in future and possibly introduce our own quality label with guarantees of the nutrition and slaughtering facilities.

Traditionally marketed lambs can do even better when everything goes well. The top lambs have managed more than 100 apiece for 22.5kg and U grade at 4.70/kg deadweight. The last group average was 87.76 with most lambs at 14.14/kg. After leaving the local sheep group our lambs are marketed directly. But we have to deliver the lambs ourselves which brings big fuel costs without taking into account time and depreciation. In future we hope to co-operate with other producers to optimise transport costs.

HEIFERS SOLD

We have also sold two cross heifers at 16 months old, weighing 199kg and 209kg deadweight. Our policy is to keep the better beef type heifers and put them in calf to Limousin before selling the calf at three weeks old and then finishing the heifer.

Two ordinary types, suitable for selling earlier, made 1.76/kg plus the slaughter premium which was more than if they were sold as stores.

Turning to our dairy enterprise, we are trying to fill milk quota but are being hampered by health problems. One cow was lost due to an ingested wire, probably from the tyres off the clamp, and another to a heart problem which may also have been caused by wire. Those losses are leading us to consider scrapping all the tyres and finding a different system.

Any cow suspected of ingesting wire has a magnet passed down its throat and receives antibiotics.

Foot care is also a problem with outbreaks of interdigital dermatitis and foul in the foot, which is a new condition for us at Vimer. Fortunately the vets have prescribed an effective antibiotic with no withdrawal for milk and we have limited the losses. With hindsight, we should have incorporated a footbath into the new building but with no history of foot disease or a suitable siting point, we did not think it worthwhile.

BONUS PAYMENT

Our December milk price was 24.5p; helped along by butterfat of 4.53% and proteins of 3.52%. Protein contents of more than 3.5% attract a bonus payment.

After extra calvings and a change of silage clamps, the proteins have started to slip. To remedy the problem we have introduced a product called Smartamine and yeasts. Our current performance, compared with this time last year, is almost identical but the base price was a halfpenny better at 20.5p.

At least this year we should be allowed to produce more milk after being allocated the quota on the farm being purchased by our future partner Francis. Of the 214,000 litres reference amount, he has been given 179,000. There is a discretionary allowance of 35,000 litres, open to those under 40 years, but he does not qualify.

Hopefully, the purchase process will speed up allowing us to spread into the additional buildings. It is becoming cramped at Vimer as the extra livestock planned for this new farm arrive and the first lambs are born.

All but two of our Border collie pups have been sold with one left and one to keep. Each sold for 155 including first vaccination and identification. By law, they must be tattooed or fitted with a chip and after three years only chips will be allowed. Vaccines and chips cost 32.50 each.

We do not vaccinate against rabies because the disease is not a problem in this region. Vaccination is required only if dogs travel abroad, onto campsites or visit boarding kennels. All have been sold by word of mouth, mainly thanks to our vets, who were impressed by the litter of 10 pups. Most pups have remained within this area so let”s hope they work effectively.

REGISTRATIONS

I read that new tractor registrations have risen for the third consecutive year, this time by 5.3%. Average horsepower sneaks up to 115hp. Telescopic handlers are climbing at the rate of 20% a year. It seems that cereal growers and suckler cow producers are doing the buying while milk producers and pig producers are holding back.

Problems in horticulture and wine production have seen sales of specialised tractors fall by almost 10% for four-wheel drives and more than 29% for two-wheel drives.

We plan to invest in a bigger second-hand 4wd tractor to try to be more independent from contractors – particularly now we are taking on extra land.