Farmer Focus : Alan Montgomery 14/01/05

A NEW YEAR and in the decoupled world a different attitude towards food production. Well, at least that’s what I thought would happen.

In the first week of January, beef prices rose a paltry 6p/kg to compensate those who chose to forgo slaughter premiums and sell cattle on the unsubsidised market. Further rises will follow, but will likely fall short of the 240p/kg required for cattle to stand on their own four legs.

Globalisation and retailers, who have no interest in production costs, will ensure prices do not reach levels required for producers to make a living at beef production. Coupled with the expense of additional slurry storage space, this brings into question the future of beef production in this part of the world.

Neither has our sheep enterprise entered the New Year unscathed. Ms Conor and her team at the Animal Welfare Branch of DARD have introduced a new identification system.

In future, all sheep older than nine months on leaving the farm will require a 15 digit individual tag to be recorded in the flock register.

Ms Conor didn’t consider my welfare when planning this scheme. Unusually for me, I would be highly critical of our farming union for not insisting on a simpler system. Its claim that individual tagging was the only way forward to protect meat plants did not impress me.

The old flock batch system was not broken, and lambs going south could continue to be individually tagged. I have seen plenty of my purchased store lambs tagged in late summer develop a thick festered ear where the tag was unreadable. So much for animal welfare, Ms Conor.

At our marketing group’s winter meeting, we had a technical presentation from Rumenco on Rumevite blocks. Having used them in the past, I had considered them an expensive luxury. However, the correct type of block used in conjunction with good quality silage and concentrates has proved cost-effective, with the added benefit of ease of use.