Farmer Focus : Bill and Jonathan Metcalf 12/11/04

WE FOUND ourselves thinking along similar lines to our landlords on some short-term grazing which we have had for several years. Being uncertain as to long-term plans for this, we suggested it would be best for us not to claim the single farm payment.

In return, we received a suggestion that, as the intention was to keep a similar level of income for each of us as in the past, in a few years there could be a case for “free grazing” in return for meeting the environmental necessities under the new regime.

Hopefully, this kind of co-operation could work positively for both parties and was extremely refreshing, given that we had thought along these same lines, but had not had the nerve to suggest it at such an early stage.

Swaledale sales have come and gone with the usual thing happening at Kirkby Stephen ewe sales. Having gone only with the intention of buying a top pen of draft ewes for the Swaledale tup, a Long Green pen, the last of their consignment, were bought on impulse. They were difficult to resist for the money.

Over the years we have on many occasions not had quite deep enough pockets to buy their sheep, but which we do get to admire, as we share the same moor. On getting them home, a few which ooze quality from the breeding may actually go to the Swaledale, with most going to Bluefaced Leicesters.

Swaledale tup sales were somewhat up and down. There were good prices for the best, but also some bargains to be had, particularly at the start and finish of some days.

We got our top price of £820 for an aged ram and were left with a small profit after buying two new shearlings. We were also pleased to be able to sell two group-three shearlings which would have struggled last year.

About half the remaining Mule and Masham ewes have now been tupped, together with the Bluefaced Leicester ewes, which have again been synchronised.