SFP payments timed for Christmas

Scotland’s farm minister Ross Finnie has announced that farmers north of the border will receive at least 70% of their single farm payment entitlement by the end of this year.

“That is really good news,” says Graeme.

“It will certainly help the cash flow through the winter.

I’m sure that a lot of farmers in England and Wales would be delighted to get some SFP in December, but it looks like they are going to have to wait quite a lot longer.

“And, in Scotland, the banks will now know that some of the money is coming in December, so that will ease the pressure that some farmers might be facing,” he adds.

The reason that Scotland’s farmers will not get their full SFP entitlement at the end of the year is because the national reserve has to be worked out on a UK basis.

So, the balance of payments in Scotland depends on the timetables employed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Ross Finnie certainly seems to have done a lot better for farmers in Scotland compared with the ministers elsewhere in the UK,” Graeme says.

“And even if we have to wait until next spring before we get the balance, at least we will have enough to keep things going.”

Although national reserve calculations are still a long way from being finalised, the Smith brothers have just received a letter from the Scottish Executive telling them that their application for a top-up on their SFP entitlement has been successful.

Due to expansion of their beef herd after the 2000-2002 reference period, they applied to the national reserve to cover the extra 240 beef special premium cattle and 25 suckler cows that they made claims on after the reference period.

“From the letter, it is impossible to see how their calculations have been done,” says Colin.

“So I’m not entirely sure if we’ve got national reserve top-up to cover everything we claimed on.

The letter also points out that the figures are an estimate and can’t be finalised until a validation is done for all producers.

“Even so, it looks like we will be getting a 20% increase compared with our original SFP entitlement,” he says.

New for this year in Scotland, too, is the beef calf scheme, which pays about 70 a head on the first 10 beef calves born each year, plus 35 a head for the remainder.

“You can claim anytime after the calf is 30 days old,” says Colin.

“And there is no restriction on the number of claims made. I haven’t put any in yet, but, with 145 calves a year to claim on, it will certainly make the late nights involved with calving seem a little better.”

Work on the farm recently has been sheep-orientated, with selling fat and store lambs, and cast ewes, and buying in more Cheviots to add to the farm’s hill flock.

“Fat lambs seem to have bottomed out and are now hovering at about 208p/kg deadweight,” says Graeme.

“We have sold 450 in recent weeks and they’ve averaged 39-40 after deductions, which is not too bad.”

The store lamb trade is quite firm, with 180 lambs from Towiemore selling at Thainstone and Huntly marts.

“We averaged 40 a head for Texel-cross ewe lambs. And the pure Cheviots made between 36 and 38 a head, which we were really pleased with,” he says.

“And we’ve also bought 240 one, two and three-crop Cheviot ewes from three dispersal sales, ranging from 35 a head through to 47 for big, strong ewes.”

Cattle are also doing well at Towiemore.

Heifers with calves at foot averaged 940 for nine sold.

And fat heifers are leaving 73 a head profit.

The remaining heifers and steers that are being finished inside are on silage and bruised barley.

“Even though the silage is a bit hot, they seem to be thriving on it,” Graeme says.