Farmer Focus: Borrowing allows better economies of scale

The farm is now transitioning into winter. Grass growth and quality has dropped, and ground conditions are very wet.

Over the past week the cattle have been weighed, administered a mineral bolus and grouped by size. This year’s policy of buying slightly heavier stores at 350-400kg is now really kicking in, with many cattle over 500kg going into winter.

The target is to keep these ticking along over winter and then quickly finish them off grass next summer.

See also: How a beef finisher keeps winter feed costs at 48p/day

Cattle numbers are at their highest ever for winter, with both the forage crops and the sheds full.

My only hiccup in the numbers and size of stock I have at this stage is that there could be a very large clear-out early next summer and I may have an issue replacing them when there aren’t many on the market.

This year we took on some additional debt which has allowed me to finally stock the farm to near capacity and buy heavier stores. There is no doubt that when finishing stock, you need numbers for the economies of scale.

Winter crops are good but I’m a bit disappointed in the size of the swede bulbs. I didn’t apply any trace elements or amino acids this year and now think it was a false economy.

I was also very disappointed to find a little clubroot in one little patch of a field of rape/kale hybrid, although it’s still a huge crop, which is well above the bike.

This area had been in fodder beet for the past two years and hadn’t been in brassicas for 10 years.

Now the sheep flock is down to 100 ewes, I think I will keep it there, lamb outside and generally keep costs to a minimum.

I am very keen to get to a stage where I can rest most of the farm for at least 100 days which will hopefully give me more grass in the spring.

Christmas turkey sales are going well, although I am very worried about Christmas and what would happen if a family member or one of the staff was to test positive at the busiest time of the year.

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise near Biggar, Lanarkshire, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.