Alter vet perception

20 August 1999




Premium depends on stocking rates

AN extra £6900 a year in Agenda 2000 subsidies, and premium prices paid by Waitrose for Aberdeen Angus cross beef from one Oxon estate should ensure a healthy future for its suckler herd.

With an average annual stocking rate of 1.25 LSU/ha at Barrington Park Estate, Burford, including 230 suckler cows and 650 ewes, the unit is poised to benefit from the most generous of the two-tier Agenda 2000 extensification premiums.

For units such as Barrington Park Estate with less than 1.6 LSU/ha, this is worth £42.90 a head in 2000-2001 (see box). Stocking rate maximums are tightened from 2002 with £52/head paid for cows on units stocked at less than 1.4 LSU/ha.

About 480ha (1200 acres) of permanent pasture at Barrington Park Estate permits the modest stocking rates. But with all cattle over six months now contributing 0.6 LSU to stocking rate calculations, care is needed to avoid losing extensification premium through exceeding stocking limits, warns MLC senior economic analyst Duncan Sinclair.

"The new extensification premium will reward good record keeping. Stocking rates will be recorded on five dates between Jan 1 and Oct 31 at about two monthly intervals."

An average of the five stocking rate submissions will be taken to determine aid rate, he says. "Producers with no computer should consider investing in one to assist with record-keeping.

"Plan herd age structure for every month of the year because in some months you may be close to the stocking density limit."

Spring calves, often sold at seven months, may push stocking rates up in autumn under the new system, cautions Signet consultant Ian Ross.

But better management of cull cows could help minimise these concerns, suggests Mr Sinclair. "Cull cows, contributing one livestock unit each, can be sold to the OTMS before calves reach six-months-old to keep stocking densities down."

Provision for up to 20% of suckler cow premium claims to be made on heifers more than eight- months-old should also lead to earlier culling of barren animals, says Mr Ross.

"There has been a tendency for producers to hang on to barren cows to keep numbers up for premium claims, but now they can cull them straight away."

Exact details of how Agenda 2000 will be implemented will be available in autumn. But currently the biggest unknown is how the new slaughter premium will be administered, according to Mr Sinclair.

"Payments will depend on the exchange rate at the end of the year. If sterling remains strong, anticipated high premiums wont occur."

But he is optimistic that despite Agenda 2000 intervention price reductions, current beef prices will be sustained for the first half of next year.

However, there may be a downward pressure on prices in the second half of next year due to extra finished cattle being marketed following the ending of CPAS, he fears.


Year £/head Stocking

density

(LSU/ha)

2000-01 21.45 1.6-2

42.90 <1.6

2002 26 1.4-1.8

52 <1.4

Assuming 1k = £0.65


Stock Number Subsidies GM (£/head)

Spring calvers 115 £17,346 244

Autumn calvers 115 £17,346 321

Spring steers 51 £13,359 313

Spring heifers 51 £597 154

Autumn steers 51 £7,127 171

Autumn heifers 51 £579 116

Grass and clover yields bode well

BUMPER grass and clover yields, a niche outlet, forward herd health planning and conscientious weed control mean Barrington Park Estate can look forward confidently to marketing its first organic beef cattle in two years time.

Estate managing agent Charles Phillips is pleased with pasture yields following clover slot seeding in spring last year.

"High grass and clover yields mean we have been able to graze an additional 80-90 cattle for a second summer. We have also made twice as much silage as last year."

Although silage has yet to be analysed, Mr Phillips hopes for at least an 11 ME, 17% crude protein which he believes is ideal for finishing cattle. "Good silage is crucial in an organic situation, to minimise expensive cereal use."

Soya has been used in finisher diets but with 190ha (475 acres) of the arable land in organic conversion, it will be replaced with home grown protein sources in future.

"We will use home-grown peas and barley to finish cattle because we know where they come from and they are cheaper than buying in feed." Mr Phillips has attempted to grow soya, unsuccessfully, but may try growing lupins as an alternative future protein source.

Autumn calving cows will produce the first organic calves from Sept 1, so must be fed according to Soil Association rules which permit 1.4kg DM a day of conventional feed alongside organic produce. Cows are receiving 0.75kg of peas and ad-lib straw in the last four weeks before calving.

A two-year conversion period is required before new-born calves in the herd can be classed as organic. However, Mr Phillips feels that proposed new Soil Association standards allowing stock grazing in-conversion pasture to become organic at the same time as the pasture, undermines what producers have done in the past.

He also believes that the current 15% premium commanded by organic beef will be lower by the time his first organic cattle are marketed. But a secure marketing outlet through the Waitrose Angus scheme should protect margins.

"Angus steers eligible for the Waitrose scheme averaged £508 last spring compared with the non-eligible, heavier South Devon steers which averaged £488. Waitrose will take South Devons as long as they are sired by an Angus bull."

However, using South Devon bulls to breed replacements from Angus x Friesian/Holstein cows since 1993 has led to noticeable improvements in progeny conformation from the double beef cross cows, while maintaining hybrid vigour, says Mr Phillips.

"Of finished heifers from Angus x Friesian/Holstein cows marketed last spring, 38.5% classified R. Heifers from the double beef cross cows performed better, with 62.5% classified R."

Making money out of beef

This series, Making Money Out of Beef, involving the MLC and Signet, aims to identify areas where changes to boost returns can be made. Each of the four farms in the series will be visited twice a year to report on progress.

The MLCs document Making Money Out of Beef is available free from the MLC hotline (01908-844337), or can be ordered through FWi (www.fwi.co.uk).

Alter vet perception

VET treatment and weed control are often perceived as the two biggest hurdles for producers contemplating organic conversion. But they may not be as difficult to overcome as is often thought.

That is the view of Charles Phillips, managing agent at Barrington Park Estate, Burford, Oxon.

"It is best to have an open approach with the Soil Association. Seek vet advice and put together a protocol for approval by the association well in advance."

Clostridial diseases sometimes cause problems in the herd and approval from the Soil Association means Mr Phillips can continue vaccinating against them. Vaccination against leptospirosis and the use of a new triple vaccine against calf scours has also been permitted.

"If in doubt, remember that animal welfare is paramount. However we will be making every attempt to reduce reliance on veterinary products in future," adds Mr Phillips.

Rigorous topping is helping to keep weeds at bay. "We start topping in April or May and top all in-conversion land at least three times through the grazing season. Topping has provided good control of thistles, nettles and docks." &#42

Premium depends on stocking rates

AN extra £6900 a year in Agenda 2000 subsidies, and premium prices paid by Waitrose for Aberdeen Angus cross beef from one Oxon estate should ensure a healthy future for its suckler herd.

With an average annual stocking rate of 1.25 LSU/ha at Barrington Park Estate, Burford, including 230 suckler cows and 650 ewes, the unit is poised to benefit from the most generous of the two-tier Agenda 2000 extensification premiums.

For units such as Barrington Park Estate with less than 1.6 LSU/ha, this is worth £42.90 a head in 2000-2001 (see box). Stocking rate maximums are tightened from 2002 with £52/head paid for cows on units stocked at less than 1.4 LSU/ha.

About 480ha (1200 acres) of permanent pasture at Barrington Park Estate permits the modest stocking rates. But with all cattle over six months now contributing 0.6 LSU to stocking rate calculations, care is needed to avoid losing extensification premium through exceeding stocking limits, warns MLC senior economic analyst Duncan Sinclair.

"The new extensification premium will reward good record keeping. Stocking rates will be recorded on five dates between Jan 1 and Oct 31 at about two monthly intervals."

An average of the five stocking rate submissions will be taken to determine aid rate, he says. "Producers with no computer should consider investing in one to assist with record-keeping.

"Plan herd age structure for every month of the year because in some months you may be close to the stocking density limit."

Spring calves, often sold at seven months, may push stocking rates up in autumn under the new system, cautions Signet consultant Ian Ross.

But better management of cull cows could help minimise these concerns, suggests Mr Sinclair. "Cull cows, contributing one livestock unit each, can be sold to the OTMS before calves reach six-months-old to keep stocking densities down."

Provision for up to 20% of suckler cow premium claims to be made on heifers more than eight- months-old should also lead to earlier culling of barren animals, says Mr Ross.

"There has been a tendency for producers to hang on to barren cows to keep numbers up for premium claims, but now they can cull them straight away."

Exact details of how Agenda 2000 will be implemented will be available in autumn. But currently the biggest unknown is how the new slaughter premium will be administered, according to Mr Sinclair.

"Payments will depend on the exchange rate at the end of the year. If sterling remains strong, anticipated high premiums wont occur."

But he is optimistic that despite Agenda 2000 intervention price reductions, current beef prices will be sustained for the first half of next year.

However, there may be a downward pressure on prices in the second half of next year due to extra finished cattle being marketed following the ending of CPAS, he fears.

Stock Number Subsidies GM (£/head)

Spring calvers 115 £17,346 244

Autumn calvers 115 £17,346 321

Spring steers 51 £13,359 313

Spring heifers 51 £597 154

Autumn steers 51 £7,127 171

Autumn heifers 51 £579 116

Year £/head Stocking

density

(LSU/ha)

2000-01 21.45 1.6-2

42.90 <1.6

2002 26 1.4-1.8

52 <1.4

Assuming 1k = £0.65

Making money out of beef

This series, Making Money Out of Beef, involving the MLC and Signet, aims to identify areas where changes to boost returns can be made. Each of the four farms in the series will be visited twice a year to report on progress.

The MLCs document Making Money Out of Beef is available free from the MLC hotline (01908-844337), or can be ordered through FWi (www.fwi.co.uk).

Grass and clover yields bode well

BUMPER grass and clover yields, a niche outlet, forward herd health planning and conscientious weed control mean Barrington Park Estate can look forward confidently to marketing its first organic beef cattle in two years time.

Estate managing agent Charles Phillips is pleased with pasture yields following clover slot seeding in spring last year.

"High grass and clover yields mean we have been able to graze an additional 80-90 cattle for a second summer. We have also made twice as much silage as last year."

Although silage has yet to be analysed, Mr Phillips hopes for at least an 11 ME, 17% crude protein which he believes is ideal for finishing cattle. "Good silage is crucial in an organic situation, to minimise expensive cereal use."

Soya has been used in finisher diets but with 190ha (475 acres) of the arable land in organic conversion, it will be replaced with home grown protein sources in future.

"We will use home-grown peas and barley to finish cattle because we know where they come from and they are cheaper than buying in feed." Mr Phillips has attempted to grow soya, unsuccessfully, but may try growing lupins as an alternative future protein source.

Autumn calving cows will produce the first organic calves from Sept 1, so must be fed according to Soil Association rules which permit 1.4kg DM a day of conventional feed alongside organic produce. Cows are receiving 0.75kg of peas and ad-lib straw in the last four weeks before calving.

A two-year conversion period is required before new-born calves in the herd can be classed as organic. However, Mr Phillips feels that proposed new Soil Association standards allowing stock grazing in-conversion pasture to become organic at the same time as the pasture, undermines what producers have done in the past.

He also believes that the current 15% premium commanded by organic beef will be lower by the time his first organic cattle are marketed. But a secure marketing outlet through the Waitrose Angus scheme should protect margins.

"Angus steers eligible for the Waitrose scheme averaged £508 last spring compared with the non-eligible, heavier South Devon steers which averaged £488. Waitrose will take South Devons as long as they are sired by an Angus bull."

However, using South Devon bulls to breed replacements from Angus x Friesian/Holstein cows since 1993 has led to noticeable improvements in progeny conformation from the double beef cross cows, while maintaining hybrid vigour, says Mr Phillips.

"Of finished heifers from Angus x Friesian/Holstein cows marketed last spring, 38.5% classified R. Heifers from the double beef cross cows performed better, with 62.5% classified R."

Alter vet perception

VET treatment and weed control are often perceived as the two biggest hurdles for producers contemplating organic conversion. But they may not be as difficult to overcome as is often thought.

That is the view of Charles Phillips, managing agent at Barrington Park Estate, Burford, Oxon.

"It is best to have an open approach with the Soil Association. Seek vet advice and put together a protocol for approval by the association well in advance."

Clostridial diseases sometimes cause problems in the herd and approval from the Soil Association means Mr Phillips can continue vaccinating against them. Vaccination against leptospirosis and the use of a new triple vaccine against calf scours has also been permitted.

"If in doubt, remember that animal welfare is paramount. However we will be making every attempt to reduce reliance on veterinary products in future," adds Mr Phillips.

Rigorous topping is helping to keep weeds at bay. "We start topping in April or May and top all in-conversion land at least three times through the grazing season. Topping has provided good control of thistles, nettles and docks." &#42


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