Beware unknown – bull buying tip

5 February 1999




Fears for consequences if MAFFdumps maize…

By Emma Penny

BRITISH dairy producers are set to lose out if MAFF refuses to include maize in the Arable Aid Payment Scheme, or opts to retain a separate base area.

Maize Growers Association chief John Morgan warns that MAFFs moves will put UK producers at a competitive disadvantage with their EU counterparts. "This is an issue we must sort out before Agenda 2000 is finalised in late March."

Under present Agenda 2000 proposals, forage maize growers are expected to get the full arable aid payment of £270/ha (£100/acre).

This is to help compensate for the 15% milk price cut, and would be paid alongside a headage premium. The headage premium is based on the assumption that farmers growing forage maize will receive a full area payment.

But Mr Morgan warns that while other member states are embracing this proposal, the UK is against it.

Industry sources say MAFF would prefer to exclude forage maize from the AAPS. This was a move suggested by the EC in its early CAP reform proposals, but since dropped because of the difficulty in differentiating maize grown for grain or forage on the Continent.

If the UK government was to adopt this idea there would be no payment for maize grown on UK farms, while producers in the rest of the EU would receive subsidy.

"This would seriously disadvantage UK producers who would receive only the cow premium, while farmers in other member states will get cow premium and maize payments," warns Mr Morgan.

As an example, he says a farm with 100 cows growing 10ha (25 acres) of maize will receive £120/head cow premium, plus about £238/ha (£100/acre) maize payment – about £14,400 in total.

"When theres no maize payment, that farmer stands to lose out by about £2400 compared with his EU competitors."

MAFF is said to realise the practical difficulties of excluding maize from the AAPS, and has suggested that it might opt to retain a separate base area. This move has been adopted to avoid any reduction in cereal AAPS on account of the consistent maize base area overshoot.

But this option is also likely to place UK producers at a disadvantage, says Mr Morgan.

"The UK base area was set when maize wasnt so popular – its about 30,000ha, whereas we now grow about 100,000ha, meaning payments are scaled back accordingly."

According to Andersons partner Frances Mordaunt, the continuing scale-back means UK farmers would be paid about £94/ha (£38/acre) for their maize acreage under Agenda 2000 proposals, while other EU farmers would receive full maize subsidy of £270/ha (£109/acre).

"I dont think the case MAFF and the NFU are putting for retaining a separate base area is as strong as it has been in the past.

"MAFF wont achieve all its aims: In good maize growing areas, producers are likely to continue growing it as it is a good forage. However, in more marginal areas, whole-crop could become more popular, increasing the area of cereal grown."

Mr Morgan agrees, warning that where more whole-crop is grown, this threatens the cereal base area – the opposite of MAFFs aim.

MAIZE PAYMENTS

&#8226 UK potentially loses out.

&#8226 Full subsidy on Continent.

&#8226 No AAPS or retain base area?

MAIZEPAYMENTS

&#8226 UK potentially loses out.

&#8226 Full subsidy on Continent.

&#8226 No AAPS or retain base area?

Check weights now beef finishers told

BEEF finishers aiming for late spring and early summer marketing should weigh cattle now to ensure they are meeting targets.

According to Signet consultant Geoff Fish, now is a good time to re-adjust rations where cattle are not growing as predicted. "Weighing cattle now will give an idea how rations are performing and leave enough time to change them and affect performance."

Finding out in April that cattle are not growing as planned means feeding more to finish cattle and missing targets, he says.

Mr Fish says that its also important to monitor cow condition in spring calving suckler herds. "In the run-up to calving, calf growth rates are critical. "Where cows are a little thin, I would leave them that way until calving to help avoid problems with large they have calved."

Pushing in-calf cows is dangerous and can lead to increased calf growth, leading to higher risk of calving problems."

Its safer to leave rations until cows have calved and then feed them well to improve condition for bulling, says Mr Fish.

Lifes a beach…Gravel beds adjoining the River Rheidol, Aberystwyth, are ideal for wintering 120 pedigree Welsh Blacks and 200 followers run by the Jones family at Llwyniorwerth Uchaf, Capel Bangor. Liquid feeding has been introduced to supplement big bale silage. Surplus registered heifers are sold at breed society sales, where average price has fallen by one third to £600 since exports were banned. About 40 purebred males go deadweight to the Welsh Black Marketing Group each year at 18-20 months old. These weigh 280-320kg on the hook and collect a premium of 8p/kg over the market average.

Now producers challenge bills

POOR profitability is having a knock-on effect in the veterinary profession, with some producers questioning costs.

Thats according to a survey carried out by Schering-Plough, asking 300 dairy farmers, 100 beef producers and 100 flockmasters what they thought of their vet and the advice they were given.

According to the survey, only one in eight farmers believes that it will be easy to cut either professional fees or the cost of prescription-only medicines. However, a quarter of those surveyed are likely or fairly likely to challenge their vet over costs in the near future, with most focusing on fees for time and call outs.

In an attempt to control costs, 44% of producers surveyed said they would treat animals for longer themselves before calling out the vet, with 55% of sheep producers holding this view.

More than a third think it is likely that they will not call out the vet for lower value stock that would previously have received attention, while 20% think they will reduce vaccine use this year.

But fewer than a quarter of farmers surveyed has ever changed their vet. Of those who changed, 40% did so because of poor service and costs, and 13% because of personal differences. Where poor service was the cause, the main problem cited was getting a vet out when required.

Beware unknown – bull buying tip

BULL buyers should be wary of purchasing from an unknown source unless they have a trusted recommendation of a vendors herd health status.

SAC vet Alastair Greig says that knowing where you buy stock from helps avoid introducing the potentially fatal Johnes disease into your herd.

Johnes, an increasing concern in Scotland, according to this weeks Vet Record is a serious disease affecting the intestines and lymph nodes. It causes wasting and diarrhoea, particularly in young cattle up to 2.5 years old.

Despite serious consequences, Johnes is difficult to detect in animals that are carriers, says Mr Greig. "Blood tests will not detect carriers, so you cant advise producers to quarantine and blood test bought-in stock."

Because carriers cannot be identified, eradicating it from your herd and protecting young animals is difficult.

Calves have little hope of avoiding infection when suckling an infected cow, says Mr Greig. "Its efficiently transmitted by cows shedding large amounts of bacteria on the udder from muck or infected organisms in the milk."


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