Big losses for breeders stuck in F&M risk areas

5 October 2001

Big losses for breeders stuck in F&M risk areas

By James Garner

STOCK breeders face thousands of £s of lost sales this autumn as many breeding animals remain stuck in "high-risk" or "at-risk" counties, which is restricting trade.

Farming organisations have renewed calls on the government to pay compensation for breeding animals, particularly sheep that are not covered by the welfare scheme.

As farmers weekly went to press, 34% of the English suckler herd was marooned in "high-risk" counties, and a further 27% was stuck in "at-risk" ones.

Lots of suckled calves are also stranded, says NFU head of livestock, Kevin Pearce. "Those counties are predominantly the stock breeding grounds of the country. There is going to be a beef shortage next year and it wont help that a third of our suckler herd is situated where it cant be moved."

The National Beef Association agrees. Its chief executive, Robert Forster, says there are about 40,000 suckled calves isolated in Northumberland alone, which would normally be sold to arable farms.

Gethin Havard, chairman of Brecon and Radnor Suckled Calf Rearers, reckons his 450 members stand to lose £400,000 in suckled calf sales, unless the rules change soon.

"Those who did not use the welfare scheme in its early days are now being penalised and face a fodder and a financial crisis."

Welfare scheme compensation is too low for breeding stock, so producers have to keep animals as long as they can, he says.

But calls for better compensation have so far met with short shrift from DEFRA, and omens are not good, as the Treasury appears to be tightening its belt. Nevertheless, the organisations representing breeders are still pressing government.

A spokesman for the Farmers Union of Wales says: "Compensation is something we are looking at and have raised with the government."

Mr Pearce confirmed that it is an issue back on the agenda. "We will call for compensation if some breeding animals cannot be moved."

Other solutions include further splitting of a countys risk status, and longer distance movements for cattle and pigs within high-risk areas, he says.

The National Sheep Association fears ram breeders in particular are running out of time to make sales.

One breeder, David Owen, who farms in north Herefordshire, told FW that he faces devastation. Normally, he would sell over 150 Suffolk and Texel shearling rams a year. This year he is left with over 100 after a farm sale he was relying on was banned by DEFRA. "It is my one yearly harvest. Its like not being paid for your milk for 12 months." He estimates he will lose at least £30,000. &#42

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