Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

19 July 2002

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

rent 89ha (220 acres) of

grassland, plus moorland

grazing, near Barnard

Castle, and own a further

unit 12 miles away, both

are situated in the Less

Favoured Area of Teesdale.

Farms are stocked with 120

sucklers, including 20

pedigree Blonde

dAquitaines, and 1200

ewes with 200 replacements

HAVING spoken to a buyer of Blue Faced Leicester tups in Wales who, with many in that area, had joined the National Scrapie Plan and could only purchase tested sheep, we decided to test our flock.

Sixty rams, ewes and ram lambs were blood tested and given an ID bolus. But, after visits by two Ministry vets, a ram lamb had to be taken to our local vets to be knocked out and operated on to remove a bolus stuck in his throat. Apparently it was the first problem experienced. It must just be us, as we obviously believe all we are told by DEFRA.

We have experience of blood testing to remove scrapie susceptible genes from our Swales with private testing through the breed societys scheme. Originally there were very few of the most resistant, ARR/ARR gene tups – well under 5% – with many more being removed from breeding with the VRQ, highly susceptible, gene. But every vet we have spoken to has been uncomfortable about possible in-breeding, wary of what problems could occur.

The 20 day standstill is another nightmare waiting to happen for us. It seems to have no logic. Farms with sole occupancy licence or whatever the current form is, are shut down despite being miles apart, yet purchased lambs from who knows where are in the field next to your lambs with a different owner. Its crazy.

We also fear there will be lots of inventive purchases taking place if the standstill is not made more workable with the autumn sales and buying season looming.

Unfortunately, some young pedigree bulls are too light for the Carlisle Blonde sale in July. They struggled with little grass and no creep last year. We may take them to a later multi-breed sale or even keep the best couple for sale in October.

At least we have stock to sell. Someone taken in the foot-and-mouth cull, who was buying bulling heifers, told us that although the compulsory purchase seemed generous, it will be almost four years from culling before he sells fat stock. &#42

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf have been scrapie genotype testing Swales for some years, but have now decided to test their Blue Faced Leicesters too.

See more