David Maughan

5 December 1997

David Maughan

David Maughan farms in

partnership with his brother

Peter on two farms totalling

272ha (425 acres) in

Co Durham on the Raby

Estate. The grass acreage

supports silage beef and an

18-month system. All the

cattle, apart from a few

purchased sucker heifers,

are reared from bought

Continental bull calves. The

farms include 305 arable

acres, which supply the

bedding and cereal part of

the cattle ration

November never is the most exciting month on the calendar but with the grazing bulls not being yarded until earlier in the month at least the winter period has been shortened with the extended grazing season.

With a pit full of a pleasing quality silage, plus plenty of barley on hand, we have to consider whether to introduce the additional cost of purchasing either stock potatoes or fodder beet for the winter ration. Past experience tells us that we can obtain performance levels over and above those that we would experience with silage and barley alone. The calculation has to be based on the cheapest cost of achieving live weight gain and as such will I think favour the inclusion of some roots.

With the arrival of the winter sheep, which provide a valuable role in controlling any surplus grass, and the purchase of a few 21-month-old Simmental steers to bring our numbers up and use up a few second claims, we are now fully into the winter routine.

We are also filling the pens here at Morton Tinmouth with the second rear of bull calves for the 18-month system. We are pleased that the purchase price is easing back, heaven knows it needs to having run well ahead of returns for most of the past BSE period. Whether they are still economically priced shall have to be judged in 15 months.

Unlike last year we have not seen a rise in finished values this autumn. It does seem that the realisation that low prices are here to stay for some time ahead has dawned on most producers. It would seem that the Irish dimension is taking on a very non-political meaning to beef finishers trying to compete against the weight of beef being imported from that source. Indeed, it does sometimes feel with the export ban that we are playing in a match where the goal is completely boarded up, so we shall never even have a chance to win.

On waking up one morning recently I heard the announcement on Radio 4 that cattle passports could be rising to £10 a head, which was not the best way to start that day. Thinking Lorna would wish to share this unfortunate news, I awoke her, telling passports were going through the roof. "Well," she said, "for where we are going this year, it doesnt really matter."n

Including some roots in winter beef rations of silage and barley will help produce high weight at cheapest cost, says David Maughan.

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