28 September 2001

Optimism is order of the


Despite the backdrop of foot-

and-mouth concerns, this

years Dairy Event offered a

chance to catch up with

producers and industry

specialists, to find out about

new products and make

plans for the future. FWs

livestock team reports

INCREASING herd size and coping with the difficulties of foot-and-mouth movement restrictions this winter were on the minds of producers visiting the Dairy Event.

Initial results from the Strutt & Parker and FARMERS WEEKLY Dairy Event survey show that 16% of respondents lost all or part of their herds as a result of F&M.

Despite this, producers remained optimistic, according to Strutt & Parker. Only 6.5% feel uncertain of the future and have not yet decided whether to remain in milk.

One producer who is less than optimistic about the industry and his future in it, having narrowly escaped a Form D classification, is north Shrops producer Ralph Fernihough.

"I dont know what will happen post-F&M, but the Government and EU do not seem to want our industry which makes me think that dairying will not perk up."

Red tape is also occupying time which could be spent managing his 130 cows. The lure of selling up and moving to Canada is looking an appealing option at the moment, he added.

However, many are more positive about the future. The survey shows that many milk producers are looking to expand, with 40% intending to rent more land and about half planning an increase in herd size and investing in quota.

F&M has not deterred Devon producers David Munday and Jean Howard from planning to expand their milking herd by 50 head to 200 in the next two years.

A few spring calving cows destined for culling will make up numbers a little, as the OTMS backlog means they have been served again. But there are too few home-bred replacements to expand to 200 cows. "To increase numbers, we will have to buy in. But F&M has made us nervous about buying in animals and we will now be much more selective about where we source stock," said Mrs Howard.

RABDF dairy student of the year, Huw McConochie, added that compared with other sectors, the dairy industry has suffered less from F&M and milk prices are improving.

"There has never been a better time to make money with low quota prices and plenty of room to increase production. Producers have had to learn to make profits from low milk prices, which will help in the future."

But, there are options available for producers who want to get out of milking, he said. "With larger herds likely, there is a need for separate farms to contract rear replacement heifers."

However, this winter will see the effects of F&M linger on. Mr Munday added that they have suffered from having a few too many stock this summer with movement restrictions in place. A good maize crop forage means forage shortages are not a concern, but straw availability is a problem in the area.

Mr Munday is also concerned at the lack of a dairy bull market as the herd begins calving. "We wont shoot calves, but dont want to keep them as we want to keep our system simple. We are prepared to give them away rather than destroy them."

Even when restrictions have allowed stock to be moved, applying for licences has meant an enormous amount of extra paperwork, according to Janet Padfield, who has taken on this role on the farm she runs with her husband Peter. "But it must be difficult for working milk producers to cope with all this extra paperwork," she added.

The Padfields dairy unit is in Essex, the county where F&M was first discovered. While they are pleased the county is now free of disease, they are having difficulty moving bulls to buyers, reducing this years returns. They usually sell about 12 bulls a year from the herd.

"One bull has been waiting for five months to go to Ireland. I dont think he will ever get there," said Mrs Padfield. &#42


* Optimistic about returns.

* Many increasing herd size.

* Hampered by paperwork.


&#8226 Optimistic about returns.

&#8226 Many increasing herd size.

&#8226 Hampered by paperwork.

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