Movement controls still cause major headaches

28 September 2001

Movement controls still cause major headaches

Livestock movement restrictions and licensing are

proving serious obstacles to the efficient running of the

business at Sand Farm. John Burns reports

LIKE many livestock producers, Stuart Hailey is trying to cope with strict foot-and-mouth-related controls on livestock movements.

"They are incredibly time-consuming and make it really difficult to farm sensibly," he says.

"We would like to move two cull sucklers from Mincombe Posts, which I share-farm with the owner, to Sand Farm to help make up a lorry load for the OTMS. And we might need to move ewes or lambs to Sand Farm.

"That would trigger the 21-day standstill rule and might leave us with extra animals to be fed for three weeks. With all the other unpredictables its a nightmare trying to plan ahead on a multi-enterprise farm."

One example concerns sheep at Mincombe Posts. Mr Hailey planned to wean the lambs when the next batch went for slaughter. They were duly booked in and he expected them to go as usual within a week.

"We reckoned the field where the ewes and lambs were grazing had enough grass for that week, after which the lambs could be weaned onto fresh, clean grass/clover, leaving the ewes to dry off where they were.

"But it was three weeks before the lambs were called for, due to a temporary over-supply of organic lambs. By then they had lost condition because their field was bare, so we couldnt send them. If we had known there would be a three-week delay we could have modified our plan." However, 60 lambs will definitely go this week.

Getting 14 cull dairy cows away on the OTMS at last was a huge relief to Mr Hailey because they had been eating grass he could ill afford.

Loading 17 young calves to be sold through the co-op Quality Calves was further good news. "It was a tremendous psychological boost to see them going off to be reared instead of us having to shoot them.

"I couldnt help feeling it vindicated our decision to stick to the more Friesian-type of cow. Ours are mostly by New Zealand bulls, so the bull calves are a more useful type."

Quality Calves pays on a combination of grade and weight, with bonuses for certain nominated sires. Prices ranged from £3 to £16 for Friesian bulls, while two Hereford-cross bulls made £19 for a grade A and £60 for a Q+. Simmental-cross bulls made from £79 for an A grade at the minimum acceptable weight of 48kg, to £145 for a heavier Q+. Those prices included £5/head bonus for nominated sires.

About 60 cows and heifers have calved so far. With only 17 calves sold there are already over 40 more requiring milk, including replacements for the dairy herd and some Simmental-cross heifers being reared to order for a customer who wants them for his suckler herd.

Mr Hailey is scrutinising cashflows more closely than usual because of delayed sales of animals, lower than budgeted milk cheques and extra costs arising from movement rules and biosecurity costs. The latter have had such an impact on the costs of moving animals – not to mention the difficulties of co-ordinating all the parties involved – that Mr Hailey has bought a new trailer and a 4WD truck to pull it.

Only half his milk is making the organic price. The rest is sold on the spot market as conventional milk. While disappointed that the long-awaited conversion to organic milk production will not generate the expected profit, Mr Hailey firmly supports the decision by OMSCo not to undermine the organic price by flooding the market with organic milk.

All these factors have led Mr Hailey to increase his bank overdraft limit until milk sales from his autumn block-calving herd pick up.

Spring barley yields are estimated to be 4.4t/ha (1.75t/acre) at Sand Farm, and over 3.75t/ha (1.5t/acre) at Mincombe Posts. Considering crops were drilled in mid-May in less than ideal conditions, and no fertilisers or pesticides were used, Mr Hailey is very pleased. All the barley from both farms has been crimped, treated and clamped at Sand Farm, tying up yet more cash. Straw yields have also been good.

Other work done includes weaning the autumn-born organic calves at Mincombe Posts, spreading the many heaps of composted manure dotted around the farms and making round-bale silage, from Italian ryegrass/red clover leys. The sheep flock has also been blood-tested by DEFRA as part of its F&M screening programme, but there are no results yet. &#42


&#8226 Sand Farm, Sidbury, Devon, an 89ha (220 acre) organic dairy farm.

&#8226 A further 64ha (158 acres) at nearby Mincombe Posts farmed under an FBT.

&#8226 100 dairy cows plus 60 followers.

&#8226 180 ewes – mainly Mules, some Suffolk crosses. Beef suckler herd being established.

&#8226 Steep, red clay/greensand slopes at Sand Farm, rising up to flinty clay on plateau. Easier soils and flatter fields at Mincombe Posts.

&#8226 Mainly down to grass/clover leys; oats/peas and lucerne/grass mixes grown for silage, plus cereals for feed.

&#8226 Some areas in Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

&#8226 Three full-time staff.

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