Peter Delbridge

17 August 2001

Peter Delbridge

Peter Delbridge farms 162ha

(400 acres) in the Exmoor

National Park, near South

Molton, Devon. The farm is

mostly permanent grass,

classed as less favoured and

environmentally sensitive,

and all above 300m

(1000ft). It is stocked with

800 ewes, replacement ewe

lambs, 60 spring calving

sucklers and their followers

THE unsettled first three weeks of July only presented a few two or three-day spells to attempt silage. With everyone keen to go, it was difficult to nail down contractors, so when a high pressure settled over us in Julys last week, both the round bale and clamp silage teams arrived on the same day. I was reluctant to postpone them.

Deciding also to cut 8ha (20 acres) of hay, we cleared the 24ha (60 acres) of clamp silage and the 8ha (20 acres) of round bales in a single day.

At one stage, 16 tractors were working at once. I have not yet worked out the cost/hour of that afternoons activity, but I guess it will take quite a few lambs.

Despite late harvest, grass yield has not been excessive. This is due in part to the later date when grass was closed up and, with foot-and-mouth rampant at the time, being less enthusiastic to apply normal levels of fertiliser. The remainder of the 8:17:25 will now be used as an after cut application to give increased autumn grazing.

It seems we are going to be rewarded for following the biosecurity video – distributed five months late – and living like hermits since February by being forced to sell stock this autumn at discounted rates.

Some within the meat industry forecast lamb prices at above £2/kg deadweight had F&M not reared its head, and the French lamb trade about £3.50/kg dw. So it is depressing to hear some of the prices quoted when I made tentative inquires to local abattoirs.

With insufficient fit lambs to justify a veterinary inspection, I have dipped all the sheep in OP dip that has a 35-day withdrawal. Giving lambs away has now been delayed until late August.

In a similar vein to policemen getting younger; sheep dips look and smell weaker than they used to. The all-seasons dip I used this year had no aroma and the appearance of dishwater. So much so I checked the dilution rate at least three times before I was convinced it was correct. I just hope it will give the sheep the necessary protection. &#42

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