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Focus on ‘winter survival’ as farmers cull livestock to manage forage supplies

Brexit has taken a back seat while farmers focus their efforts on getting through winter.

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Focus on ‘winter survival’ as farmers cull livestock to manage forage supplies

As the industry prepared for the colder months and the fodder crisis was magnified, NFU Council heard how farmers were facing a bleak winter, with 25 per cent culling livestock in order to manage forage supplies.

 

Extreme weather events were now the norm and the industry needed help to manage this volatility, the meeting at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, heard.

 

NFU Council delegate for North Riding and Durham Richard Betton said: “We are in a different climate now and the volatility on climate, let alone trade, is going to affect business in the future.

 

“For a lot of our grass-roots members, particularly livestock farmers, Brexit is not their priority. It is actually surviving this winter.”

 

Analysing the impact of months of unprecedented weather on 650 farms over a two-week period in August, the NFU also found only 5 per cent of farmers had managed a third and fourth cut of silage, while total forage supplies across farms were, on average, about a third down on what was expected.


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NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said: “I was speaking to a farmer last week and he is going into this winter with 100 cows less than he had last winter.

 

Manage

“He is culling 12 cows a week at the moment to get his herd down to a point where actually he can manage his stocks going forward.”

 

His comments were echoed by NFU livestock chairman Richard Findlay who warned the forage shortages could be made worse by the Irish fodder scheme, which helped farmers in the form of subsidies.

 

NFU combinable crops chairman Tom Bradshaw praised the example set by growers baling instead of chopping straw this year, but called for a ‘longer-term’ relationship, which relied on communication between the arable and livestock sectors.

It came as the Scottish Government census showed virtually all agricultural sectors had taken a hit due to the weather in the last year, with cattle numbers at a 60-year low.

 

Farming charities have seen a spike in calls to their helplines and expect this number to grow as the winter sets in.

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