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John Henderson and Tony Shepherd: New finished cattle specs cause consternation


Because of lambing Tony and I had not met for a few weeks, so we had a grand catch-up the other day.

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The difference between the weather last year and this was as Siberia is to the Caribbean, and no-one is complaining.


Crops have been good and the only downside is there have never been as many on the automatic feeder. There must also be a concern there will be a good few about when it comes to selling them.


Grass growth is okay but a run of east winds, though good for us in that they normally mean dry weather, always seem to stop growth very quickly.


We’ve also sold a good number of cattle which Tony has finished, which is something of a new venture for us. Having taken some good advice and played around to find a suitable ration, he has been very successful in getting them to a good finished product, as is clear from the record sheets from the abattoir.


Not so good was the decrease in price per kilo. In only a couple of months we went from £3.62 to £3.58 to £3.52. Granted, this was ameliorated a little by higher kill weights but the trend is, nevertheless, rather disturbing. Even more so when store cattle seem to be no less expensive. Add into all this the fact the maths of breeding from suckler cows do not give the opportunity to create a decent turnover off a given acreage and the words “beggar” and “muddle” spring to mind.


Attention to detail of the entire process of buying, rearing and selling has become par for the course with Tony. This will be of even more importance since we received the revised pricing-grid schedule from one abattoir we deal with. Put simply, it increases quite considerably the penalties for not submitting cattle to their required minimum standard but, in fairness, also increases the prices above them. How very different to the days when I was chided by a man from the steel world who was becoming interested in farming. He coined the then law of agricultural marketing: “We’ve produced it so some beggar better buy it”.


Judging by the number of people asking to come and look around I’m pleased to say the interest in the concept of share-farming continues to be strong, particularly from the younger generations. So all we have to do is persuade some of my generation to have a look and see how they might give the young’uns a start.


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