As mentioned in our last article all the store cattle have now been weighed and some must have been wearing ‘lead boots’ because they weighed far heavier than they looked; the stockier cattle which have a bit of shape can be deceiving.
Our buying trip north was without success, the only purchase being a hot breakfast and a tank full of fuel. Still, unless you make the journey you never know what the outcome might be.
The sheep have all had a copper bolus and a drench for fluke with shearling ewes also receiving a clostridial injection to get them into the system; with bought-in sheep you never quite know their health history so they are double vaccinated to make sure they are covered.
They are in good order with the open winter and I am assuming most other shepherds are finding the same result which is encouraging in the run-up to lambing time. Hopefully this will not lead to too many problems associated with fit ewes as a good crop of lambs is anticipated, but the recent run of wet weather will take some flesh off the sheep.
We had our farm assurance inspection last month which focuses attention as to what paperwork is required to comply and, after a very thorough two hour inspection, we managed to tick all the boxes – all be it with a few recommendations.
Tony Shepherd farms 112ha (227 acres) as a share farmer with landowner John Henderson at St Helens Farm, Eshton, near Skipton. The all grass LFA unit, rising to 240 metres (800ft) lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They run 150-200 store cattle and 450 Mule ewes, lambing at the end of March.
One thing we learned was, from November 26, a spray test will have to be taken – even for spot spraying with a knapsack – or farmers could face prosecution from the Environment Agency. And, of course, you will need proof you have done the test to buy the actual spray.
Also this month, we received the results from the Askham Bryan College farm business survey in which St Helens Farm is appraised alongside other similar farms in the disadvantaged grazing group.
Talking with Joe, who compiles the reports, points of interest were the new businesses generally had lower fixed costs and these were a good indication of farm performance. Return on tenants’ capital varied from +9.9 per cent down to -55 per cent and, with the sheep gross margin comparison, the farms with the better results had the same variable costs as the group average but benefited from higher sale prices.
After mentioning Craven Cattle Marts last month I was looking on its website and found a good video of the New Year store cattle sale. It set me wondering how long before we can bid from the farm office, in the same way as happens with auctions of furniture and art?