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Tony Shepherd and John Henderson: Getting set for lambing and some EU food for thought

Insights

The outlook was not good last month as, about 10 days before we were due to start lambing, we could see snow on the hills up Malhamdale from our land.

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Luckily it did not last and was replaced by more rain.

 

Nationwide Marquees, who gave us a very good service last year and saved a lot of lambs, turned up in the yard a couple of weeks ago and I thought for a minute John had ordered the tent and forgot to let me know. Turned out the marquee was for a farmer up at Airton. I did make a point of asking if they had plenty of stock, just in case.

 

The run-up to lambing has been surprisingly trouble-free apart from struggling to find dry ground on which to feed sheep. Cold east winds are slowing grass growth and the sheep are still taking haylage from racks.

 

Last year, I bought a pallet of feed blocks to use either side of lambing and was surprised as the sheep hardly touched them. Believing they would be handy this year, I thought nothing of it but as they are not eating them I have phoned the feed rep and am waiting for a reply.

 

Our fat cattle are averaging around 350kg deadweight and mainly grading R4L with about 20 per cent making U grades, so the barley has done the job. Where to go to replace these cattle is going to be a hard task, with store prices looking a long way wrong compared to the fat. While enjoying growing and feeding cattle, the only thing worse than an empty shed is one full of cattle which will not leave a profit or, even worse, will lose money.

 

Our local paper has a page devoted to farm and country with reports from local auctions and insights into Dales life. A recent article on EU subsidies highlighted how uneven the playing-field can be. While here in England the Government wants to devote 15 per cent of single farm payment to environmental projects, this compares to only 3 per cent in France. Furthermore, French farmers have wrongly been paid €160 million (£132m) by their government which, as yet, is still to be repaid. Apparently this is 47.6 per cent of the total owing in the EU.

 

C’est la vie I suppose…

 

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