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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Farmer's diary: A question of economics

Foot-and-mouth disease may have slipped from the headlines but for Warwickshire livestock farmer Adam Quinney its far-reaching effects are still shaping daily life.

It has been probably the best plant growing week that we have had all year, warm heavy rain followed by sunny days. As I stand in the maize fields I am convinced that it is possible actually to watch the plants grow.

The maize has a fantastic growth rate, by the end of the summer it should reach the height of 8ft. This year because of the terrible damage that some grass fields received from extra stock levels, we have ploughed up the grass and planted extra maize. All being well this should replace the lost grass fodder crops.

Over the last week we have been applying for licence to move animals now that our form D has been lifted. At times this has been somewhat frustrating, I found myself having to explain the rules to staff from DEFRA (formerly MAFF) who then admitted that they had made a mistake and would issue the licence.

Hidden costs of moving stock

In the next few days we should be able to move the dairy cows back to their home five miles away.

At this distance we will have to have an escorted lorry that has been disinfected at a registered cleansing and disinfection centre. We are not allowed to use our own transport for long distance farm to farm movement.

This rule is going to be a real headache as in the next few weeks we want to start to buy in young calves from dairy farms in the district.

Each time we want to move any stock we have to pay a vet to come and make a full on site inspection - so a single licence costs us 100 in vet's fees.

The average number of calves to collect from each farm is about five in number - so the fees add about 20 to the cost of each calf. But every journey to a separate farm to collect more calves also adds costs as the lorry has to be disinfected before entering each property - anything up to 50 a time depending on the size of the lorry.

All in all, this leads to additional costs of around 50 per calf. As the net income from our beef unit is only around 60 per head we have to ask ourselves whether we even want to buy these calves.

Dairy farmers' dilemma

At the end of the day it is a simple question of economics. Lots of dairy farmers are thinking they are going to have to start shooting their calves again. If it costs more to buy them in than you are going to make, then it's better to leave your money in the bank.

As I search the DEFRA web site each night to see how the FMD crisis is going, I cannot help but be aware of all the farms that are still under D notices making life their very difficult. There is no doubt that the people who are next door to an outbreak have been placed in an intolerable position.

Last night I had the privilege to meet some of the people behind the Ardington fund. This is a charity that has been set up to help farmers meet the extra costs of feed etc. To date they have had 7m of donations, approx 5m has already been paid out to farmers.

The average time from an application to payment is less than a week. All the operating costs have been provided by organisations or individuals donating time. It is a great shame that some government departments have not been as well organised.

Previous diaries from Adam Quinney:

  • 9 May: Returning to normal

  • 8 May: Death in the afternoon

  • 25 April: Drowning in bureaucracy

  • 19 April: A close shave

  • 12 April: Rain, lambs and skylarks

  • 4 April: Tough decisions

  • 29 March: An Anxious wait

  • 22 March: Staring ruin in the face

  • 12 March: A farmer's fears

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