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Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Farmer's diary: A bleak outlook

In his final report for BBC News Online, Warwickshire livestock farmer Adam Quinney resolves to overcome the setbacks caused by the foot-and-mouth epidemic.

As our farm starts the long road back to normality, confidence the future of livestock farming is at all time low.

Twenty cases of FMD are still striking the UK each week. The prospects for the sheep industry this autumn are dire with the weekly collapse in the lamb price, now down to 1.45 (25 per lamb) from the normal price of 2 per carcass kg.


As we look back over the last few desperate months we are still determined to carry on

The movement of four million breeding sheep out of Wales and the north to the lowlands of England this autumn are not going to be allowed by DEFRA, so the consequences for the hill men with few winter facilities and fodder will be terrible.

As we look back over the last few desperate months we are still determined to carry on.

Uphill struggle

But if it had not been for the poor returns in farming over the last few years the task of rebuilding our suckler herd and sheep flock would not be the work that it is now.

There is no chance of buying replacement cows this year because our winter fodder supplies are very low.

The road to recovery is a long one: we will rear young female animals that will go to the bull in 2002 to calve down in 2003, in turn their offspring will not be ready to sell until 2005.

The bank has been very supportive and wants to see our farming business increase in size. But as the margin per animal falls, we have to increase the number of animals that we look after.


We wonder whether we have the resources to survive another blow if we have another case of FMD in our area in the next year

It seems a very long time ago when I was at college in the 1980s. I remember doing costings for cattle at 1.20 per kg, yet now the price that we receive for our cattle is 0.85 per kg, so we have to expand to increase the efficiency of the farm.

We wonder whether we have the resources to survive another blow if we have another case of FMD in our area in the next year.

More obstacles

We are still in an infected area which can make movements of animals difficult at times. One cannot move animals from a high risk area to a lower disease risk area. With the infected area boundary running down the centre of our farm, this has caused a few problems!

At the moment we are trying to buy young calves from dairy farms, but as yet we have not had any luck in obtaining a movement license from DEFRA.


Having our stock trapped on a sea of mud is an experience I never want to go through again

The total cost of moving each calf is around 50. This includes the time the vet is paid for the on farm inspection, the time taken going around farms to look at calves and the cleansing and disinfecting of the lorry at official washing centres. As the lorry can only go to one farm at a time, moving five calves per trip is an expensive business.

The loss of breeding ewes this spring reduced our flock to around 400.

If FMD is still running at high levels by the autumn and reducing the prospect of exporting to France (where lamb prices are 3.10 per kg at the moment) the sheep numbers will again be reduced.

We are also going to stop renting fields or buildings away from our main farm after our experiences this spring.

Sweat and luck

Having our stock trapped on a sea of mud is an experience I never want to go through again.

With a little more sweat, a little luck and the help of the bank we will be able to rebuild our stock farm over the next couple of years.

I am still convinced that there is a future for farming in the UK - but after FMD it is going to be a very different one.


Previous diaries from Adam Quinney:

  • 22 June: A question of economics

  • 15 June: What now?

  • 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

  • Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


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