Advice for suckler calf producers

DEFRA is sponsoring a series of meetings to advise suckler calf producers on how they can enhance financial viability while ensuring welfare standards are met

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Stephen Edge, from ADAS, said that severing the link between subsidy payments and production was having a major effect on how farmers perceive and manage their business.

Suckler calf producers feel particularly unsettled by the new system as support payments accounted for a major part of their income.

Suckler cow keepers must now examine the cost and value of what is produced, while ensuring welfare is protected.

Feed can account for up to 70 per cent of suckler herd variable costs and feeding balanced rations based on low cost ingredients can make savings. The management of cow body condition according to phase of production can also lead to savings in feed costs.

However, Mr Edge warned that easy care systems, aimed at cutting overhead costs especially labour and machinery, could improve profits. He said, however, that these systems may compromise welfare and cross compliance if standards are not managed well.

The value of the output hinges on the value of the suckled calf crop and on the cost of replacing the breeding stock, he said. It has been estimated that, for every day the calving interval extends beyond 365 days, the producer lose £1 per cow.

The DEFRA meetings will emphasise that prevention and control of the diseases that affect herd fertility, health and welfare and production, are an important feature of good management. ADAS livestock consultants and specialist cattle vets will deliver the talks.

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