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Costs spiral as long winter looms
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Costs spiral as long winter looms

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A wet summer has continued into an early winter with livestock farmers fearing spiralling costs will erode income.
A wet summer has continued into an early winter with livestock farmers fearing spiralling costs will erode income.

Livestock farmers are facing into a long and expensive winter.

Straw shortages are resulting in prices crossing £100/t, while many farmers are fearful they will not have enough silage to last the housed.

The summer has been exceptionally wet, with farmers calling it the worst since 1985, while the Met office is describing it as statistically the fifth worst summer on record.

Cows are being housed six to eight weeks ahead of normal with no sign of those seeing grass again this year.

This all results in added costs farmers. For every day that a suckler cow is housed, a farmer is facing costs of £1.50/cow/day.

Beef prices are under pressure too, with cows slipping by 8p/kg, as more calves are weaned and cows taken off farms to ease the pressure on the land.

The difficult summer and early winter has led to genuine fears of a straw shortage, with demand outstripping supply. Arable farmers are reporting yields of just four bales per acre, and thousands of acres yet to be baled.

Some farmers have turned to woods fines, but these prices have also increased fourfold in the past three years.

Beef and sheep farmer Andrew Marchant in Dumfries and Galloway said straw is being brought in from north Yorkshire, where prices are hitting £120/t.

“There’s a real scarcity of straw and cattle are in a month early,” he said.

The situation is similar for Montrose for arable and beef farmer Alex Sanger, who echoed Marchant’s claims on straw.

“The straw is just not there. Farmers have turned on the choppers as they don’t think they’ll get the straw this year,” said the Montrose farmer.

Sanger usually buys in 100 store cattle each winter but is considering not doing so this year, given potential straw and silage shortages.

Beef farmer in Ayrshire John Andrew said the situation is dire: “This year is as bad on 1985; it’s definitely on par with it. Silage is tight and store cattle prices are definitely below last year too.”

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