I have never been a huge fan of subsidies and the whole direct payment system that exists around farming. I feel it has turned farmers into beggars and we have become completely reliant on those hand-outs – our businesses cannot survive without them.

In my opinion, this is completely wrong. The market should pay farmers a sustainable price for their produce. Then if the farmer does not get sufficient return, they either stop farming or switch to something that will yield a profit.

Propped up

In effect, the subsidy system has propped up inefficient farmers and landowners, and not fully rewarded productive farms. No matter how you farm you are guaranteed payments. That money does come with some conditions, but there is no requirement to try and run a profitable enterprise.

As a result, I am actually glad to see the new direction that the farm support system is taking, with the new Beef Carbon Reduction Scheme (BCRS) encouraging farmers to slaughter cattle at younger ages.

I actually see a lot of positives in it. For the first time farmers are going to receive financial reward for making their farm more financially sustainable.

I hear many farmers complaining about this new scheme, but I do not understand why. Some seem to think that the only way that you can get cattle fit for slaughter under 30 months is by feeding copious amounts of meal.

I sent 15 cattle to the factory last week and they ranged from 19 months to 21 months of age. They had only eaten small amounts of meal. They got some as calves, then none at grass and then a little in the house. I upped the meal over the last 60 days, but not massively.

Every year I kill all my bull calves at under 16 months and then all my heifers and all the dairy-bred calves at under 24 months.

The very odd one will go over 24 months, but the reality is these are the ones that make no money.

What I am doing is not rocket science. I try and graze the best-quality grass I can and try to make good-quality silage. This is then matched with the best genetics (in both the cow and the bull) that I possibly can find.

All in all, everything that I am doing must bring a financial reward for my farm. There is no doubt in my mind that any other farmer can do the same, and probably do it even better.

The problem is that a lot of farmers have not had the proper encouragement to try and improve their farming practices.

Hopefully, that is now changing.

Native breeds

Then there are farmers who say that there is no way that traditional breeds can reach slaughter at under 30 months.

I do not see this as a viable argument. Traditional breeds kept on lowland farms should have no issue in reaching slaughter at this target age.

The only place where farmers may have difficulty is on hill farms.

In this instance, they may lose out on the BCRS, but they will probably more than make up for it in the new Farming with Nature Scheme. I would also argue that they have a premium product and, with proper marketing, they should obtain a premium price.

In a subsidy system, if you make changes there will always be winners and losers. Going forward, we all need to think less about direct payments and more about how we can make our farms more profitable and less reliant on government support.