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Orders of the Day — Agriculture (Calf Subsidies)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 1968.

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Photo of Mr Alasdair Mackenzie Mr Alasdair Mackenzie , Ross and Cromarty 12:00 am, 13th March 1968

I, too, welcome the scheme. Cattle rearing is essentially a long-term matter. That is why most of us are disappointed that the increase of 15,000 tons is so far behind the National Plan expectations. It is evident that we must have certain incentives, and that is what the scheme provides. We are pleased to know that it is to be continued for another three years. I am sure that, at this stage, if we did not have a calf scheme as an incentive the numbers would drop very much anyway, especially on hill and upland farms.

In the subsidy rates there is a differential. The heifer calf subsidy is £9 and the steer calf subsidy is £11 5s. I cannot understand why there should be this differential, because it costs as much to winter a cow which rears a heifer calf as it does to winter a cow which rears a steer calf, and in the market we usually get more money for the steer calf because it carries more weight. I want to impress on the Minister the desirability and necessity of bringing the heifer calf figures up to the steer calf figure. This would be a further incentive. I am continually being asked why there is this differential. I attended sales last October and saw 7,000 calves passing through the rings. I could not explain to those who inquired the reason for the differential, but I promised to put it to the Minister at the earliest opportunity. That I now do.

Increasing the numbers depends on the incentives, and we appreciate what is being done, but I hope that the Minister will realise the long term nature of cattle rearing and the continued need for incentives to increase production. The hon. Members for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) and Harborough (Mr. Farr) have made relevant points and I shall not go over the ground again.