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Disease unlucky for horseshoes.

A specialist steel producer in the Black Country is struggling to keep its workforce intact after being hit by the foot and mouth crisis.

Legg Brothers of Wolverhampton is the UK's only manufacturer of the specialist fullered concave steel used to make horseshoes.

In the first month of the crisis, which is estimated to be costing the UK equestrian industry pounds 100 million a month, Legg Brothers was forced to cut output from its mill to 10 tonnes, less than five per cent of its usual level.

Output has since recovered to about 100 tonnes a month, but that is still well below the 200-300 tonnes the family-owned company would normally be producing and short time working has been introduced.

The 20-year-old company, which employs 40 people and has an annual turnover of about pounds 4 million, also makes specialist steels used in earthmover and fork lift truck wheels and lawnmower blades.

But horseshoe steel accounts for half the business and managing director Mike Legg said he was fighting to save the jobs of his employees.

'To be certain of survival we should probably have decided to lay off an entire shift,' he said. 'But these are very skilled men. We're hopeful business will pick up eventually.

'If we were to try and replace a whole shift further down the line we'd be facing a two-year training period.'

One of Legg's biggest customers, horseshoe manufacturer A H Pledger & Co Metals in Lincolnshire, has seen its sales plunge by more than four fifths from 20,000 pairs a week to about 2,500.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2001
Words:262
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