Farmer Focus : Peter Walters - Farmers Weekly

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Farmer Focus : Peter Walters

AT THE end of February I predicted the Single Farm Payment scheme would take longer to put into place than we were being told. What an understatement that was.

With the help of uncle John, who has always helped me with IACS forms, we attempted the SP5 form; fine until I pointed out a few areas under countryside stewardship. Now, this is his job, and he has been to many meetings to help him understand the forms, but we decided to check with the helpline on this query, as it is so important.

After trying for an hour, hey presto, the, I assumed, fully trained SP5 adviser answered. Without going into too much detail, he gave us conflicting information, so we asked him to double check. Another 10 minutes later the reply was: “Yes, I can confirm this is what you have to do. What you were told earlier was wrong.” We then filled in the forms as advised.

Two days later I received a call from John that another client had the same query and again checked with the so-called helpline. This time the advice was completely different to the other two calls.

How the hell are we supposed to return forms with the right information by May 16? There has to be some assurance that we won”t be penalised for wrong information given by the RPA helpline. And, as for the inaccurate maps: No I will stop here and go and beat the hell out of a bale of straw.

It has sadly come to the end of my time as a Farmer Focus contributor, which I have enjoyed. In fact, it has proved therapeutic at times, as I can let off steam. It has been great to receive all the support I have had for my views – sometimes outspoken – I know, but someone has to say it.

You won”t be able to read about my arguments with DEFRA, but trust me there will be more. Don”t let them push you around, fight for your rights.

Farmer Focus : Peter Walters

OUR PEDIGREE Devons are calving well, with 13 calving in nearly as many days with 10 heifer calves.

I also went to the recent spring sale at Taunton and purchased six maiden heifers, which will take the Devon herd to 28 going to the bull this year.

I have also purchased 15 organic store cattle this month. These, along with the six Devons, are in a dedicated area isolated from the other cattle to comply with TB restrictions.

Unfortunately, the organic sector isn’t immune from being dictated by the supermarkets. Recently in a national paper there was an article about poultry and how conventionally reared egg layers are used in organic systems after a few weeks of organic conversion. Sadly this is true and also applies to table birds.

The standards state you have to source organic chicks or pullets, which we have done and we make sure our customers know this fact and, as they are available, so should the supermarkets.

Our monitored bird box scheme has had an early start this year. At the end of February we had sparrow boxes with eggs in, and on Mar 5 in the larger boxes a Tawny owl and stock dove were sitting on eggs. On the same day, a Mandarin duck were recorded on the river, taking our species count to 97.

As I write, we are in the middle of TB testing, including the 13 inconclusive results from the last test. These should have been tested 60 days after the last test, it is now 180 days since that test.

The test couldn’t be done any sooner because the vets are too busy testing other herds. This makes a mockery of DEFRA’s new rule of placing movement restrictions on any herd with an overdue test. If DEFRA wants to impose the restrictions, it must ensure there are enough vets available to do the tests.

Farmer Focus: Peter Walters

EACH MONTH another DEFRA booklet about the Single Payment Scheme and the Entry Level and Higher Level Schemes is delivered. I wonder how many of us have had the time to sit and read them, let alone understand them.

Obviously this is what Mrs Beckett has been doing all these months – sitting in her caravan putting these booklets together. I thought she had been on a never-ending sabbatical, perhaps that was just wishful thinking. I hope she disposes of her toilet waste in the appropriate way, as I”m sure this must come under the waste management cross-compliance.

I feel more fortunate than most, as the farm has been in the whole farm Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Woodland Grant Scheme since 1999 and Organic Farming Scheme since 2001, so I can relate to most of the cross-compliance, but we will see when the claim form arrives.

 I predict the Single Payment Scheme will take longer to put into place than we are being told. In August I returned the SP2 form requesting to amend the reference years and after numerous phone calls have just received acknowledgement. Now guess what? They need more information, which I have to supply within 21 days. It doesn”t matter that it”s taken them six months to reply.

The January/February lambing is going reasonably well, with the first homebred ewes since restocking lambing for the first time in this group. These are Suffolk x Dorset and I”m impressed with their mothering instinct and lamb numbers.

 Rams have gone in with the November/December lambers, but I will restrict their activity to 21 days. In the past, as ewes lamb four times a year, I have allowed rams to stay out for too long. But, as I”m on my own now and haven”t yet decided what to do, I will be more strict on lambing blocks. This policy will also be applied to cows and their calving periods.

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