End of OTMS?

WHEN FRANK the Wool began speculating about the accurate timing of the over 30-month scheme, he sparked much reaction to how some contributors would have preferred the scheme”s end to be carried out.

“So the gossip is that OTMS will finish in July 2005. We will once again become 80% self-sufficient in beef, just in time for increased supplies to be coming off grass. Anyone prepared to gamble on the likely price of cattle when this occurs?”

He also suggests it would be more sensible to have a phased withdrawal from the scheme to prevent chaos. “My suggestion would be to increase the age of cattle entering the food chain by six months and do this over six-monthly periods. That way there would be no flood of cow beef on to the market.”

But user Ringo says this would unnecessarily complicate matters further. “Why not just say okay to anything born post-Jan 2000, then numbers will rise slowly anyway?”

But Wooly does not share this optimistic belief. “The chance it will end next year is remote. Remember, the fallen stock scheme that was due to be up and running by the deadstock burial ban of Feb 2003. It was just a little late.”

Cross-compliance

CROSS-COMPLIANCE is one of the many areas of CAP reform which are at the forefront of producers” minds. From reading the farming press, producers realise the cross-compliance requirement not to poach land has implications, wrote Slowbutsure.

“Ultimately, this means the end of outwintered cattle on all but the driest land. On many farms where it is necessary to use a tractor to get bulky feeds to sheep, it means an end to outwintering sheep as well.”

Fellow contributor Swede-head answered that an end to seeing animals up to their hocks in deep mud could only be a good thing. “Is it not beyond anyone to roll out a few bales of straw to form a raised feed patch? I have often seen ewes laid on the straw mat round the feeders on a filthy wet day on stubble turnips.”

But, as Slowbutsure points out, it is the tracks caused by vehicles bringing in straw that will cause producers to fall foul of the rules.

Farm assured

Having recently bought some cattle, of which half are Scottish farm assured, Douglas Sharp questioned the worth of becoming farm assured.

“I am slightly against it, as cattle are kept in five star accommodation and are looked after like royalty. If I join, will I get someone who has done a course on animal husbandry telling me what to do when the family tree shows we have been farmers since the beginning of time?”

Sarah Baddeley, who is farm assured, replied that there are some rules and regulations, most of which are about record keeping. “All inspectors who have come round have a sense of humour. For the first inspection we, unfortunately, had a dead ewe in the barn – typical of sheep – but they still passed us.”

Fresh sugar beet

MANY USERS often question if it is worth changing feeding practices, which is exactly what Timothy Teague did when he asked about feeding fresh sugar beet.

Straightalker feeds fodder beet whole to his dairy cows in ring feeders on top of silage. “Providing cows are reaching down to feed, there is no need for chopping.”

Michael Exley has also fed sugar beet to suckler cows for some years in troughs alongside a meal. “But they do eat sugar beet first, so keep them restricted.” He also advises covering the clamp during a frost, as sugar turns to alcohol after freezing.

How many rams?

HAVING JUST taken out his teaser rams, James Frost asked: How many ewes can be put to the ram?

According to Swede-head the answer appears to be 1:40. But Chalkbank reckons you can get away with one ram for every 50 ewes when using good quality rams. “You could also add another not so good ram after the first oestrus cycle to clear up any lagging ewes, or mix them with another group after 17 days.”

Frank the Wool reckons you can even stretch that to one ram for every 60 ewes, but for smaller breeds he reckons one for every 40 ewes is advisable. However, some American producers have different ideas. “I once saw an experiment in the States using one Suffolk ram in a small paddock which covered 400 ewes in 34 days. He did look a bit knackered, though.”

Bloated bulls

BARLEY BULLS and bloat can go hand in hand, often resulting in disastrous consequences, but user Deejay Woody, who was experiencing the problem, said his never went much further than looking very full.

“Performance is reduced and they do not thrive in the bunch. The vet has put holes in a couple, but once they have closed, the same thing happens again.”

One tip offered by Diana Ferris was to take the cud out of the mouth of a healthy calf and give it to the bloated one. Doing the same for a young bull may not be such an easy operation though, she warned.

Bobcat suggested the use of sodium bicarbonate in the feed at a rate of about 10kg/t. “It can help with gas build up and costs about 6/25kg.”

One forum contributor had great success by adding a product from the juice of an Aloe-Vera plant.