Opinion : 19/11/04 - Farmers Weekly

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Opinion : 19/11/04

One-and-a-half cheers for the National Fallen Stock Company. The good news is that after a delay of nearly 20 months, from Monday, Britain will have a countrywide collection service.

FW has always disputed the wisdom of banning on-farm burial. At least the scheme’s belated launch will end the uncertainties that have plagued farmers since the ban was announced more than two years ago.

Less impressive are the niggling doubts that many producers harbour. Chief among them are the threat to biosecurity, questions about its reliability and cost together with its detailed provisions.

Organisers will have to work hard to win the confidence of farmers. The scheme must be perceived as a national deadstock collection service – not a disease spreading service.

What tests or trials have been conducted? We know it will cost £28/yr to join, but what will be the total cost to your business? No one can answer those questions until the collections begin.

Producers will not be allowed to criticise the scheme once they join. Carcasses can be moved around the farm only using approved means of transport. Dead hill and moorland stock must be retrieved for approved disposal whether discovered days or weeks after they fell.

Britain’s beleaguered farming community could also be forgiven for fearing that the scheme will spawn yet another authoritarian eye to over see their business. Will farmers with large numbers of deadstock be reported to DEFRA or the RSPCA?

If hunting is banned and many hunt kennels close, will the scheme be able to cope? It remains to be seen whether these issues are teething problems or fundamental flaws. For the sake of Britain”s livestock farmers we hope it is the former, not the latter.

Opinion : 19/11/04

Get behind milk price message

Dairy farmers cannot afford more price cuts. Not one.

Stating the obvious perhaps, but it seems to be passing some of the major retailers by.

Already, 60% of milk producers are failing to cover their costs and rising energy and labour costs can only add to that figure. But retailer power is pushing prices the wrong way – despite commodity prices remaining firm and milk supplies falling.

So, a new initiative, spearheaded by the NFU, to ensure retailers recognise farmers” extra costs is welcome. The message must be communicated powerfully and it must be backed wholeheartedly by the industry.

Fight the ring rot invasion

Ring rot devastates potato production, so efforts to create a safe haven system to protect seed quality deserve everyone’s support.

News that one strain can develop unnoticed in potato stocks for up to three generations and that sugar beet may act as an alternate host, perpetuating the pathogen in soils, adds urgency to the need to implement effective protection.

So why do Canadian imports face checks on 2000 tubers per lot; far more rigorous inspection than applies to EU imports?

The highest standards should apply to the safe haven system if it is to safeguard the UK’s plant health status. That was the target of FW’s Keep British Crops Healthy campaign earlier this year. Clearly there’s more work to do.

Where there’s muck …

Slurry and manure are troublesome waste products. Or are they?

Not if you adopt a system that allows slurry to be applied accurately at times when the growing crop most requires it. That maximises uptake and ensures uniform growth.

Harper Adams believes that the college farm”s new system could save £6000/year in fertiliser costs. Our Machinery Section explains how.

EU’s bumpy playing field

News that Northern Ireland farmers will lose 3% of their single farm payments in modulation next year, rising to 8.5% in 2006, has been greeted with dismay.

The deduction is an unjustified tax on their compensation for price cuts, they claim. Perhaps, they should count themselves lucky. English farmers will see their SFPs cut by 5% next year and by 10% in 2006, as DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett seeks to scoop even more for rural development.

It’s another example of the distortions to competition arising from DEFRA’s regionalised CAP policy.

Sheep that look after themselves

Fewer shepherds will manage more ewes after CAP reform. But in order to manage change, easy-care systems look like becoming more popular.

Ewes must become more self-reliant with little or no assistance needed at lambing and the minimum of hands-on stockmanship during the rest of the year.

There’s no right or wrong breed for such systems, it’s simply a matter of finding the right animals to suit your unit.

Calm cows can mean more milk

Fancy increasing cow yields by 1000 litres within a year, with little investment other than time?

Better transition cow management means cows adjust to the milking routine better, are less stressed and lose less condition in early lactation. The result is more milk and a more compact calving cycle.

Spending just an extra 30min/day attending to transition cows has helped one Essex producer lift yields while saving time elsewhere.

Tourism can save farm businesses

It can make the difference between success and failure for many farms.

Offering B&B and self-catering accommodation can make big money – thanks partly to the work of Farm Stay. The national marketing co-op, with more than 1000 members, is celebrating its 21st anniversary.

Established as the Farm Holiday Bureau, with help from FW, the organisation continues to offer vital marketing assistance and helps raise standards in this demanding sector.

Three Farm Stay members are featured in our Farmlife Section where you can discover how to win a super break in one of their desirable properties.

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