5 April 2002

VIMER

About-face on 2001…

THIS spring is in complete contrast to last year when we experienced the latest turnout to grass in our 18 years at Vimer, writes Tim Green. This year, because field conditions were so good, our cows went out on Mar 11.

Unfortunately, heavy rain five days later forced us to bring them back inside, but they were out grazing again by Mar 23.

Our Italian rye-grass is looking well following a light dressing of nitrogen and it should soon help us to begin making savings on purchased feed. Despite only a modest growing season last year, we have sufficient silage stocks to see us through until we can rely on grazed grass alone.

Meanwhile, the wheat and triticale have received their first nitrogen application of 70kg/ha (56 units/acre) and are looking well. Having just driven to Paris, crops look extremely good compared with last year when most farms had their fair share of bare patches and re-sown fields. We intend to get on top of the cereal weeds soon using a tank mix of metsulfuron-methyl and ioxynil, bromoxynil, mecoprop-D.

We will spray our remaining stubbles with glyphosate at three litres/ha before ploughing. One field, which is destined for the local ploughing match, still has eight, two-year old beef cattle grazing on the cereal/ryegrass regrowth which has kept them happy all winter with just a couple of kilos of concentrate.

We are currently emptying the midden which is always an ordeal because its contents are far from consistent. We had to spend some time pumping out the liquid before moving in with the tractor loader and bucket to remove the solids.

Until we reached the more solid material, we had to half-fill the trailers to prevent the sloppier muck spilling on the road, which was inconvenient and added to the cost of disposal.

Plans to renew our cow accommodation in order to overcome our slurry storage problems, have been put on hold again because of new regulations and grants which will not be finalised until later this year.

Our case has not been helped by the fact that we are close to a water source and we have reached the borderline on cow numbers. Hopefully, we will manage to build on another site which will take the pressure off our packed cowshed and improve our muck-handling system.

Mole advice

Whenever I mention wildlife in my Vimer report, it brings the biggest response from readers. After mentioning our problems with moles (On our Farms, Mar 1) we received several letters and calls offering advice on the problem. One regular reader, John Young from Dalton, in Northumberland, arranged for his friend Paul to come and see me while he was in France. It was a worthwhile visit and were grateful that his knowledge of pest control has helped us to sort out our mole problem. Although strychnine is still authorised under licence in the UK, it is illegal in France so we have to use the not so efficient, but less dangerous, alphchloralose.

We have experienced an escalation in the mole population over the past two to three years and it may be linked to a corresponding increase in the worm population. The number and size of Vimers worms was a big shock to our new Geordie friend. It was also noticeable that although there were plenty of moles about, they were not very active and I wonder if this is due to the abundance of food which means they do not need to dig much.

Compared with strychnine, alphchloralose is less than 100% effective and consequently it requires a follow-up treatment three or four days later. Doubtless, with the number of moles about in this area we will soon be re-populated from our neighbours but at least weve made a seriously good start at control. On a lighter note, the look on our local mayors face when he spotted two corpulent Englishmen fervently poking holes in the path to the parish hall was a picture – all part of our community service.

Very often as soon as you find the answer to a lingering problem, another solution turns up on your doorstep. A mole catcher has just arrived in the area who uses traps and charges £1.89 for each mole caught.

One local farmer has just parted with more than £600, before VAT at 20.6%, to rid his grassland of unwelcome visitors.

Our milk quota year has just ended; we still do not know exactly how much we will be allowed to overshoot but there will be some margin. Producers who are over quota are trying all the options to reduce their penalty payments from feeding it into calves to smuggling to other farms. Milk producers who are over quota are paid for the milk, but fined more than it is worth.

Provided quality payments are good the penalty is not enormous and the dairy does not demand payment of the fine immediately, which also helps to reduce the impact. &#42