9 March 2001

Arable area on F&Malert for troubles ahead

By FWarable staff

ARABLE farmers are taking foot-and-mouth precautions as seriously as livestock colleagues, but so far restrictions have had little impact on cropping operations.

However, if the crisis persists, grain movements and input deliveries could pose problems. Mixed farmers are already facing a conflict of interests – protect livestock or get vital arable operations done.

Just outside the first quarantine area in Northumberland, Farmer Focus writer Peter Hogg has isolated his farm from all deliveries. When inputs are required they will be unloaded at the end of the drive. "We will probably spray each can with disinfectant before taking it on to the farm," he says.

"Hopefully, collection of 200t of grain due for movement can be delayed. If not we will disinfect the wagons and keep the driver in the cab."

With 600 ewes and 300 beef stock on farm, Mr Hoggs concern is no surprise. But all-arable growers such as Mark Ireland in Lincs are also toeing the line. "We are taking it as seriously as anybody." His local discussion group meetings have been cancelled and suppliers are phoning before making deliveries.

Fertiliser fury

But the message to stay off farm unless invited does not seem to have got through to all. Arable Farmer Focus writer Stewart Hayllor was furious when a fertiliser lorry drove onto his dairy unit earlier this week.

"He was told twice on the phone not to go to that farm, but despite our calls, the disinfectant barriers and signs saying do not enter he just drove straight through. Chaining the gates might have to be our next step."

Another worry is applying vital fertility-building farmyard manure to organic land. "We have to use roads to get onto the organic land and Im not sure we should be spreading dung." Contract work off the farm has been postponed.

In Kent, getting sprays on out-lying land is starting to concern Tim Piper. "We will have to take the sprayer onto a public road which goes past other livestock holdings. But if we dont go now we will miss the opportunity."

The machine will be sprayed with disinfectant before leaving and returning.

South-west mixed barometer farmer George Hosford is concerned about grain movement. "We sent 100t away a few weeks ago, but I am worried about what to do when I get a call for more. I shall probably ask if it can be postponed a month. If not, Ill insist lorries are disinfected beforehand and well spray their wheels and undersides before letting them in."

In West Sussex, Farmer Focus writer Patrick Godwin was pleased to see 20 miles of footpaths empty as soon as first closure notices went up. That contrasts with the attitude of a Genus AI operator who initially thought boot washing without disinfectant was adequate precaution. "For somebody moving from farm to farm I think they should have been more pro-active."

Foot-and-mouth has had no direct impact on barometer grower Brian Shaws all-arable business in Beds. "But its a national disaster, and I worry about its long term effect on grain prices. They have dropped £1.50/t for May and there are already rumours of ships being turned around."