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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

Colin Mills, Tescos national lamb and beef buying consultant, chooses his champion carcass at St Merryn Meats Christmas show at Torrington, Devon. The three-quarter Charolais heifer came from the Scott family of Kingsway (left of picture). At 765kg liveweight and 441kg deadweight, it classified E3. The carcass went on to make £2.35/kg – a price which Petrina Scott described as "good, considering the recent BSE scare". Elsewhere, beef auction prices continue to be depressed, with MLC sample markets showing a 5.38p/kg drop in the price of medium steers on Monday to 118.52p/kg.

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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

Frank Page of Elkington won seven trophies for his entry of show cattle at Rugbys Christmas primestock show. Taking the top award was this three-quarter Belgian Blue heifer. The 14-month-old animal weighed in at 520kg and made 230p/kg (£1196). In the sheep section, Graham Thomass supreme champion pen of tegs made £120, £108 and £100. Taking top prize among the pigs was David Harrisons porkers which sold for 136p/kg. (Rugby Livestock Sales)

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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

If you have to feed straw, spice it up…

The drought may be over but its effects are still being felt. No one knows that better than sheep producers forced to feed straw to sheep at lambing.

If youre in that unenviable position, dont forget the experts advice. Feed ewes the correct levels of energy and protein in the form of a supplement. A higher level of intake will also be needed because of straws low nutritional value compared with good quality hay and silage.

Consultants and ruminant specialists are keen to warn of the dangers of acidosis. Its important that intakes never exceed 1kg at one feeding. So, plan your ewe feeding now and they will reward you with a bumper crop of healthy lambs.

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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

Stanhays Singulaire 785 pneumatic vegetable drill now benefits from a redesigned fan unit. More compact than its predecessor, it allows the drill to be mounted closer to the tractor, and a new pressure exhaust system is designed to allow the fan to be self-cleaning. Prices of the drills remain unchanged – a four-row version is listed at £8203.

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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

AS CHRISTMAS approaches we begin to put together a "wish list" for next year. The highest priority is a fit wife after receiving a new hip. While Chris is resolved to keep an eye on lambing in March, we in turn must prevent her from doing too much.

The shepherds wish for a load of readymix to improve access in their handling system. I am used to picking up the odd cows dirty feet, but it is a bit different for Pete with 300 ewes.

Although we have not done much mileage, our D reg Land Rover is reaching the top of the wish list for replacement. Chris and Peter have towed with my brother-in-laws TDI and have spotted the difference!

Herdsman Johns wish has been granted since we installed a parlour feed system without sacks. We now move the feed from mixer to conveyor in a tote box on the loader. We are all pleased how well the system is working and our thanks to Collinson for a first class service.

We have wished for frost to kill the aphids and allow the dairy cows out for a few hours while we clean out the straw yards. By the end of the first week in December we have been disappointed but there is plenty of winter left.

I wished myself elsewhere when the nice lady from MAFF came to read the cattle ear-tags for CIDs. My records let me down, as some steers had undergone a sex change, leaving me highly embarrassed.

If every beef farmer could make a wish Im sure BSE would be top of our disappearing act. The fear factor certainly sells newspapers and prime time, but do they realise the heartache they cause at the base of the food chain?

My wish for more milk from forage is gradually coming true, with November reaching 12 litres a cow. After James, our new student, pushed a little too much fodder beet at them, he and they have now settled back to a firmer routine and milk yields are rising. We shall soon be wishing for more quota. The likelihood of politicians agreeing on a system of ABC, as in sugar beet, gains ground. &#42

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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

IT LOOKS like a white Christmas is to follow the hottest grazing season ever – what a way to end 1995.

I have just erected the strip grazing fence across the forage rape which should keep the stale cows happy for a couple of hours each day for the rest of the month. They were starting to poach the last long ley so the served heifers will have a chance to finish that off, plus straw and maize gluten feed. The field adjoins the farm track and will be mucked heavily for maize next year so poaching isnt a problem unless the winter stays very wet.

We shall dare to move some of the late spring calvers down into this group and hope that fresh rape will distract then from being taken off the maize silage. They will get 35kg grass silage each afternoon plus some whole crop wheat, since we have only enough maize for the autumn calving section. The rape was sown mid-September, germinated by the 22nd and is now about a foot high. Kale sown at the same time as an experiment is the same height but a thinner stand.

It will be grazed off last if we miss the snow otherwise the sheep will have it as a treat in the New Year.

The Italian/Westerwolds mix we scattered on 9ha (2 acres) of disced stubble has produced a cracking good sward for little effort, as promised. I doubt the 130 ewes we have turned in will graze it down before we top dress it in five weeks time for a very early silage cut prior to maize. This has always reduced maize yields in the past but we intend to take the cut earlier and apply a lot of farmyard manure to see if we can get the best of both worlds. It will depend more on the weather than the politicians, which will make a change from most of my farming decisions.

Dare I mention BSE? Its a subject best dealt with on scientific grounds, away from the panicking public and with the best interests of everyone in mind. But I was appalled to see the bully-boy tactics on the meat trade taken up by livestock market auctioneers.

My own Taunton market resisted at first but has now capitulated to demands for a £3.50 levy from the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers on barren cows. This is despite prices falling by £80 a head and the Office of Fair Trading instructing the federation not to encourage slaughterhouses to boycott auctioneers who refuse to levy the charge.

Self-interest at such a time exaggerates the damage to our reputation as a credible industry. &#42

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Archive Article: 1995/12/22

22 December 1995

NOW that December is with us its time to start getting the sheep prepared for winter housing. Since mid-November the ewes have been troubled with foot problems of one sort or another, so it looks like I will have to turn and check every ewe this month to ensure we dont take any foot-rot into the shed.

On the plus side the ewes look in extremely good condition and with ample grass still in front of them there should be no need for any feed supplementation until housing in early January.

The ewe lambs have also been tupped and the rams now taken off. This year we split the ewe lambs into two groups by scanning for eye-muscle depth. The average muscling for all 120 lambs was just under 23mm depth. Any ewe lambs with a scan of 24mm or better were separated out to form an elite group of 43. These were put to two of our highest index rams, which have also been scanned.

By next summer we shall see exactly how well the "elite flock" has performed compared with the rest of our flock. With both MLC and Signet involved Im sure that I will be able to give more information over the next season as to the benefits of such an improvement scheme.

With the livestock work at its least at the moment, were back at work in the woodland fetching out fencing materials and some much- needed firewood for the Christmas holidays. Not that a livestock farmer gets very much of a chance to have a break over the holiday period.

The Kramer loader which we bought six months ago is proving its worth in the woods. Thus far weve failed to get it stuck, but Im sure we will eventually do so as the tracks are getting quite rutted after the rain and snow! Its climbing abilities are being stretched on some of the steeper slopes (where incidently we failed to go with a much more powerful Manitou 526 demonstrator earlier in the year). Just goes to prove size isnt everything!

With Sarah expecting our second child any day, Christmas is going to be anything but quiet. But it will certainly be a time for family celebrations both here and in Germany. &#42

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