Archive Article: 1996/01/19 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

Finished sheep averaged 120p/kg at Stamford, Lincs, on Monday. Trade may be down on last year, but those with store lambs are confident of getting a return, says auctioneer Scott Murray. Some people are delaying selling finished sheep, anticipating price rise.

And quite a few people are still buying stores, he adds. (Murrays)

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

Anthony Lee keeps an eye on milk production levels as the milk quota year enters its final stages. A high number of calvings at the start of the new year has pushed milk output ahead of expectations.

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

Milk quota issues are again top of the agenda at Dowrich, our adopted farm in mid-Devon. Philip Clarke reports

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

WITH the end of the milk year in sight steps are being taken at Dowrich to try to avoid any super-levy, currently estimated at 31.42p/litre.

Milk output has been increasing rapidly in recent weeks, with more fresh calvers entering the herd than cows being dried off. As such, daily production is now running at 4100 litres from the 220 cows in milk, compared with 3850 litres a day in early December.

At this rate, the Lees will end up about 5% over their 1.342m litre quota holding, compared with a 3.5% working threshold.

Therefore, a number of steps have been taken:

lBarren cows are being sold sooner than planned.

l"Stale milkers" are being dried off earlier.

lThe ration has been adjusted to reduce yields.

Anthony Lee has been satisfied with the recent returns from the cull cow market, given the damage done by BSE publicity in the run-up to Christmas.

"We sell all our culls via West Midland Farmers and I have been pleasantly surprised to find them making similar money to last year," he says.

But drying off the stale milkers is more of a mixed blessing. "This late lactation milk is high in butterfat and protein," says Anthony.

"Losing the butterfat is good for our quota position but missing out on the high price for what is effectively Channel Island milk is disappointing."

As for the ration, Anthony has decided to reduce maize silage by 5kg a head and increase the chopped straw and sugar beet pulp fed by 1kg each. The full ration, mixed in a Redrock feeder wagon and fed once a day to the high and low yielders, is shown in the table.

"Although we are downgrading the ration, we still need to keep the fresh calvers going. We do not want them to be struggling at the start of the next milk year," says Anthony.

The adjustments to feed should also help forage stocks last longer. After the dry summer there is only estimated to be enough to carry the herd to mid-April, even though dry cows have now been moved on to lower quality barley straw and autumn silage.

Last years decision to buy straights forward continues to pay dividends. Last week the farm took another delivery of maize gluten at £96/t compared with a spot value of £133/t.

But rapemeal bought forward is beginning to run out and Anthony has had to buy more in at a replacement cost of £142/t compared with the £101/t he booked it at last spring.

Not buying forward

"I have not bought any straights for next year yet," he says. "Now is not the time to be buying forward, as there is too much demand out there and protein prices are unlikely to weaken until cows go out to grass again."

With the recent rise in output, the Lees have also acquired some extra quota. Some 50,000 litres of 3.9% butterfat clean quota were bought at a market price of 64p/litre, the first time the Lees have entered the permanent transfer market. "We were a bit short of quota anyway, following the close of the leasing period. And Genus results show that their top farms are the ones who own quota rather than having to lease it," explains Anthony.

"Our aim now is to buy a bit more each year, depending on cash availability and price, to expand the business and reduce our dependence on outside influences."

With herd expansion the long-term objective, and with production having increased, the Lees are glad of the extra capacity allowed for when they set up for every-other-day milk collection last year. The Fabtec 10,000-litre tank is already looking pretty full when the Milk Marque tanker arrives at 11.30pm on alternate evenings.

The total investment, including a heat exchanger, came to about £20,000. But middle brother, Roger Lee, reckons the increased efficiency, reduced haulage charges and electricity savings justify the cost. The old equipment was also nearing the end of its useful working life and would soon have been running up some hefty maintenance charges. "It was 25 years ago that we changed from churns to a tank. This new bulk tank should see us through the next 25 years," he says.

With a level calving pattern throughout the year, daily milk volumes are relatively constant, so there is never going to be much wasted capacity. And so far there have been no problems with milk quality, which has generally stayed in band A. As Anthony points out, with the milk collected at 11.30 at night, it is never in the tank for the full 48 hours anyway.

Good milk quality has played a strong part in boosting dairy cow margins at Dowrich.

Latest Milkminder figures from Genus put Decembers margin over purchased feed at 22.67p/litre compared with 20.62p/litre at the same time last year. But, with the new milk regime now into its second year, higher milk price is no longer as significant in explaining margin increases.

The key lies in the herds yield from forage. By the end of December this had increased from 1800 litres a cow to 2000 litres a cow on a rolling 12-month basis, with the annualised MOPF up more than 3p at 22.42p/litre. &#42

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

Claas says initial UK farmer reaction to its Xerion tractor has been "most encouraging"; a 250hp version of the multi-function power unit has recently been working on farms in Suffolk, coupled to a specially-designed Holmer six-row sugar beet harvester. Through the year, more demo Xerions will make the trip across the Channel, along with associated cultivation and slurry injection equipment, before the 200-300hp tractors go on sale in 1997.

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

Ballasting made easy with oil drums. Framlingham-based Broadwater Machinery has incorporated 205-litre drum holders in the latest design of its Grass Master aerator range. Filled with the required amount of water they can increase the weight of the machine by as much 450kg (1000lbs) to help penetration of the blades.

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Archive Article: 1996/01/19

19 January 1996

Diesel versions of the Volvo 850 should be in showrooms from the end of next month. Under the bonnet lurks a modified version of Audis impressive 140hp turbodiesel (Country Car, Dec 22), which is capable of 0-62mph in around 10sec. Both saloon and estate car variants will be available, and prices will start from £21,000.

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