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Archive Article: 1996/02/02

2 February 1996

Will the Dowler Gantry ever become a commercial reality? After some 21 years development work, designer David Dowler is now looking for a manufacturer to build and market his machine under licence. The final production model has a working width of 12m primarily for spray and fertiliser application, light cultivation operations and drilling. For road transport the wheels turn through 90 degrees to reduce its width to that of a conventional tractor.

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Archive Article: 1996/02/02

2 February 1996

Malgars updated Sabre mixer wagons come with a total of four mixing augers; earlier models only had two. Available in 9-19cu.m (320-670cu ft) model sizes, the Italian-built machines are designed to chop and mix round bales as well as clamp silage. The new top augers are designed to fluff-up and rotate the bale for more effective chopping by the lower, bladed pair. Price of a 13cu m (460cu ft) Sabre, capable of accommodating three round bales, is £20,600.

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Archive Article: 1996/02/02

2 February 1996

"CHRISTMAS comes but once a year". Well I can manage that bit, but for next year could we please go from the December 25 to January 2! This would save all the hassle and problems that the Christmas aftermath creates.

On Christmas Day looking back, all went too well, nothing got out or died, even the phone didnt ring. The thought even crossed my mind not to have those last two or three drinks in the evening, just in case (but it was only a small thought).

Sure enough on Boxing Day the fattening bulls food consumption had dropped with one or two coughing. After injecting those, we hoped that would be the end of it.

Next morning, along with a temperature drop to -19, the pneumonia was much worse. A call by the vet and a blanket cover of long-acting Terramycin was advised. A rush to the surgery saw me back with £1500 of drugs. Whilst returning home, someone had moved a gate post into the road which slowed me up (not enough) hence a reshaped Isuzu.

Worse was yet to come. With temperature drop, freezing water troughs can be a problem although we had no worries there (or so we thought) because after the last big freeze we installed our own design non-freeze trough. This is a 30gal household cistern, built in, with the water entering at the bottom and a chain attached to the float, giving 2ft of water above the ballcock. The troughs were okay but the pipes froze. They took until 5pm most days to thaw, knowing it would happen again the next day.

It was while we were struggling with water that the cast ewes decided the stubble turnips were finished and that the verges of the A90 looked much more nutritious.

At this point I decided I needed the assistance of Glen. After a couple of glasses of Glen… things looked so much better! The sheep came home, the pneumonia had gone and the water started to run. That left only the geese who for some reason decided that our wheat was the place to be. If any passing motorist was alarmed at seeing a figure running through wheat fields.

What happened at New Year? Well Glen and I got together and I cant remember. &#42

LAST month I said that all we needed were some frosts to clear the pneumonia. By the time the article was printed, we had had frosts of -6F.

However, we were more fortunate than some. Indeed -18F was recorded less under 50 miles away. The calves appreciated the clean fresh air, but the negative side was frozen water troughs. And we have now had three weeks of damp misty days.

The frosts also enabled all straw-bedded yards to be cleaned out and heaped on the set-aside area without leaving a single wheel-mark. We find oilseed rape straw useful in the first two to three weeks, when newly cleaned yards need a considerable amount of straw. Even though we are using straw at the rate of almost 15t a week, we are still not making much impression on our large stocks.

The 128 calves from Crathorne Farms are now four-months-old and are doing well, apart from the 1.5% mortality. To spread calf-rearing, what we really need to complement Crathorne Farms autumn calving herd, is a large dairy farm having a tight spring calving pattern. It looks as though we may have achieved our goal.

While talking to Jerry Rider on the phone about the BGS 1996 Winter Meeting, he happened to mention that he was just starting to calve his large dairy herd. So Julie is delighted that we have now safely received the first 24 calves.

I hear the economists are predicting that farm incomes have risen again this year. Why it is we are made to feel guilty if we make a profit more than two years in succession? Profit leads to job creation in environmental projects and building and machinery investment. Anyone like myself who relies on "the beef keeping him" rather than "him keeping the beef", will know we are today only receiving prices equal to those received in January 1990. With feed and fertiliser costs rising, we beef farmers certainly have nothing to feel guilty about. &#42

GEORGE, one of our three cowmen has been off work since the end of November preparing for a heart operation. The operation was due to take place in early January but poor George has had appendicitis over New Year!

He is obviously going to be off for many weeks and this is stretching our resources of course. Jason, our youngest member of the farm is now fully on cows and our night milker has come in to assist when required. We have arranged to get the rest of the dairy and calf staff a weeks break before we start calving again in early Feb.

This tests the system with nothing but "chores" getting done each day. Muck and slurry is piling up and straw yards are waiting to be cleaned out. We are missing our head tractor driver of 30 years who retired last summer. We are certainly not over-staffed!

The cows are milking well producing 500 litres/day over the last Herdwatch prediction. Butterfat has continued to fall and has now settled at around 3.8%. Pregnancy tests are going well with 22 out of 26 in calf last Thursday. There was only one of the remainder "not doing anything", the rest were the usual mix of cysts etc.

The breeding board looks better than this time last year with September getting back to a tighter pattern. The heifers on their barley straw/gluten ration are thriving and the replacement bull working well catching any not holding to AI. This will also produce a large crop of calving heifers from end of August onwards.

We have been holding onto a number of barren cows through December while the market was in such an unsettled state due to the outrageous BSE press at that time. These are now on their way to Beeston Market and we are very pleased with the prices some of which have been well over £600.

As for BSE, I cant understand why we are not shouting from the rooftops at what a huge success story the BSE campaign has been. MAFF and the vet profession should receive the gratitude of everyone for the way such an unknown problem was identified and dealt with. It has been a perfect example of the need to maintain a national integrated veterinary system led by MAFF. &#42

IN the middle of winter it is easy to forget that the cow is a grazing ruminant – especially this year with so many by-products, alternative feeds and straights available – and that what she is best at is converting grass into milk.

Our local discussion group had an excellent talk from Neil Adams of Genus who went back to basics and explained the dilemma between whats best for the grass and whats best for the cow.

He pointed out that one perennial ryegrass plant can produce up to 100 tillers, but each tiller has only three true leaves and a new leaf is produced every seven days.

Therefore to encourage new tiller production and to produce maximum green material/acre we must keep the grass short and graze frequently. Hence the development of paddock grazing at 18-21 days and of set stocking keeping the grass at 7-8 cm.

This is especially important early in the season as, in common with the rest of the world, grass has a basic urge to reproduce and is trying to shoot up a flowering stem and produce seeds.

So we must graze tight in the spring. On the other hand lets look at it from the cows point of view. Numerous cow behaviour studies have shown that a cow grazes for a maximum of 10.5 hours/day – that is without constraints that the farmer may impose like milking and time away from the field. This means for example, if the sward was 13cm high she could easily take in 15kg dry matter and use only about 20% of the grass available. This is fine today but what about tomorrow?

Either you put the dairy herd in for another day and the milk goes down, or you put another group in or you top it to waste. In practice, there are seldom enough secondary stock to keep the grass under control in the time available and the sward deteriorates very quickly.

On the other hand if the sward is only 3.5cm high the cow can take in less than 10kg DM and she has to use 70% of the available grass.

What happens is bite size – the amount of grass she gets in one crunch – is considerably reduced so she increases the rate of bite from 50 to 70 bites a minute. That is 45,000 bites in a grazing day!

When you take into account daylight hours, rainfall, sunshine and season grazing, management becomes complex – in fact its impossible to get it right all the time.

Some farmers actually give up – I have even heard them say "grass is poison for cows".

Over the years I have developed a system to overcome most of these difficulties. It needs careful planning – more next month. &#42

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Archive Article: 1996/02/02

2 February 1996

Thieves target ATVs so it pays to play safe…

By James de Havilland

BRITISH insurers estimate a staggering 500 ATVs are stolen from farms every year. As a result, the policy excess for insuring these machines can be steep.

But as rural crime continues to be a threat, good overall farm security is now becoming a requirement of most modern farm insurance policies. If you are not on top of your security, thefts could cost you more than equipment losses alone.

A Gloucs farmers determination to prevent thieves getting hold of his ATV has led to him building a purpose-made store within an existing building. Comprising a block wall to roof height and a sturdy padlocked and double bolted steel frame door, the store serves not only to keep people out but also to keep the machine away from prying eyes.

Further back-up

Inside, further back-up is provided by chaining the ATV to a shackle anchored in concrete, hard face welding having been applied to the shackle to increase its resistance to a determined hacksaw attack. A further precaution is building the ATVs new home adjacent to dog kennels.

On looking over the farm, John McMillan, loss control surveyor for NFU Mutual, said he felt there was not much more the farmer in this instance could do to protect his machine.

If these lengths to secure an ATV seem paranoid, they should be put into context. The farmer in question has had two ATVs stolen. The first , he concedes, was not secured , simply being put away in a barn. The second machine was attached to a stanchion with a specialised security chain which was simply cropped in two by the thieves.

Growing thefts

In the light of a growing number of ATV thefts from farms, the NFU Mutual introduced a £500 excess on ATVs insured under the companys Tractor Policy in 1994. This reduces to £100 if the ATV is locked up securely, with a further 10% excess reduction if one of three approved security systems* is used with the machine.

"ATVs are targeted by determined and organised thieves rather than opportunists," explains Mr McMillan. "Which is why security needs to be taken seriously".

Although Mr McMillan suggests that 90% of any farm security can be covered by common sense, he feels many farmers should be taking security more seriously than they are at present. "Those farmers who have not experienced any thefts should not become complacent. Once a farm has been targeted it will effect the way the farm is regarded as an insurance risk."

Indeed, it is Mr McMillans job to assess the risk of insuring a farm for the underwriters. "It would be most unlikely that we would turn a farmer down for being too high a risk to insure, but we may require certain aspects of security to be tightened.

"Typically, these include the installation of security lighting, locking all access gates to farm buildings and possibly Target Hardening vulnerable items.

"In a workshop that cannot be adequately secured, for example, we would recommend the tools are stored in a locked steel box or cage which is bolted to the floor.

"This target hardening at best would prevent the tools being stolen by opportunist thieves, and at worst, hold more determined thieves up," says Mr McMillan.

A key issue is how easy is it for thieves to get a vehicle to farm buildings and property. It also follows that thieves will need something in which to carry away any stolen goods. If a livestock trailer is handy, this provides an ideal transport medium. Also bear in mind that organised thieves tend to know what to look for and where it is on a farm.

Thieves from afar

"Thieving is now as likely to be carried out by people living miles from a given farm, and not by locals. But this is not to suggest they do not know where everything of value is kept," suggests Mr McMillan. "Farmers must be prepared to lock all access gates at night and to secure buildings properly with a substantial close shackle padlock. This is a minimum security measure I would expect to find on any farm we insure."

Power tools, welders, drills and chainsaws are hot favourites with thieves, as are hand tools such as spanners. If hand tools are stored in a wheeled storage system, bear in mind how this makes it much easier for thieves to steal all your tools in one go.

Suspicious vehicles

With criminals coming from further afield, always take a note of any suspicious vehicles entering the farm or cruising the boundaries. Make a point of asking why an individual has entered your property. If they do not have a good explanation or look suspicious, note all relevant details and contact the police.

Unfortunately many local constabularies do not have the resources to act on suspicious vehicle movements, but taking a note of these details can prove useful in the event of any problems. Being a member of a local Farmwatch scheme is also a good idea, with details on suspicious vehicles being more readily pooled.

If a Farmwatch scheme is not in operation, consider forming one. The more eyes that are kept peeled, the better the chance of reducing rural crime in general, and farm crime in particular.

&#8226 ATV Wheel Clamp, Wyvern All Terrain Tel: 01905-371278

Luke Lock , Luke Trailers and Equipment Tel: 01538-304275

The Quad Safe, Unit Pack Security Systems Tel: 01703- 407070

John McMillan, loss control surveyor for the NFUMutual, inspects the purpose-built ATV shed. "Security needs to be taken seriously,"he says. Left:This system for securing an ATVis probably as good as any. But note the poor-quality padlock which could be broken in seconds.

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Archive Article: 1996/02/02

2 February 1996

Precise slurry applications are difficult says Ken Smith (pictured). This ADAS-developed plot applicator is far more accurate than farm models, he says, and will assist in redefining forage maize nitrogen requirements.

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