Archive Article: 1996/03/22 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

Beef prices in market dip…

BEEF prices dipped by between 3-7p/kg at auction markets on Wednesday with nervous buyers being warned to hang fire until the governments latest news had sunk in.

While trade for steers and heifers eased, cull cow prices remained reasonably bullish, though auctioneers admitted the future looked very uncertain.

Auctioneer David Brettell, of Barber and Son, said trade at Market Drayton had eased by up to 7p/kg, with both steers and heifers averaging 109p/kg.

Norman Bagley, auctioneer for Ripon Farmers Livestock Market, condemned the government for allowing misinformation to be leaked to the media. "The beef trade has gone through enough trouble already with BSE without this," he said.

Ripon prices

Prices eased by 2-3p/kg at a busy Ripon market, where 383 cattle were entered. Steers averaged 122.7p/kg, while heifers were 121.35p/kg.

Beef trade at Holsworthy slipped but trade remained strong with steers averaging 114.3p/kg and heifers 110.6/kg.

Keith Sanders, of auctioneers Kivells, said he had been pleased with the cull cow trade, which had held up well to average 82p/kg. "Opinion beforehand looked as if we would have a poor trade but we were fortunate."

Robert Addison, partner with Harrison and Hetherington at Carlisle market, said cull cow trade had fallen back from a top recently of 86p/kg to 80p/kg, but feared it could slip further.

"What really matters is the next two or three days," he said.

&#8226 Supermarket chiefs were due to meet farm minister Douglas Hogg as FARMERS WEEKLY went to press. But they declined to comment on any likely action in the wake of the governments announcement.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

Looking out from the rostrum… this was the view which auctioneers Gwyn Williams and Jonathan Farrall were given when they dispersed J and B Gilsenans Holstein Friesian herd at Lymm, Cheshire, last Friday. After fierce bidding, the 56 cows averaged £877. Top price was £1360 for a heifer due with her second in August to a Limousin. The 16 heifers on offer levelled £718. (Frank R Marshall and Co)

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

Contractor Andrew King destones the seed-bed for Saturna crisping potatoes at the 134ha (330-acre) White House Farm, Badlingham, Suffolk. Owned by Moulton Manor Farm, about 24ha (60 acres) of potatoes have now been planted. According to PMB figures, national plantings are still well ahead of last year. But in Jersey, where planting is finished, recent cold weather has slowed growth and the PMB is warning of a bottleneck in supplies of new crop in May. Meanwhile, old crop values have slipped £7 to £138/t due to supply pressure.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

Beef men must do grass thinking now

BEEF producers should assess grass stocks now for 10% of grass growth occurs during the winter, advises Prof Mike Wilkinson of De Montfort University, Lincoln.

"Stock can be turned out early to graze this grass and then, if necessary, offered supplementary feeding later in the summer," he says. "It is most important to graze tightly.

Understocking problems

"Understocking beef animals in early spring can reduce grass production later in the season." The grass plants flower and stop tiller production.

Prof Wilkinson recommended the Scottish Agricultural Colleges buffer grazing technique for young beef animals turned out at six to seven months of age.

"Fence across part of the field to keep the stocking rate higher than usual and have a buffer area. This hedges your bets. When grass growth stops you can move the fence a bit to slacken the stocking rate. But when it grows quickly you can cut some for silage."

Using buffer grazing, Edinburgh researchers found animal performance was similar to that of cattle stocked at slightly lower rates in most years, claimsProf Wilkinson. However, total silage yields were higher using the buffer grazing system and the performance of animals from mid-season onwards was improved.

He stresses that supplementary concentrates are a waste of money at turnout. Supplement cattle with forage even when turning out cattle early.

Growth standstill?

"Growth of animals may appear to stand still but when silage or hay is fed, stock will keep growing and keep on top of the grass." He concedes that later in the season there may be a return from feeding concentrates to supplement grass.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

WELL the honeymoon is all but over. As from April 1, producers supplying our local dairy, including myself, will be on a white water contract. Did I say white water? What I meant to say, of course, was a customer led supply contract. In essence such a contract pays the farmer a lower price for his milk but, somehow, producers feel that they are getting a good deal too. We will be paid a standard price for our milk so long as it meets minimum fat and protein levels of 3.5% and 3.0% respectively.

My annual milk price will be 1.25p/litre less in 1996-97 than the previous year. However, the theory is that if I can reduce the fat levels from my current rolling base of 4.06%, less quota will be required. In practice, I realise that dropping fats down to 3.8% will be a good achievement. This winters ration with grains, potatoes, molasses and high D-silage should have produced low-ish fat milk. Not so. Unfortunately they have stuck at 4.2%. I am told that the tactical use of certain oils will drop fats.

The buying group that has been set up within our milk selling group has been an absolute boon. Not only are cake prices on a 300-400t contract pretty competitive but, with ADAS guidance, we should be able to specify a cake which will help to drop fats.

A few weeks ago, I attended an excellent Kingshay Trust area meeting. As a result of their trial work, I am tempted to try a few acres of stubble turnips this summer. The crop will be planted in mid-May on a field which the cows do not like grazing after the first flush of grass. After the turnips, a Kingshay grazing ley mixture will be sown. Trial work has been done looking at the palatability of certain ryegrass varieties and mixtures drawn up accordingly.

On that note, certain new clover varieties appear to be considerably more tolerant to higher nitrogen regimes. I have previously tended to fight shy of clover on the grounds that my stocking rate is high and plenty of nitrogen is used. For the future, these newer clover varieties may well have as useful a role to play not only in reducing nitrogen bills but also improving grazing palatability and reducing butterfats – forever the optimist!n

From April 1 Nigel Smith will be paid a standard price for his milk provided it meets a minimum 3.5% butterfat and 3.0% protein.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

I HAVE been lambing for three weeks now and the long hours are taking their toll, but things seem to be going pretty well.

Last year we had quite a few enzootic abortions after failing to maintain a vaccination programme due to the non-availability of vaccine. This year a new vaccine has been used on all replacement stock. But to control the immediate problem a 7cc injection of long-acting Teramycin has been given to all in-lamb ewes at 100 days. Up to now it has worked well, reducing abortions from 5% to 1%.

The cost of antibiotics works out at 70p a ewe and the vaccine £3.50 a ewe on the 200 replacements, a total of £1300. To recover that cost about 30 lambs must be saved. But the long-term advantages are much more important to me with a four-year turn-round for all sheep to be vaccinated, thus reducing the eventual need for antibiotics.

There is nothing more annoying after tupping, feeding and so on all winter to find a ewe abort her lambs when so close to profit.

In the autumn I told you that we took a late second cut of silage. It was cut out in mid-June but harvested in mid-September, after initial burning and then recovering to produce about 200t off 40 acres. The energy was very low at 60 D-value, so it has been fed to the sucklers, as the sheep would require something drier and better.

The bulk has been useful, as our silage stocks were very low. Some wheat straw has been given to the sucklers to try to stretch it a bit further, so I am now hopeful of reaching the last week of April, our normal turnout time.

This year 24 bulls have been kept entire but I have pushed them much earlier, offering 3.6kg a day of high-energy nuts and also 1.8kg of a 50-50 maize gluten barley mix. The aim is to market them before the end of June at 600kg liveweight at 12-14 months of age.n

Three weeks into lambing and, apart from the long hours, things are going pretty well for David Jones. Abortions are down from 5% last year to 1% due to the use of antibiotics on all in-lamb ewes.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

Slurry is pumped into a 335cu m above-ground digester. Digestion, at 35C, takes 16 to 20 days. It produces 450cu m of biogas which fuels the CHP unit, driving an electricity generator. The system produces 15cu m a day of treated liquid slurry and 3t of separated fibre. The liquor, which is odourless and has an average analysis of about 25:5:5, is spread on grazing land.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

THEmain event of the past month has been the arrival of John as a full-time worker.

Sadly, Ben is having to give up much of the manual work, as his hands become increasingly affected by a form of muscular dystrophy. He is looking for another job but in the meantime he will take over the routine office work and do as much on the farm as he is able to. In particular, he will remain involved in the sheep breeding and recording, which is his main interest.

Writing in early March I have to report that there is no sign of growth on any of the pastures. The whole farm is brown. I hope that by the time this is in print things will have changed, as the stock are eating the silage at an alarming rate.

We are now feeding the first-cut silage. This is 10.9 ME, 6 ammonia N, 12.3% crude protein and 25.3% dry matter. The second-cut clamp, which we have just finished, was not as good quality but was 40% dry matter. The result is that we now have some very sloppy slurry. We are giving the autumn-calved group some straw with their silage to try to bind them up a bit. If this is successful we will put all the dry cows onto straw as part of their ration.

The in-lamb sheep are all housed. Although the flock is in about the right condition on average, there is more variation than I like to see. They have all been sorted for lamb burden, body size (mainly due to breed) and condition. Those carrying doubles are now on concentrates. The thinner singles will soon follow but I am hoping to keep those with a bit more condition off concentrates until the last two weeks before lambing starts.

Fertiliser will be going on as soon as the contractor can get to it. I presume T-sum is well past 200, even on this high land. But soil temperatures must be very low. We have had unusually long periods of bitter and strong winds with only short periods of snow cover. The result is a brown countryside with no protection for new grass shoots as they appear. If the cold winds return when growth does eventually start we are going to have a very late spring.n

David Cray is feeding wetter first-cut silage to the autumn-calved cattle. The 25% dry matter material, which compares with the poorer quality 40% DM second cut, is being offered with straw to try and bind them up.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/22

22 March 1996

LIKE most other farmers, I am a born optimist. Who else would be foolish enough to believe that the best is yet to come? Born optimists go out and sow 1.5 bags an acre of urea when the T-sum comes up green in their region. In my case, this was on Feb 16, when we fertilised our Barverdi/Polly Italian ryegrass for early bite, which is normally on stream in the last week of March.

The pessimists will have noted that Feb 16 was followed by some of the most severe frosts we have had in a decade, plus a prolonged spell of dry weather and Siberian winds. The pessimist will still have his fertiliser in the shed and know all along that the cold spell was bound to happen.

Our other big problem of the winter has been our 20-year-old ice-bank bulk milk tank. With a more compact calving pattern and increasing yields, the tank has become a limitation to progress. I have suspected that at full capacity it is a real power guzzler, and it is unable to build up sufficient ice in the Economy 7 period. We spent a few weeks transferring milk into mobile tanks while we considered the options. We thought about a second smaller tank that could be used for five-six months and then decommissioned for the rest of the year. This was attractive. A good selection of second-hand tanks was available, but involved work to enlarge the dairy.

The born optimist emerged again and decided we needed something to fulfil our needs for another 20 years. So we went for a direct expansion 6500-litre tank. It actually leaves us with more room in the dairy than the old square ice-bank job. The additional bonus was having a fully automated tank cleaning programme doing away with the weekly manual scrub down. This factor coupled with the speed of cooling from body heat to 4C should hopefully help us maintain or improve milk quality standards in an increasingly higher spec market-place. The first week in operation would suggest that she has the milk down to below 4C by the time we have the parlour washed down, which is real progress, at a price. But, as Dolly Parton commented, "If you want a rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."n

Ed: Congratulations to Will who is winner of this years BGS national silage competition (details on page 38).

Will Taylor has replaced his 20-year-old ice-bank bulk tank, unable to build sufficient ice on Economy 7, with a 6500-litre direct expansion tank. This is cooling milk to 4C by the time the parlour is washed down.

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