Archive Article: 1996/03/29 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1996/03/29

29 March 1996

How the beef industry was plunged into crisis

&#8226 Wed Mar 20: Daily Mirror tells more than 3m readers that the government will admit humans could catch mad cow disease from infected beef.

In a Commons statement, health secretary Stephen Dorrell said there remains no scientific proof that BSE can be transmitted to man by beef.

But the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee (SEAC) had concluded that the most likely explanation is that 10 cases of CJD, identified in people under 42, are linked to exposure to BSE before the specified offal ban was introduced in 1989.

Farm minister Douglas Hogg announces a ban on meat and bonemeal in all farm animal diets and mandatory de-boning of all slaughter cattle over 30 months.

John Pattison, chairman of SEAC, said the 10 new CJD cases could be the start of an epidemic – it was equally possible that there could be no more or only a few more cases. And the risk from eating beef in 1996 was "extremely small".

Market prices slump by 20%

&#8226 Thur Mar 21: France bans British beef and live calves. Followed quickly by 11 other EU countries, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and others. Britain condemns the EU bans as illegal, but the protest is rejected.

Reports emerge that scientists considered "killing off the entire national herd".

&#8226 Fri Mar 22: A Consumers Association statement said people who wanted to avoid the risk of BSE had no choice but to cut beef products from their diet. Beef is banned from menus in more than 10,000 schools. Cattle prices crash.

&#8226 Sat Mar 22: SEAC meets to consider advice to parents worried about risk to children. McDonalds bans British beef, followed by Wimpy.

&#8226 Sun Mar 22: Supermarkets report that sales have slumped. Douglas Hogg is reported to be considering a slaughter policy.

&#8226 Mon Mar 25: Burger chains Wendys and Burger King ban British beef. Mr Hogg announces that no further action is needed.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/29

29 March 1996

FARMERS WEEKLY machinery writers took the top two awards in the annual Perkins Power Award competition organised by Varity Perkins. Machinery editor, Andy Collings and deputy machinery editor, Andrew Faulkner were praised by the judges for the quality of their submitted articles. Andy Collings (right) receives his winning cheque from John Baxter, general sales manager for Varity Perkins.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/29

29 March 1996

On a raw winters day, there are few things less appealing than poking about in a defunct dirty water irrigation system. Andrew Pearce discovers how a little maintenance can help keep you warm and dry

AT the heart of most dirty water systems is a scroll and stator pump – a stainless steel worm wriggling in a synthetic rubber sleeve. Self-priming and able to deliver reasonable volumes over long distances, these uncomplicated devices have one Achilles heel – contamination.

"If any quantity of straw or larger material gets into pipework or the pump itself, then trouble will not be far away," says OCMIS service engineer Adrian Absolon. "Fed only dirty water a pump will work for thousands of hours, but grit and rubbish can wreck it very quickly – either through abrasive wear, or by blocking inlet pipework so the stator runs dry. "

So maintenance starts a step back from the pump, in the lagoon or settlement tanks. Crusting here slows the rate at which liquids and solids separate, and a flash flood is likely to carry bad news towards the pump. Clearing the crust before it builds is the answer, checking as often as slurry volume and type demands.

Assuming the system is guzzling only dirty water, what else is there to do? Quite a lot, for although the layout is simple – tank(s), float switch(es) controlling the pump, pipework to the field and a fixed or mobile sprinkler in it – theres plenty of detail to look after. The pictures below concentrate on an average-size OCMIS installation, although the principles apply to other systems.

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Archive Article: 1996/03/29

29 March 1996


STRESS is a funny thing. Most of us have experienced it, but very few of us can properly describe or explain it.

Dorset dairy farmer Richard Davies has his own definition. For him, stress is having 30ha (80 acres) of first-cut grass down, rain forecast, and the contractor ringing to say he will be a day or two late.

"I dont like feeling my fate is in somebody elses hands," he explains.

"First-cut silage is such an important time on any dairy farm. Get it wrong in May, and herd profitability suffers for the rest of the year."

Six years ago, it was this time-critical nature of the grass silage crop that persuaded Mr Davies and his father, Michael, to start making their own silage again. Before 1990, the Daviess employed a contractor to chop the silage for their 170-cow dairy herd and followers at Woodbridge Farm, near Sturminster Newton; farm staff just mowed and clamped.

The Daviess admit that making the decision to switch back to DIY silage was difficult. They knew they were doing it for the right husbandry reasons. But most other farmers in the area were moving in the opposite direction – using silage contractors to reduce business overheads.

"Were not against using contractors in principle – far from it. Even now we use them for drilling, baling and maize harvesting. Its just that timeliness is so critical for grass silage, and wed been let down once too often in the past," Mr Davies says.

But timeliness has a cost – both in terms of labour and machinery. Here, Mr Davies is fortunate in that neighbouring dairy farmer, Donald Mitchell, shares his DIY silage-making philosophy. By 1990, Mr Mitchell had also become disillusioned with using contractors for grass silage. The obvious solution was for the two farms to pool resources.

"If we had had to buy all our own gear and do all the work ourselves, we probably couldnt have justified the switch. As it turned out, our existing equipment matched our neighbours and we both invested in whatever else was needed to keep costs down."

At silage time, Woodbridge Farm now supplies two men, a John Deere 3050 tractor, a FCT850 precision chop forager and a tractor and trailer. Mr Mitchells Holwell Hill Farm contributes two men, a Ford 7810 tractor, a 2.4m (8ft) wide Taarup 306 mower conditioner and a tractor and trailer. Both farms do their own clamping.

Extra equipment purchased – on top of what the two farms already owned – was the £15,000 forager, along with Mr Mitchells mower and one 8t trailer, which, coincidentally, also represent an investment of about £15,000.

Not only does the equipment now match, but so do the farms respective workloads. Holwell Hill tends to grow a proportion of earlier maturing one-year leys in between maize crops, whereas Woodbridge Farm relies predominantly on later four- and five-year mixes. A total first cut of 120ha (300 acres), including 20ha (50 acres) for another local farmer, takes about 10 days to cut, chop and clamp.

Those 10 days rarely run concurrently; either breaks are needed for sheeting up pits or the crop might not be quite fit. Then Mr Davies, who operates the forager, unhitches the JF from his 3050 and starts spreading a standard 80kg/ha (4cwt/acre) application of 25.0.15 fertiliser. The aim is for rapid regrowth.

It is the complete operations flexibility that Mr Davies particularly likes. For example, last year he decided to cut just 6ha (15 acres) early because he needed some early regrowth on which to graze the dairy herd. Getting a contractor to make the trip for such a small area could have been a problem, he reckons.

"The system works remarkably well. Both farms are only supplying two men most of the time so there is still staff for daily dairy chores, machinery costs are relatively low and we have control of our own silage making operation.

"In effect, we have the best of both worlds. We enjoy the benefits of making our own silage without incurring all the associated labour and machinery costs."

Even now there are many more self-propelled foragers operating in Dorset than there were six years ago, the Daviess are convinced they made the right decision. They concede contracting rates in the area are both competitive and attractive, but Mr Davies still remains sceptical.

"Self-propelled foragers are getting more expensive to buy, yet rates seem to stay the same. That must mean contractors are under pressure to take on more acres. All very well in a good year, but in a wet season its a different story."

As silaging stress goes, Mr Davies has a preference. He would rather spend time on his own forager, dodging the May showers, than wearing out the carpet next to the office phone. &#42

&#8226 Farm size: 194ha (480 acres).

&#8226 Soil type: Clay loam.

&#8226 Cropping: 40ha (100 acres) of winter wheat, 32ha (80 acres) of maize and 6ha (15 acres) of set-aside. Remainder in grass.

&#8226 Stock: 170-cow dairy herd and followers. Rears about 20 cross-breds to sell as stores.

&#8226 Labour: Two full-time plus Richard Davies and his father, Michael.

&#8226 Mainline machinery: 93hp John Deere 3050 and 78hp John Deere 2650 tractors, part share in New Holland 1540 combine, JF FCT850 trailed forager, four-furrow Dowdeswell reversible plough, and Amazone twin-disc fertiliser spreader

The trend may be towards self-propelled silage-making, but there are still many farmers reluctant to make the switch to using a contractor. They prefer to retain their independence and stick with their own trailed forager.

Richard Davies: "We prefer to retain control of our own grass silage making operation."

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