Archive Article: 1996/04/26 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1996/04/26

26 April 1996

SUDDENLY, spring appears to have arrived. The first heifers will go out today with another group next week after a PD session. We are a bit old fashioned as far as lungworm is concerned and still stick to Dictol. The young heifers born since September have now had their second dose but will stay in until after first cut.

I dont think we will have much of a conventional first cut in that we have increased the maize acreage to 200. On top of that, we have reseeded 70 acres of perennials which this winter finally confirmed were completely worn out. They have all been sown with a cover crop of spring barley in an attempt to enhance this years production. This only leaves about 100 acres to do in May. We used to have between 350 and 400 acres of first cut!

The clever bit (I hope) is this years catch crop of Italian ryegrass. The real benefit of a mixed dairy/arable farm is taking advantage of crop timings to benefit both sectors. Part of the farm follows a rotation of wheat, winter barley, catch crop Italian ryegrass, and maize. This gives us four crops in three years.

That is the theory anyway with this year being the first full run at it. If the timing works out, the rewards are terrific. A weeks heavy rain at a critical time can drop us between two stools. High dry matter silage from Italian ryegrass at the end of April in Cheshire is not something one can guarantee.

My plan is to pre-silage spray with a low rate Round-up type material about five days before cutting. I have not done this before in a full crop of grass but it should chase out some of the moisture and increase the dry matter to a significant extent. The plough can then start even while the chopper is in the field and the maize can go into a nice clean seedbed. I will tell you next month if we are successful.

At the recent Genus conference at Reasheath, the emphasis was clearly on extended grazing. Get the cows out earlier and keep them out later. The fact that the meeting was on April 2 with literally no cows out anywhere was not relevant.

I seem to remember identical meeting 30 years ago. We are not living in Ireland or New Zealand and we must not get carried away thinking we are. Our large UK herds and grey damp climate leads quickly to poaching.n

Geoff Vickers Italian ryegrass will be sprayed five days before cutting for high DM silage in late April.

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Archive Article: 1996/04/26

26 April 1996

AT last the swallows have arrived and we have got the cows out day and night – from about April 10.

This is the second turn-out this year. They first went out at the beginning of March for a few hours each day but had to come in when it got too wet. But the silage that we saved then has certainly been very useful in the last week or so.

Last autumn we managed to get a load of tree bark peelings and we put some down on a stone track to see how the cows reacted. They obviously preferred walking on this so we decided to build 50m of proper cow track to dairy consultant John Hughess design.

I bought the Terram Cowtrax through Mole Valley Farmers and arranged for a load of graded stone to be delivered. But although I had all the materials on site, I didnt actually get round to doing the job all winter!

Suddenly we realised the grass was growing and it was now or never time to build the track.

We hitched on our McConnel ditcher, took down the fence alongside the existing track and dug out a trench 1m wide by 0.3m deep.

We then lined the trench with Terram Cowtrax. This comes in two colours, black and white. The white was laid in the trench and on top of this we put a 7.6cm drainage pipe and 20cm of graded hardcore. Then the black was folded over the top and tucked in at the edge.

We did have a bit of a problem with levels but luckily we hit an old stone drain and this took the water away from us. Finally, we topped the whole trench with 10cm of tree bark peelings.

It sounds easy but in fact took three or four days. On the last day we needed to graze the field at the end of the track. So we let the cows into this field by a circuitous route knowing we had to finish the track before we could get the cows back in for pm milking.

The cows were waiting at the gate as we put the last bucketful of peelings into the trench. The milker arrived and we happily put up a temporary electric wire on the field side of the new track. This allowed the cows access to the metre-wide new track and the 4m wide stone track alongside.

Amazingly the cows queued up to use the new track and came in single file at a good pace and did not stop to dung or pee – just as Mr Hughes claimed. Only two cows walked on the stone track for the full distance. &#42

Mike Lemmeys cows queued up to walk along the new track in single file, with only two cows choosing to walk on the stones instead of the new bark.

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Archive Article: 1996/04/26

26 April 1996

CONFUSION, frustration, exasperation, what a month.

Am I missing something? Is there any scientific evidence to prove that scrapie or BSE has ever jumped the species barrier? In fact, several scientific papers suggest the complete opposite, even when experiments try to do so in the laboratory.

One can only hope, at this late stage, that common sense prevails, and needless slaughter is avoided. If it has to come, the first animals to go should be scientists who say "could be", "most likely", "in the absence of any credible alternatives", and so on.

The farming and food industry must not fight over compensation. We are all losers in this situation. One section should not appear to get full compensation while others are left to bear the cost. If there is any compensation it should be to those whose businesses have and are continuing to have the greatest financial loss due to the BSE crisis.

We sold 16 bulls this week as our abattoir, which supplies local butchers, started killing again. Prices were down on last month by £126 a head on a 280kg carcass. I hope it is helping beef recover. It proves the only thing the public is interested in, is price.

Grass still refuses to grow, with only four weeks until normal silage making time (about May 12). To add insult to injury, our arable crop consultant, Robert Sullivan, thinks that 79ha (32 acres) of late planted wheat (Oct 19) is too thin and will not comply with the IACS rules.

The grass plots of Aberlan, Aubisque and Twins drilled in the autumn as straights and as mixtures, will be assessed for mid-season D-value. It should prove interesting for the British Grassland Societys summer tour delegates in July. With grass at only two inches high, marked differences in tillering and ground cover are apparent already.

Returning to the BSE crisis – could there be a silver lining to this black cloud for beef farmers, just as there has been for dairy farmers and milk quotas, and arable farmers with arable aid payments and current high grain prices against predictions for wheat at £85/t? We live in hope.n

Compensation due to the BSE crisis should go to the businesses that have suffered, and are continuing to suffer, the greatest financial loss, says Don.

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Archive Article: 1996/04/26

26 April 1996

WHAT has happened of any importance on farms this month? Well, besides calving, lambing and, spring, a season normally full of new life and hope, has seen livelihoods turned into doom and despair due to a government report.

The report on BSE reaches out to every farm in the country, both arable and livestock and right down the food chain. It told us no more than the Dec 13 statement. But, after attracting what can best be described as hysterical media coverage supported by one or two questionable experts in one foul swoop the British beef industry has been devastated.

The inability of our government to face up to the facts and make positive decisions quickly has compounded the problems many times over. Stocks of cow meat blocking up slaughterhouses chills. What do we do with prime cattle over 30 months, not to mention the 45,000 cast cows lying back to be slaughtered. Chaos after only three weeks. We need action now.

The return of public confidence will require a huge effort to restore and we must get it right. The buying and eating habits of the consumer will determine our future.

A publicity campaign based on good, sound scientific facts not fiction will make a start. We must take this opportunity to show our customers that we can stand up to any examination or scrutiny. Farm assurance and traceability will play a key role.

The only small ray of hope in the situation is that as frenzied reporters move on to their next prey, we can sensibly reorganise our beef marketing programme.

Now must be the time to promote the less intensive, greener image of suckler beef, clearly branding it as prime. This will allow the poorer dairy beef to fill the gap in the manufacturing market, and ensure that a superior quality product is clearly recognised by the consumer. In my opinion, this is a step which must be taken to regain suckler profit.

Another government report has, however, gone down more favourably with me. It stated that you can consume up to three glasses of alcohol a day, instead of just the one, without adversely affecting your health. At least that is how I interpreted it – perhaps it was released to help us face the first report!n

The government may be responsible for the media hysteria over BSE but at least it recently allowed Peter Scott to drink extra whisky – without risking his health.

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Archive Article: 1996/04/26

26 April 1996

Nick Holt-Martyn, ADAS senior dairy consultant, believes UK genetic improvement is beginning to show signs of paying off. Herds have the potential to average 8000 litres in five years.

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