Archive Article: 1996/06/07 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

The cream of the crop… Shalama Black Pamela goes through the ring at Mondays sale of the Shalama herd in Dorset. Spirited bidding ensured she attracted the days top price. To find what she made – and for full sale details – see Stock and Sales Update on page 33.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

Harvest is a way off, but preparations have already started. Here Beds farmer Philip Maxey (left) gets his moisture meter checked at a special clinic organised by Perstorp International at Bedfordia Grain Services, Beds. The company hopes to develop a nationwide network for moisture meter calibration, launching the concept at a series of clinics throughout the country this June. More details next week.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

AUCTIONEERS

COMMENT

AUCTIONEER

Terry Hamlin

Stags

(Tiverton Office)

THIS will be another bumper season for standing straw sales, predicts Terry Hamlin.

"When the first auctions kick off later this month, prices will be similar, or slightly above last year, when wheat and barley straw were regularly making £124/ha (£50/acre) and £112/ha (£45/acre), respectively."

The premium obtainable for barley straw reflects its relative scarcity and its feeding potential, says Mr Hamlin.

"Also in the equation this year is the BSE crisis, which has left many farmers – forced to retain cattle – facing depleted hay and straw supplies.

"Many dealers are saying they have had a busier May than ever before. Hay and straw usually comes to the south-west in large quantities from Wiltshire and Hampshire; recently I have heard reports of it coming from as far afield as Leicestershire and Kent."

Carting the straw such distances is obviously reflected in the price, and that is why standing samples, in heavily-populated livestock areas, can be so valuable. Yields, meanwhile, range from 2.5t to 5t/ha (1t to 2t/acre).

As straw has become more valuable, so the area offered has increased. This trend also reflects the increasing size of farms. "As regards timeliness, there is ever more pressure on harvesting, cultivation and replanting operations.

"Selling the straw crop takes the pressure off the vendor. He can then concentrate on harvesting and the onus is on the buyer to remove the straw from the field.

"The burning ban also prompted farmers to look for ways to use – and gain an income from – straw.

"If the potential return amounts to a substantial sum, it means that advertising – sometimes on a national scale – can be justified."

The most valuable straw crops are:

&#8226 High in yield.

&#8226 Clean, with few wild oats etc.

&#8226 Accessible location.

&#8226 Good field access with wide gate ways.

&#8226 Large, level, uniform fields.

"We prefer to conduct auctions at the field side, although collective auctions make sense when there are many small acreages from different areas to be sold.

"But the advantage of holding the sale in the field is that the purchaser can walk and inspect the crop.

"With most of our sales tending to be on the better ground – and with most of the crops being autumn-sown – the harvest often proceeds within a few days of the auction.

"The buyer will then have a set period – often 14 days – within which he must remove the straw. Obviously if the weather turns bad, then this may be extended by agreement.

"Agreements also place conditions on the seller – for instance that he must cut the straw as low to the ground as is practically possible."

During the three-week run-up to mid-July, Stags expects to sell over 1011ha (2500 acres) of standing straw.

Probably the largest single offering will be the 200ha (500 acres) for Ross May at Nether Exe on Jun 29. Last year this achieved a top price of £138/ha (£56/acre) for oat straw, recalls Mr Hamlin.

STORE PIGS: Ashford, Kent last week, saw medium-weights sell to £64.50, averaging £53.74; and strong stores (12 to 16 weeks) reach £78.50, levelling £74.38. (Hobbs Parker)

FORAGE: First-quality seeds hay averaged £137/t at Chelford, Cheshire on Monday; second-quality loads levelled £103/t. Barley straw, wheat straw and stock-feed potatoes averaged £66/t, £52/t and £13/t respectively. Total entry was 116t. (Frank R Marshall and Co.)

MACHINERY: A recent dispersal at Springhill Farm, Tean, Staffs, on behalf of Messrs Bostock Bros saw prices including: Twose flat roll, £360; Taarup 307 mower conditioner, £1950; David Brown 1210 4WD c/w loader, £2180; Collins Teleshift TS 440 D-reg, £4000. (Bagshaws)

CALVES: Bull calf averages at Chippenham, Wilts, last Friday included £67 for Friesians; £147 Herefords; £136 Limousins; £159 Simmentals; and £118 Belgian Blues. (Alder King)

Demand for straw will be strong again, says Terry Hamlin.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

APART from some abnormally cold weather, wind hampering spraying schedules has been the main problem for the Cockayne brothers, Chris and Ian, at Top Brackendale Farm, Cropwell Butler, Notts.

All the wheats have been treated at varying growth stages from GS34 (fourth node detectable) onwards with a mix of 0.6 litres/ha of cyproconazole and 0.5 litres/ha of chlorothalonil, mainly against septoria. "There wasnt any need to go earlier," comments Ian, who believes treatment sooner is often merely "cosmetic". "As long as you protect the top three leaves you are all right." Brigadier appears much cleaner than Consort and Riband, he notes.

Addition of copper, required in some cases, scorched leaf three. But later than normal first fungicide means there is now some leeway for flag leaf treatments, he believes.

With only four frost-free days in the first 18 of May, sugar beet growth was initially slow. "It has been terrific in the last few days – but so has the weed growth," says Chris. "Post-emergence Debut (triflusulfuron methyl) seems to be working well. But with spray timings stretched to a month instead of the more normal 10-14 days, the final outcome remains to be seen. "We just havent had the weed flushes," he explains.

Winter oilseed rape, flowering three weeks adrift of normal, should, by now have received a Konker (carbendazim + vinclozolin)/Fastac (alpha-cypermethrin) mix to keep diseases and pests at bay.

Optic spring barley for seed, perhaps a bit over-thick, has mildew in the bottom despite Ferrax (ethirimol + flutriafol + thiabendazole) seed treatment. A 0.62 litres/ha Contrast (carbendazim + flusilazole)/0.35 litres/ha Corbel (fenpropimorph) is planned. "We need to knock it down now," Chris stresses.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

THERE have been few dry days recently at Acton House, Poyntzpass, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, where John Bests potatoes, which went in late because of earlier cold, were still not up by the end of the month. Saving grace is that they escaped frost damage which hit some earlier planted crops, he says.

"It was very cold and dry at the beginning of May, but it has been very wet in the past two weeks." One bonus is that the moisture brought a flush of cereal growth. "The wheat has really taken off."

Most of the flag leaf sprays – 0.75 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) + 1 litre/ha of Bravo (chlorothalonil) – have gone on, along with his standard Cerone (2-chloroethylphosphonic acid) second growth regulator at 0.4 litres/ha (about 10% up on last year because of the conditions). "There is septoria in the bottom. I had been contemplating less Folicur if it had stayed dry. Now I am wondering if I should have used more."

Winter oats barely moved after their first Barleyquat (chlormequat) growth regulator, but have levelled up with the help of their final top dressing, he reports. This brings the total N to 150kg/ha (120 units/acre) – slightly up on last year as a test. "Now I am wondering if that was right with all the rain we have had." &#42

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

"WE have had to apply to the court to have an administrator appointed" was the stark news from Cricket St Thomas Dairies Ltd (in administration), that put my own farming right out of mind for the next few days. "I wanted you to be one of the first to know." I wanted never to know that sort of news. Ironically, I was due to meet the chief executive a fortnight later to improve our working relationship.

Being involved in running one of the several independent milk groups supplying that dairy my immediate concern was for the individual members. Life has been dominated by meetings, phone calls and legal implications ever since. There is a ray of hope, if not yet light at the end of the tunnel to salvage something if producers stick together, whilst Camelot Milk Ltd has a package of proposals to introduce for our own members.

The next lesson is for groups such as mine to start banding together to maximise commercial security and overcome the "local warlord" syndrome. I had just proposed the formation of such a Guild of Independent Milk Groups under a rotating chairmanship to start the process in Devon. This would take us in and spread east and north, since I knew groups of 10m or 100m litres of milk are not strong enough to stand up to the larger dairies and their city-slicker backers. But the first priority is to endeavour to regain all monies that members with no insurance cover have lost.

We finished silage with a second go before the end of May and for the first time for years used acid on heavy, wet crops.

We have already taken 31822 litres (7000gal) of effluent away in the first 24 hours from 457.2 t (450 tons) in our new silage clamp. It looks like some cows will be on green soup next winter.

The late spring has kept the herd very tight for grass, so pastures are certainly grazed tight to produce quality swards as they start to grow in early June. Cutting cake back while silage has run out has been a real balancing act. We aimed for 0.04kg/litre and only just got below 0.1kg in May so there is ground to make up this month.

Marshall Taylor is involved in running an independent milk group and believes the next step forward is for similar groups to band together.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

CROP growth has been so slow at Lour Farms, near Forfar, that manager Mike Cumming reckons wheat harvest may not start until October. "We generally expect to see the flag leaf by June 1," he says. But some late-sown crops were not far past GS32 (second node) by then. "Wheat harvest in Scotland will be pushed back to the end of September unless we get an exceptional summer."

Apart from an unwelcome appearance of new age travellers, an apparently growing problem in the area, the most noticeable feature in the past month has been cereal colour. "We havent had that lovely dark green you normally get at this time of year." Crops are pale, and many suffered leaf tipping from Sportak Delta (cyproconazole + prochloraz) fungicide used at GS32.

"We have also had to treat three fields with manganese which is unusual. I think it must be the conditions." Elemental sulphur also went on to one field after soil and tissue tests suggested its sluggish nitrogen response was due to S shortage. "We sprayed 10kg/ha and it greened up within a few days. Next year we will probably use ammonium nitrate with sulphur as the first top dressing across the board," says Mr Cumming.

Good spraying days have been rare – about two in seven, he estimates. "It has been taking a long time to get round." Main surprise was bad mildew in Aintree oats, which needed a knock-down spray of 0.5 litres/ha of BAS464 (fenpropimorph) + 0.2 litres/ha of Sanction (flusilazole) along with their full-dose chlormequat regulator at GS32. "I am really pleased to see the disease hasnt jumped to the upper leaves."

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

Keeping spraying programmes on target has been tricky on farmers weeklys more northerly barometer farms. But the overriding feature throughout May on all four was the cold.

Andrew Blake reports

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

What the agents say

"Designations affect the market when it is on the slide, when people are looking for excuses." Richard Denny, Cluttons, London.

"If marginal ground lies both inside and outside an ESA, people will plump for the ESA block because of the financial support it provides." David Hebditch, Humberts, Taunton.

"Sales (by auction) conducted by this office would suggest that an ESA designation may increase land values by 10-15% whilst an SSSI designation may lead to a decrease in bare land values by as much as 20%." Nigel Foster, George F White, Bedale

"We simply do not have the market evidence to support individual theories." Leo Hickish, Strutt & Parker, Chelmsford.

"I think one of the most important aspects is public access. A lot of farmers dont want it and, if they are buying, will want to be able to pull out of an agreement that allows it." Paul Austin, R B Taylor & Sons, Yeovil.

"Where land is in a National Park, or ESA etc, we use it as a marketing strategy to show what sort of income you can get from the grants." Robin Thomas, Strutt & Parker, Exeter.

"A strong market, particularly in the arable sector, means that less attention is paid to these designations. As the market settles, the greater the chance that they will create differentials in valuation." Nicholas Leeming, Humberts

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

AT last with the recent rain the grass has begun to grow properly and hopefully will rapidly make up for the poor rate of growth during most of April and May. The cows have remained split into two groups with the high yielders being buffer fed silage and caustic wheat in a ratio of 10:2. Last year even with plenty of grass in front of the cows, milk quality suffered when fed grass alone and maize gluten in parlour.

If in May we produce 100,000 litres of milk of better quality (see table), we will have produced an extra 300kg fat which will require quota for 7712 litres at 3.89% fat at 12ppl, totalling £925. Additional income of £1680 less quota £925 leaves £755 margin before feed costs. The buffer feed has not only increased constituent values but also increased volume.

The delayed slaughter arrangements for old cows has not had too much direct effect for us, with two cows sold through the scheme and three waiting to go. When I prepared the cash flow for this year in early March, one part of the calculations included looking at total cow numbers and concluding that with current winter accommodation some 20-new calved cows and heifers would have to be sold before autumn. Last week we prepared one cow and one heifer, the cow went lame on the morning of the sale and the heifer sold for considerably less than I thought she was worth, particularly as she was full pedigree with a good PIN value. Hopefully as more people get cows away under the slaughter scheme they will return to the dairy ring with more confidence and I can develop a better trade for my home-bred good quality pedigree cows and heifers.


No buffer (95)Buffer (96)

3.89% Fat4.19% Fat

3.14% Protn3.34% Protn

Payment

Fat @ 3.18%12.3713.32

Protein @ 3.66%11.4912.22

TBC/SCC0.40.4

Group0.50.5

Transport0.60.6

__________

25.3627.04

Difference 1.68ppl

Robert Morris-Eytons herd is split in two with high yielders buffer fed silage and caustic wheat after milk quality suffered last year when grass and maize gluten were offered.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

Three calves have been lost at Fan Farm. Two due to bad weather and one born dead after its dam succumbed to a bout of milk fever.

ONE should not assume to make silage on a certain day and be confident enough to put a date down in print, for you are certain to fail.

This spring has certainly been difficult from grass growth to the beef crisis. Its just as well livestock farmers thrive on challenges!

As I write it looks as though silage will be delayed until June because of the changeable weather. Fortunately, due to the coldness of the season, grass looks like holding back on going to head which should help with keeping quality up. The delay of 12 days in harvesting puts the cattle grazing area under tremendous pressure. So we were lucky to get 11 store cattle away in May along with two grazing cows. Cattle prices are still edging downwards with steers doing 115p/kg and heifers 100p/kg. The cows made a respectable 75p/kg which is money in the bank. With fertiliser bills to pay it was essential to re-establish a cashflow for the business to continue.

Ever the optimist Ive been up to Carlisles spring Limousin sale and purchased a second stock bull. We succeeded in purchasing Bangley Jacob from D A Williams of Shifnal, Shropshire – well known for their quality stock. Hes a two-year-old, with scope for being a large, lengthy bull when fully grown. Having been used last autumn on heifers there was no problem in turning him out with 20 cows here. A lot of the bulls on offer at todays sales are very often over-fit to use immediately and require a two month break to get them into working condition. With two bulls on the farm we should be able to go for a denser calving pattern.

On the theme of calving, the first calves born from Sheelin Hugo have arrived, with several showing good potential. Due partly to the bad weather weve lost three calves this season, a higher rate than usual. Weve also had two cows with milk fever/staggers both of which recovered but one later produced a dead calf – loss number one.

As they say: "It never rains but it pours." How apt. After all the trials of this spring lets look forward to the summer and hope we didnt get two summers last year and none this.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

John Downes says that despite the weather the maize had been drilled and the fodder beet had emerged.

OUR dairy herd has been very glad to receive maize silage as a buffer this spring.

We set out to graze 40 acres including 32 acres of autumn reseed. After continuous grazing the heavy rainstorms have led to poaching and we have now relented and begun strip grazing a silage ley to allow the seeds to recover.

The bank holiday has passed and unsettled weather continues. The clover leys are not heading but plans for a break after silage now suggest a busmans holiday in Durham. I am sure Don Wilkinson has something special for the BGS summer tour.

The delaying weather has allowed us to resurface 400sq m of self-feed silo using a 0.5in screed of dense concrete topped with a polymer/cement paste. The original floor has some sections over 25 years old.

We entertained four groups of visitors in May from Pembroke, Powys, Denmark and Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Comparisons are telling, with the three Baltic states receiving no government support or import tariffs – a threatened agriculture. But the Danes were a committed group of agricultural students. They all wished to farm in countryside with few hedges or trees, controls on fertiliser and pesticide use and severe slurry storage demands. After their five-year course of study and practical their diploma would entitle them to government help to begin farming.

The two Welsh grassland societies were also enthusiastic but I had to admit they were entering a grass-free zone, clover and frost not being a happy combination. I am sure they left remembering Chriss supper rather than the short grass.

Despite the weather, the maize is in and the fodder beet up. The unseasonal weather may have been responsible for our first case of mastitis in a ewe lamb. Last year Peter had 10 or more cases on the same pastures and we are wondering what we have changed this time. The lambs are now finishing, as the grass is now meeting the 800 plus hungry mouths on four fields grazed in rotation. We have finally closed off two fields for baled silage and they will be glad of the recent rains.

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Archive Article: 1996/06/07

7 June 1996

Topping the Grassland 96 "cor blimey" stakes had to be this monster Vredo tractor, coupled up to a front-mounted Kemper Champion chopper. Powered by a 320hp Deutz water-cooled motor, the rigid chassis VT3206 is four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer and shod on massive 800/45-30.5 Trelleborgs. On show to demonstrate its versatility, the tractor is priced at £113,000. We conclude our grassland coverage (page 80) with a look at wrappers/handlers.

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