Archive Article: 1997/12/26 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

After a year of doom and

gloom, we thought you

might like a laugh for

Christmas. So weve

collected together a few of

the more bizarre pictures our

photographers have,

inadvertently, snapped at

markets and sales this year.

Proof that, contrary to

popular belief, the camera

does sometimes lie.

Hopefully you, like the

people featured, will see

the funny side…

Rounding up cattle can sometimes be a handful but outnumbering them six-to-one is, surely, a little bit over the top. This animal was among those sold at Marlock Farm, Gunthorpe in June, where the top price was £1500 for a Belgian Blue fifth-calver with her eight-week-old steer calf.

The new cattle passports have to be kept somewhere, admittedly…

Whats this, a flying flock… Welsh Halfbreds were up for grabs at the Ruthin sale in early September. The event saw yearling ewes average £80.67.

Hows that! Apparently heaven sent, this sheep was among those making an appearance at an offering at Ingham Showground, Suffolk in October. The day saw average prices of £39.52 for lambs and £61.60 for shearling ewes.

This one gets in for sheer bravery. Nearly November and, at a time when most people are dusting off the scarves and balaclavas, we discovered someone still in shorts. The event was a sheep flock dispersal in Gloucestershire, where in-lamb ewes were particularly sought after. Four-tooth Suffolk cross ewes made to £88.50.

It was this big. No, not a fishy story from cattle judge Eric Schofield at Chelfords Christmas primestock show and sale, but, it seems, an integral part of the judging process. He found his champion in a 605kg Belgian Blue cross Limousin steer which made 155p/kg.

Graffiti artists target pigs… sadly, however, its been a year when the writing has been on the wall, rather than the stock, for producers. Pigs go up and pigs go down, so the saying goes, and this year theyve certainly gone down. By early December, spot prices were about 63p/kg, compared with 97p/kg 12 months before.

Arise… a knighting ceremony apparently under way in East Anglia. More likely, its one of the September sale-goers at Hill Farm, Papworth, taking the weight off his feet for a moment or two. Auctioneers report a busy autumn for machinery dispersals. At this one, the highest bid was £50,000 for a K-reg New Holland TX36 combine.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Beef men can learn lots from Uncle Sam

Can the British beef industry learn anything from Uncle Sam? Perhaps the answer is Yes. After all, 20 years of US research has produced a composite breeding programme that delivers consistently high quality beef which meets market specification 90% of the time.

Moreover, US beef producers claim they could increase production to satisfy the EU market within four years.

That is a threat the UK producers cannot afford to ignore. Our first line of defence should be to improve breeding programmes to increase the proportion of beef which achieves retailer specification.

Then perhaps we could really teach Uncle Sam a thing or two about top quality beef marketing and production based on high welfare standards.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Group-housed dry sow feeding a headache

Its no easy task feeding group housed dry sows to eliminate bullying and meet individual needs. That is a particular challenge facing pig producers investing in electronic sow feeding equipment.

To get the best out of such systems, which are the main alternative to stalls for individual feed control, both stockmen and the pigs in their care need adequate training.

In fact, dump feeding systems, often considered the cheaper and inferior option at less than half the cost, can work just as well when managed properly.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Love-hate links twixt man and machine

If things can go wrong, they will go wrong; usually at the most inconvenient moment. Why does the tractor need refuelling only on Saturday mornings, just before that important job you want to finish before taking a rare afternoon off?

Likewise, why do tyres go flat only at weekends? Of course its not just tractors that choose the worst of times to go wrong.

Combines and sprayers are particularly good at letting us down just at that crucial moment. For a light-hearted look at the love-hate relationship between man and machine, read this weeks Machinery section.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Quick test to sort out grass weed resistance

Herbicide resistant grass weeds are demons most cereal growers want to avoid. So its good to hear of a quick test to spot problems at an early stage.

The test, which confirms the presence of resistance, could end the spurious advice pedaled by those wanting to boost sales of other herbicides.

So far 5% of the total blackgrass area in the UK is subject to resistance. That means the vast majority of growers have normal blackgrass on their land. Although they need to bear the problem of resistance in mind to prevent it developing, the last thing they need is fear-mongering advice.

Hopefully, the new test should make a devil of a job that much easier.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Assurance doubts are based mainly on cost

Do consumers worry about food safety? Yes. Do retailers want to ensure the food they sell is safe? Definitely. So why the reluctance by arable farmers to join the assured combinable crops scheme?

Cost is obviously a major concern. Few farms can afford to pay up to £350 a year for what is little more than standard farm practice rubber stamped. Further more, if 30,000 arable farms join the scheme at an average cost of £200/year, someone will be gaining £6m.

No wonder most arable farmers are incensed. They know buyers want evidence that UK grain is fit for its use. But is this the most cost effective way of achieving that? It seems unlikely.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Need a lockable trailer which can be used to transport chemicals in? Nicholson Machinery, based at Downham Market, Norfolk, has developed this Trailasafe unit which, says the company, can hold about 400 litres of liquid chemicals or up to 1t of powders. Constructed from steel and sealed to prevent leakages, the Trailasafe costs £1600 – a price which includes overrun brakes, ball hitch towbar and road lighting.

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Archive Article: 1997/12/26

26 December 1997

Most farmers who limped,

BSE-battered, through 1996

thought 1997 could not

possibly be any worse. But

they were wrong. It was a

year when prosperity fell in

just about every sector. But

it was not all doom and

gloom… Here, in the first of

two articles, FW remembers

the years key events from

the auctioneers rostrum


Cold weather – but there is not much of a trade for hay and straw, as ample supplies and lower livestock numbers take their toll. Ewes with lambs are making more than £50 a life, while manufacturing demand helps take cull ewe values to over £100. And that is something a lot of auctioneers have never seen before. Meanwhile the Intervention Board abandons its attempt to ban livestock marts holding auctions of over 30-month-old cattle, while also acting as collection centres for the BSE cull.


A capacity crowd at Perth Bull Sales sees bidding for Aberdeen Angus stock rise to 11,000gns and average £3385. Growing interest in the breed marketing schemes is a factor. Farmer Phil Hook is among the members of the Hailsham Market Action Group marching on the House of Lords as part of their fight against the closure of the Sussex mart. Pig prices rise as news of swine fever outbreaks in Holland prompt fears of supply shortage. And a German buyer pays the top price for a female at the spring show and sale of Galloways at Castle Douglas – even though the on-going export ban means the 3200gns heifer has to stay in the UK.


Concern is widespread among farmers at the impact of the BSE selective cull. It is now a year on from Stephen Dorrells infamous remarks about a probable link between BSE and CJD, yet beef prices are below 100p/kg lw. At Exeter, the entry of new-season lambs outnumbers hoggets for the first time in the year. This is a month for Easter lamb shows, at which the best are making more than 200p/kg lw. Exporters looking to send lambs to northern Europe, however, are finding the going tough in the face of the strong £ sterling. Greenslade Hunt hold the countrys first auction of forward-leasing milk quota, where values average 11.1p/litre.


Values of grass park lets in Scotland are down by a third in some cases, as the BSE crisis and falling milk prices take their toll. Farmers are bidding hard for store cattle – some say too hard in the face of the depressed finished trade. Some help for the market comes as nearly 5000t of steer beef is accepted into intervention at the months first tender. A new UK record average for Holstein Friesian cattle of £5796 is seen at the HFSs Spring Selection Sale in Lancashire. Lamb prices, meanwhile, are under pressure from New Zealand supplies.


A change of government comes – and farmers wonder what it will mean for the countryside. Those that are not too busy rushing to beat the May 15 deadline for IACS forms, that is. There is no sign of a let-up for demand for good quality dogs, with the Bala Sheepdogs Societys auction seeing a top price of 2080gns, a record for this event. Fans of the Dorset breed of sheep flocked to – yes, you guessed – Dorset for the annual sale. Livestock auctioneers, meanwhile, defend the high standards of British beef.


Show season is under way around the country. A wet one, certainly, at the Royal Highland Show, with 2in of rain falling in four days. Attendance at the event near Edinburgh was 150,000, down 10,000 on the previous year. Dairy farmers looking to buy had some top-notch stock to choose from, with the first of two sales from Peter Padfields Hayleys herd taking place, as well as an offering from the high-indexing Chadwick herd. It was the end of an era at Sturminster Newton, when the market closed its doors.

lFor the second half of the year see next weeks issue. &#42

Looking for a sign where prices could go… It is proving to be a year of mixed fortunes for sheep farmers.

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