Archive Article: 1998/07/31 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998

Amazing maize maze… Denis and Marion Beare have turned a five-acre field of maize at Tulleys Farm, Turners Hill, West Sussex, into a lucrative tourist attraction. Five people spent a week pulling plants out of the crop to create the dragon, and the Beares now charge the public £4/head to negotiate their way through the puzzle.

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Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998

GRASS growth remains adequate around the country at about 65kg DM/ha a day, and rain means this is expected to continue, writes BGS consultant Paul Bird.

Producers aiming to extend the grazing season are beginning to think about lengthening the grazing rotation to 30 days to build grass cover. Growth needs to be 10-15kgDM/ha a day above the grass eaten a hectare for cover to build. Nitrogen in August and September may be needed to achieve that.

The quality of grass built up for autumn grazing is more important than the quantity. There are two months left to improve quality through grazing pressure or topping (bottoming). Start now if you have not already done so.

Reseeding is a topic of conversation at discussion groups, but is often given too high a priority.

In most cases, if there is enough ryegrass in the sward, reseeding is not required. Modifying grazing management will give the highest return on investment rather than getting the chequebook out. If reseeding is required, it is often because of poor management.

Continuous silage making encourages weed infestation, particularly docks. Cutting down on silage or alternating with grazing will increase pasture life.

Tight grazing and occasional topping throughout the grazing season is the best management for encouraging ryegrass. Letting poor quality grass build up in the sward base over the summer and autumn for sheep to clean up in the winter encourages annual grass species.

Both clover and ryegrass perform well if after a tight one- to two-day grazing period they are left to regrow (rotational grazing).

If somebody is trying to sell you a five-year grazing ley, they have probably inadvertently left a zero off, it should be a 50-year grazing ley.

If reseeding is required, aim to minimise the amount of horsepower and the number of times this horsepower drives up and down your fields. Consider spraying existing pasture with glyphosate and direct drilling. Where cultivating, aim to work no more than the top inch of soil and broadcast seed.

Grass growth – previous 7 days (kg DM/ha a day)

Sussex – Christian Fox 87

Pembrokeshire – Richard John 50

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Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998

IN BRIEF

&#8226 NEW drinking milk regulations have been released for industry consultation by MAFF.

The rules, which will replace existing ones and enforce an EU regulation, include a change in the upper limit for fat in skimmed milk to 0.5% (from the current 0.3%.

There will also be a ban on selling as drinking milk any product imported to the EU which does not comply with the new regulations.

&#8226 THE winner of the competition to guess the number of footballs packed into the cab of a tractor parked on the farmers weekly stand at the Royal Show is William Bratt of Barton Need Wood, Burton-on-Trent, Staffs.

There were 3,200 entries, eight of which gave the correct number of 249. Mr Bratts name was drawn from the correct entries. He wins a mountain bike. &#42

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Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998

IN BRIEF

&#8226 MARKETED in May, the Stoneythorpe Estate, near Southam, Warwicks, now is sold for a figure well over £2m; the guide price for the whole was £1.8m.

After interest in the whole and the lots it was bought by one buyer who intends to restore the hall – it needs at least £250,000 spending on it – and manage the estate in-hand, says Richard Brook, Lane Fox, who handled the sale.

&#8226 ABOUT 645 acres in south Devon were offered at auction recently by Luscombe Maye Hands Hughes including three dairy farms and 200 acres of bare land.

For sale due to retirement two dairy farms – 112 and 231 acres – sold for £349,000 and £670,000, respectively.

Each included a dwelling and ranges of modern farm buildings but no milk quota.

An 81-acre dairy farm near South Brent failed to reach its reserve and was withdrawn at £263,000 but sold privately after the auction.

&#8226 TWO lots of land eligible for arable area aid were withdrawn from auction recently.

The land at Cotwalton, near Stone, Staffs, was split into 34- and 36-acre blocks, which were withdrawn at £1948/acre and £2015/acre by auctioneer, Bagshaws.

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Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998

FARMERFOCUS

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah Speckled Face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

AT the end of last month we marketed stock in two different ways. One was in the local cattle market where trade was good with heifers up £50/head to average just under £1/kg, and the other was in the local army barracks which is the Army Headquarters of Wales. This was part of the MOD meat working group initiative which is promoting innovative uses of forequarter British beef and lamb.

Silage was cut ten days later than the optimum. However with the predicted price of wheat and barley this year, it will probably be as well to take larger crops of silage and include more cereals in the finishing ration.

I must get a good system sorted for rolling and feeding grain with the present price difference between cereals, straights and cake. With the single bull premium, barley beef looks more attractive and with the likelihood of the CPAS coming to an end its a sector thats going to expand, but lets hope its not at the expense of the already battered suckler sector.

Lambs are coming on, but not as well as last year, as aftermaths have been slower to rejuvenate. Trade is starting to drop which surely means well have some nearly ready to market.

With this in mind I sent my cheque to the Farmers Ferry. Lets hope all sheep producers support it. Another marketing option locally is the mobile slaughterhouse, which is small in scale and aimed at a high value niche market. Mistakes have been made in the past, but its ready to roll, so lets use it and create local employment.

Ive now handed over the chairmanship of Wales Young Farmers Club. The last few years have been eventful, but its easy to be captain of a good team throughout Wales.

A job I accepted six months ago, was to get one union for Wales. Its something that can only succeed if the respective memberships want it. I strongly believe it is vital for the future survival of family farms in Wales and the UK. &#42

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms in

partnership with his parents

on an organic, mixed 370ha

(915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes, 50

beef cross stores and 70 beef

cross calves. Winter wheat,

barley, oats and beans are

also grown, and sold on the

organic market.

SECOND cut silage is now finished after some frustration with the rain. This was mainly caused by the fact that we had to turn the swath, and in the process lost two turner tines. The forager found one – bang! – and a member of staff found the other.

The red clover has been dominant in the second cut silage. It needed time to wilt, as it analysed at 16% DM. But the protein level was good at 20%. Estimating the heap of silage already clamped, it looks as though there will be about 2400 tonnes.

If our calculations are correct, we have cut an average of 7t/acre at each cut, over first and second cuts. I would expect about 6t/acre for third cut, again being a high quality red clover dominant sward.

I have recently decided to use a consultant to help improve any parts of the livestock enterprises that may need brushing up. We need to maximise grass and silage use, and reduce concentrates if possible.

The wet summer has been great news for the clover, the fields are white with clover flowers. Bloat caught us out when we lost a cow on a wet day in early July. As a preventative measure, all milking cows are offered 7kg of silage after morning milking, and 10kg of silage after evening milking before they go back out to grass.

All 63 of the in-calf heifers have been freeze branded. We always keep a large group of heifers with the aim of selling about 20 as down calvers to other organic dairy farmers. It is a policy that has continued for many years, and I plan to rear more heifers as the demand for organically reared livestock and milk is still rising.

Hay making is painfully slow this year, it should have all been finished by now, but there is still about 50 acres left to cut, mostly SSSI land that is usually quite late maturing, so its not really hurting. The barley is ready, so all we need now is a few fine days.

The mechanical roguer has been busy this last month, going through all the organic wheat crops, cutting off the heads of the wild oats. It certainly makes harvesting a lot easier, and reduces the weed burden for the subsequent years. &#42

Christian Fox

Christian Fox milks 270

autumn calving cows plus

followers and manages

146ha (360 acres) at

Crouchlands Farm near

Billingshurst in West

Sussex. The system is

geared to profit and lower

production costs, so grazed

grass and grass silage are

the main feeds. Average

yield is 5600 litres.

JULY is a time for drying-off and foot trimming at Crouchlands. Cows due to calve during the first week of September are dried off on one day during the first week of July. Those to calve during the second week follow, and so on.

On July 31 all remaining cows, including those due in October and the few November calvers are dried off. The whole herd is dry for August and this is a time for parlour and building chores and holidays. This year sees both happening in bigger ways than usual, as the parlour is being re-vamped and I am getting married and going on honeymoon.

I have been told that my honeymoon is definitely not a time to visit farms. However, I am allowed to go and see one dairy farm I have been in touch with via E-mail, near Seattle, Washington, USA.

Second cut was nearly as late as first cut, but is now underway. We have only used about 100 acres as the core of our grazing this year, incredible when you think this has fed 270 cows all of their requirements since May.

The rotation length has been 12 days for the last six weeks. Although grass growth has dropped slightly of late, we are drying off cows so herd intake has also dropped.

Milking cows have been getting 12 hour paddocks for several rounds now. They are doing a better job than when offered 24-hour blocks, and seem happier as they have a fresh area to graze at each feed. I have also tightened up the area offered, putting a slight edge on their appetite. Residual covers are now about 1650kg DM/ha – which is good for this time of year, when swards tend to be slightly coarser at the base.

This is my last month of writing from Crouchlands Farm. Next month I am taking up a new position running a 100-cow unit in West Sussex, suited to a grazing based system. I am also working as a consultant with both New Zealander Paul Bird and independent consultant Kay Carslaw. &#42

John Geldard

John Geldard and family farm

175ha (430 acres) near

Kendal in the Lake District.

Stock now comprises of 100

suckler cows with progeny

finished alongside 200+

bought in stores, 1000 ewes

– 160 pedigree Charollais

plus Llyens – and ewe lamb

replacements, with a 25,000

bird poultry enterprise.

Last month I mentioned that we had made silage, but had still got 20 acres of hay to make. Well, we still have 20 acres to make and our second cut silage is nearly ready.

In the last month we have been busy showing sheep at shows, many of which have also suffered with the weather. But the weather did not deter the Farmers Ferry organisers who spent all week canvassing at the Royal Welsh Show.

We have all heard quite a lot about the Farmers Ferry recently and I admire those farmers who have devoted their time in an attempt to do something for the industry.

I personally believe that its in the interest of every British sheep producer to put his hand in his pocket and support this venture.

Many of us have concerns, but we must be positive rather than negative. Let us not forget that our British standards for animal welfare and transit regulations are of the highest in the world. We are trading within a single European Union community and we must make sure that our industry has equal opportunity within it.

The changeable weather has certainly put the stock under stress in the last few weeks. We lost a three-month-old calf with pneumonia and had a cow with staggers which fortunately recovered. Vets say these sort of problems have been much more common this year.

We have weaned all the lambs and sorted out surplus ewe lambs to sell as the entries for the Lleyn sales are now closed with the number entered up by 25%. However with the interest in the breed, the extra numbers forward will easily be absorbed.

All the ewe lambs have been vaccinated with Heptavac P and the wether lambs with Ovivac P, hoping that prevention is better than cure.

Also on the sheep front, all the Charollais ewes have been AId to lamb in December. In the next few weeks we also have the start of the ram sales with the Charollais. Trade similar to last year would be quite acceptable, whether this is maintained remains to be seen. &#42

Recent changeable weather has lead to pneumonia and staggers in cattle, says John Geldard.

Christian Fox has spent July drying-off the autumn calving herd at Crouchlands Farm, before he ventures off to some pastures new.

Trade for heifers in the local cattle market has been better recently, with prices up £50 a head to average just under £1/kg, says John Davies.

Red clover is dominant in this years second cut, says Miles Saunders.

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Archive Article: 1998/07/31

31 July 1998

FARMERFOCUS

Jim Macfarlane

Jim Macfarlane is farm

manager at Edrington

Mains, Foulden,

Berwickshire. Two thirds of

the 275ha (680-acre) unit

is arable, with winter wheat

the main breadwinner,

complemented by malting

barley, winter rape and peas

HERE is my harvest forecast: Wheat. Positive points – standing and very green. Downside – too much septoria, thin in places, crying out for sun, and the price looks pathetic.

Winter barley. Positive points – mostly standing, and Muscat looks plump for a six-row variety. Downside – too thin due to slug damage, and the price looks diabolical.

Oilseed rape. Positive points – thick and well podded, price looks OK and should improve. Downside – lodged and area aid reduced.

Spring barley. Positive point – relatively cheap to grow. Downside – just about everything else.

Peas. Positive points – looks disease-free and still standing. Downside – a bit thin and did not seem to flower for long.

Overall not an exciting prospect. I hope I am proved wrong.

This week we sprayed six-row barley with glyphosate at 1.2 litres/ha to take out any greens and some volunteer wheat but left the Regina in case it makes the grade for malting.

Rape will also receive 3.0 litres/ha of glyphosate with adjuvant as soon as I can get the contractor here. I think it does a good job provided it is applied early enough. At the current price it is good value and I may spray some other cereals pre-harvest too.

Meticulous roguing can save a lot of money on herbicides later, and wild oat is one weed we seem to be conquering. Unfortunately sterile brome is a different story. For the first time we have two fields quite badly infested with this weed.

Ludicrous Scottish set-aside rules prevented us from spraying or cutting the cover until all the seed was set but thankfully this rule has been changed. Nonetheless I turned to industrial rape on set-aside to prevent more problems. Do the bureaucrats never speak to practical people?

Another cloud on the horizon is the astronomical slug population we have. After last winters problems I am very nervous about my ability to control this pest in establishing crops.

Brian Lock

Brian Lock farms rented and

owned land in Dorset,

including 200ha (500

acres) at Silverlake Farm,

Sherborne. Cropping

includes wheat and barley

for feed, seed and malting markets plus oilseed rape

and herbage seed

WE made one of the most difficult timing decisions of the entire crop year last Saturday – we started harvesting Maris Otter malting barley.

The old adage about waiting until it is ready, then "going on a weeks holiday" no longer holds, due to climate and price. Hand-rubbed samples were down to 18-20%, the first three loads went into the drier at 15-18%, and then stayed below 15% for three days of continuous combining.

We completed the malting Maris Otter and had only a part field of seed Maris Otter to finish late last week. Yields are 10-15% down on normal at 5.0-5.5t/ha (2-2.2t/acre). Specific weight is down too, at 66-68 kg/hl compared with 71/72 kg/hl last year. I anxiously await sample results on both seed and malting crops.

Most of our straw is sold either loose behind the combine or baled in various shapes and sizes. We have already had five different sized bales and I am amazed at the speed the large square balers travel. For our own dairy we still use conventionally sized square bales, by far the slowest and most stressful type of baling.

Harvest of spring-grazed Molisto tetraploid hybrid ryegrass for seed has also started. My plan to extend the harvest period by taking a silage crop in early May seems to have paid off, as these fields look 10/14 days later, though weather may delay the earlier crops and telescope them all into the same period.

Our last load of 1997 crop wheat was collected this week and early indications are that the grain committed to the April-June merchants marketing pool will realise a considerably higher price than the wheat I sold on the spot market, although the latest poor weather has caused the old crop market to move higher, reflecting shortages and likely delays to the start of the 1998 campaign.

Justin Blackwood

Justin Blackwood farms

562ha (1389 acres) from

Grange Farm, Great

Brington, Northants, on a

range of farming

agreements. Cropping

hinges around winter wheat,

plus winter barley, rape,

peas, oats and occasionally

linseed

WHEAT, barley, peas, beans, osr – It doesnt matter what you have got, values continue to plummet.

Oats? You shouldnt have grown those, you almost have to give them away.

Winter peas for the first time have yielded below 3.7t/ha (1.5t/acre). We usually do well over 5t/ha (2t/acre) and have done 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) in the past.

Hardly an ear of wheat in the area is without fusarium, regardless of the fungicide programme used, and beans are covered in chocolate spot. Osr is flat and linseed is flatter.

The weather is forecast unsettled, showery, and windy. They say every cloud has a silver lining, but I have been looking upwards for sometime now and have yet to find it.

Still, on a brighter note, spring and winter beans are both well podded and could do well, though yield is always difficult to estimate. Our Muscat winter barley is yielding 8.6t/ha (3.5t/acre) and I am reasonably confident the wheat will also yield well, though I am not so optimistic about quality.

We have increased our acreage for this autumn, so we will have more work to do, and have the opportunity to lose even more money. Sorry, I was meant to be on a brighter note.

To cope with the extra acreage we have changed our old MB1100 and Airtech sprayer for a 150hp 2150 JCB and Airtech. It joins our three John Deeres of 180,178 and 136 hp to farm 710ha (1750 acres) in an eight-mile radius from our base.

The aim must be to increase the block size still further, with a rotation that will make the most efficient use of machinery and labour.

But just when you think you have got it right and a system begins to fall in place, along comes something that changes all the rules. Farming if nothing else is never boring. You seldom get it right, and there are always new challenges.

Hold on, I think I have just found that silver lining.

Teddy Maufe

Teddy Maufe farms 407ha

(1000 acres) as the tenant of Branthill Farm, part of

the Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. Sugar

beet lies at the heart of the

rotation, with other crops

including winter barley,

wheat and oats, spring

barley and triticale

WE started harvest on July 20 combining Halcyon at 15% moisture. The nitrogen content is running between 1.45%-1.55%, screenings about 9%, and yield about 6.4t/ha (2.6t/acre).

This is up on last years 2.25t/ha(5.5t/ha), helped by specific weights around 71kg/hl and substantially lower screenings. However, the market price appears as depressing as last year so we live in hope of some sort of improvement.

Today, a divider fell off the combine due to a bolts metal fatigue, a solenoid failed on the dryer, and the moisture meter acted up. I am now told our type of Marconi moisture meter reads 0.75% lower than the new European standard – yet another trip-wire from Brussels!

The accountants are in the process of completing our company accounts to April 5 1998, and it seems we will have made a loss approaching our gross rent – not a very satisfactory scenario.

Even with the lower input costs coming through this season and chasing down every extra expense possible, a break-even situation this season is the best I feel we could possibly manage, and that is with respectable yields on all crops. Our sugarbeet returns alone were £30,000 down on A and B quota.

Something has to give. Either the pound has to go down, rents go down, or we tenant farmers will go down!

In response to the farms negative performance we have obtained permission from our landlord to start a bed and breakfast venture. The farm being so close to the north Norfolk coast is proving a distinct advantage.

The farm was getting very dry at the end of last week, and 5mm (0.2in) of rain overnight on Thursday was very welcome for the sugar beet.

Halcyon barley is performing well, and recent rain has given sugar beet a welcome drink on Teddy Maufes north Norfolk farm.

More land, more machinery, more opportunity to lose money, says Northants farmer Justin Blackwood. But good barley yields and promising spring and winter beans provide some hope.

In a break with tradition, Maris Otter barley was cut as soon as it was fit this year on Brian Locks Dorset farm. Specific weight and yields are down on last year.

Borders farmer Jim Macfarlanes forecast for the coming harvest is not an exciting prospect. And slugs are lying in wait for this autumns sowings.

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