Archive Article: 2000/02/25 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

This informal friendship club has

more than 60 groups

nationwide and is open to all

female readers of FW.

Details from Jean Howells (0181-652 4927)

BERKSHIRE

Wed, Mar 8, 7pm. Meet at Margaret Illsleys home, Fir Tree Farm, Chieveley for talk with slides by Mr Page on his work as a goldsmith. Contact Hilda Gore

(01488-685348).

CHESHIRE

Wed, Mar 8, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet at the Delaware Room, Fourways for agm. Names and choice of menu to

Pat (01829-760320).

CORNWALL

Tue, Mar 7, 12 noon. Annual lunch at Metropole Hotel, Padstow. Names to Jane Bailey (01841-532648) by Mar 1.

Jean Howells hopes to be there.

DORSET

Thur, Mar 9, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet for lunch at East Dorset Golf Club, Bere Regis followed by talk Shakespeares Globe Reborn by Mrs Grace Armfields. Send £10 to Pauline Jesty, Little Meadow, Roke Road, Bere Regis BH20 7TF by

Mar 1. Jean Howells hopes to be there.

ESSEX AND SUFFOLK

Thur, Mar 16, 2.45pm. Meet at Mercury Theatre, Colchester for 3pm

performance of Passport to Pimlico. Please send cheque for £5.75 asap to Mrs Elsie Andrews, 114 Halstead Road, Stanway, Colchester CO3 5JR. Contact

Elsie (01206-574419).

NORFOLK-SOUTHWEST

Wed, Mar 8, 12 noon. Meet at Oak Farm, Church Road, Wretton for contribution lunch and talk Bees, everything you ever wanted to know about them but were afraid to ask. Contact Babs Glover (01366-500451).

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Wed, Mar 15, 2pm. Meet at the Aquascutum Factory Shop in Corby. Contact Rita White (01604-810351).

NORTH COTSWOLD

Wed, Mar 8, 12.30 for 1pm. Meet at the Farmers Arms, Stow in the Wold for lunch followed by talk Flower Collage by Pauline Smith. Contact Pauline

(01608-737733).

SHROPSHIRE-OSWESTRY

Mon, Feb 25, 7.30pm. Meet at Oswestry Football Social Club for talk and demonstration on hand and foot care by the Body Shop. Bring a bowl and towel. More details from Ellie Knighton (01691-830273).

SUSSEX

Fri, Mar 10, 7.30pm. Annual dinner at the Old Tollgate, Bramber. Contact

Mary Passmore (01273-452028).

WEST FIFE AND KINROSS

Wed, Mar 1, 7.30pm. Meet at the City Hotel, Dunfermline for talk Embroidery by Mrs E Alexander. Contact Margaret Young (01592-873034).

YORKSHIRE-SKIPTON

Wed, Mar 1, 2 pm. Meet at the Soroptomist Rooms, Otley Street,

Skipton for talk Patchwork by Mrs Annan. Contact Betty Ellis (01943-831450).

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

uDE Montfort Universitys plan to invest £6m to develop a single academic campus at Riseholme, Lincs, took another step forward with the purchase of a neighbouring unit – the 200ha (500-acre) Lodge Farm, Nettleham. This doubles the farm area at Riseholme and leaves the university clear to sell off its former site at Elms Farm, Caythorpe.

uFARMERS in the West Midlands are to benefit from a £120,000 grant awarded to Harper Adams University College, Shropshire, to develop ways of improving the areas livestock business competitiveness through the use of information technology. The cash – part of the MAFF Agricultural Development Scheme – will be used to encourage more co-operation, training, improved management and greater use of e-commerce to generate income.

MD Foods has reported a 91% rise in pre-tax profits to £8.1m for the year to Sept 1999, from sales which rose a third to £458m.

Increased throughput of liquid milk, mainly to supermarkets, and reduced procurement costs helped. The strong £ also boosted returns from imported butter and cheese.

Meanwhile, Irish food company Golden Vale reports underlying profits up 16% to l31m (£19m).

But its dairy business lost l700,000 due to falling commodity prices, compared with a l2m profit the previous year. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Spring has sprung…Top dressing gets under way at Roger Longmans Bagborough Farms, Shepton Mallet, Somerset as tractor driver David Padfield prepares to spread 375kg/ha (300 units/acre) of First Cut. A further 250kg/ha (200 units/acre) of Nitram will be applied in two to three weeks time, ensuring machinery working at Grassland 2000 – which the farm hosts on May 10 – will have a challenging crop to deal with.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Model Nancy Sorrell started National Chip Week with cold shoulders but a willing smile and a dress made of chips at a special promotion in central London. Fresh or frozen, chunky or crinkled, chips are still the nations favourite food, according to a new Gallup poll commissioned by the British Potato Council.

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  • News

Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

FEB 26 Sale of ATVs, light commercial vhicles, ground-care, construction plant and machinery. Dalty, Ayr. Wilsons (01294-833444)

FEB 29 Spring sale of South Devon bulls (21 head) on behalf of the breed society. Exeter. Norton & Brooksbank (01285-841333)

FEB 29 Dispersal of Claas 98SL combine JD tractors and JCB Loadall. Also Dowdeswell 6F plough, Simba double press and other arable kit. Birdbrook, Essex. Cheffins, Grain & Comins (01223-358731)

MAR 2 Dispersal of Holstein Friesians (160 head) including 40 in-calf heifers. Also Gascoigne parlour, 8600-litre bulk tank and parlour feeders. Tincleton, Dorset. Symonds & Sampson (01258-472244)

MAR 2 Dispersal of grain equipment with bins, conveyors, dryer, arable kit and MF tractors. Little Stonham, Suffolk. Lacy Scott & Knight (01449-612384)

MAR 2 Annual sale of Lincoln cattle including 7 bulls and 44 females. Also other breeding beef cattle. Lincoln. Masons (01507-602356)

MAR 2 Dispersal of arable kit with Chaviot Lely High Track 21m sprayer, Compact Dal-bo 3t rolls and Keenan 80 diet feeder. West Horsley, Surrey. Dreweatt Neate (01635-553500)

MAR 2 Sale of 4×4 vehicles, contract plant and agricultural kit. Errol Airfield, Perth. Morris Leslie (01821-642940)

MAR 3 Sale of NH 8070 combine, JCB Loadall and digger, and various arable implements. Knapwell, Cambs. Alexanders (01480-432220)

MAR 3 Annual sale of Belgian Blue cattle including pedigree bulls (43), pedigree females (19) and Belgian Blue X cattle (245). Chelford, Ches. Marshalls (01625-861122)

MAR 3 Sale of pedigree Whitebred Shorthorn bulls (11), Galloway bulls and females (28) and commercial Galloway females (60). Carlisle. Harrison & Hetherington (01228-640924)

MAR 3 Wessex Machinery sale with 150 tractors expected. Shaftesbury, Dorset. Southern Counties (01747-851735)

MAR 3 Dispersal of potato equipment including 1994 Grimme 1500DL harvester, Pearson Megastar de-stoner, grader and elevator. Also 1999 Dowdeswell rotatvator.

Knutsford, Ches. Marshalls (01625-861122)

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  • News

Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

CORRECTION

CONTRARY to the indication in last weeks Herbicides Special (p66), Eagle (amidosulfuron) must not be used in sequence with Lexus (flupyrsulfuron). Observant readers will also realise that application rates for sulfonylureas Ally and Harmony (p68) should be in g/ha. &#42

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  • News

Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

James Moldon

James Moldon manages the

220ha (550 acres) heavy

land Stanaway Farm, Otley,

Suffolk, for the Felix

Thornley Cobbold

Agricultural Trust.

Crops include winter wheat,

barley, OSR, beans, linseed

and sugar beet

RETURNING from holiday my expectations that the fields would be starting to dry was, of course, completely wrong.

Mild, wet weather has kept all the crops moving. The early-drilled wheat, Consort sown on Sept 2, is already at GS30. It will soon require a growth regulator and nitrogen.

We have applied 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) of nitrogen and 55kg/ha of sulphur (44 units/acre) to the backward oilseed rape. That may seem early but these plants require an immediate boost unlike the more forward crops, which can wait until the end of February.

The Autocast oilseed rape is showing signs of improvement, with more small backward plants visible. The two Novartis varieties on trial are looking strong and healthy, especially considering they followed Power in Action. With hindsight, that event might have been better named as "Power and Compaction".

Late-drilled second wheats will receive 40kg/ha (32 units/acre) of nitrogen as soon as conditions permit. The direct drilling trials also need some feed to encourage growth and help break down the stubble which may be causing nitrogen lock up. The establishment trials are generally looking well and I am sure within the next two months the visual variations between trials will disappear.

I have given several talks recently on establishment techniques. The more talks I give the more questions are produced and the less answers are available it seems.

That minimum tillage cuts fixed costs is not necessarily true initially, especially if you have had to invest heavily in new machinery. But using existing machinery or hiring and sharing in the short term may well reduce costs. Timeliness of operations is one of the greatest benefits and this must not suffer. There is also an initial learning curve to overcome before a technique can effectively be adopted into the farm system.

But if you can greatly increase your output with the same number of machines and workforce, then drilling a larger area at the optimum time has to be a big advantage of the system. &#42

Minimum tillage cuts fixed costs. Not necessarily true, says farm manager James Moldon at Stanaway Farm, near Ipswich.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

&#8226 EASTFIELD Farm, Gainfield, near Faringdon, Oxon now is for sale guided at offers in the region of £1-1.1m for the whole.

However the 206-acre mainly arable unit also is split four ways. A bungalow and 53 acres of land including 6 acres of woodland is lotted separately from a grade 2 listed timber barn with planning permission for residential conversion in two acres as are a range of modern and traditional general purpose buildings and an acre.

Lot four is the bulk of the grades 3 and 4 clay loam land, the best of which is guided at about £2400/acre, but including 12 acres of woodland.

&#8226 IN two lots a block of grade 2 arable land near Cromer, Norfolk is guided at in the region of £3500/acre by agent Brown & Co.

The land at Orchard Farm, Roughton is currently cropped on a rotation of combinable crops, sugar beet and and potatoes. There is an abstraction licence for 7.92m gallons.

&#8226 MEERSIDE farm, a small stock unit in West Sussex, includes planning consent for an agriculturally tied bungalow. The 67-acre farm near Petworth includes a range of modern farm buildings and a poultry house. The land is mainly permanent pasture with some small areas of woodland. The guide price for the whole quoted by Monkhouse & Partners is £350,000.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Tim Piper

Tim Piper farms at

Churchlands on the edge

of Romney Marsh, Kent.

Wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

herbage seed and vining

peas occupy 890ha

(2200 acres) of the

1105ha (2730-acre) unit

EFFECTIVE field-walking and the judicial use of chemicals on small selected areas will be the order of the day as we strive to cut our annual chemical bill.

With this in mind, we have sprayed oilseed rape headlands with Carbetamex (carbetamide) and on 6ha (15 acres) of an 80ha (200-acre) block of wheat we have used Hawk (clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin) for blackgrass control. Also, since my last article, we have managed to spray the grass seed with Nortron Leyclene (ethofumesate + ioxynil + bromoxynil).

We have recently taken delivery of our bulk ammonium sulphate and urea and hope to start spreading towards the end of the month.

A recent trip to Portugal with our local farmers discussion group was both enlightening and informative. Based in the Lisbon area, we visited what is the most impressive dairy unit I have ever seen, milking over 1200 cows, three times a day, all housed under one 2.5ha (6-acre) roof. They are fed 20,000t a year of conserved forage produced under centre pivot irrigation systems.

The sheer size and scale of Vale de Lama, or "Valley of Mud" if literally translated, could not fail to impress. Even the pure arable farmers among our group were busy asking questions. The contentment and condition of the stock was self evident with not one of the 2000 head of cattle including young stock on the site uttered a sound the whole time we were there.

A fruit juice factory and two vineyards were visited on day two and a flourmill on day three. The locals were very keen to entertain us with both food and wine, but I have to admit the "Pigs Ear and Snout Stew" lost a certain amount of its appeal when we found out what it was. I wonder how many portions of that our restaurant chains would sell over here?

With the days getting longer hopefully we will soon be getting into some serious spring work. &#42

Kent grower Tim Piper plans to patch spray where possible this spring – Hawk was used on just 8% of one block of wheat and Carbetamex restricted to the headland oilseed rape.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

SPRING barley is all sown bar a couple of fields where sugar beet tops are being grazed by lambs.

I was always taught not to put all your eggs in one basket, but this year all our spring barley is Optic due to the lack of a market for Cooper, a variety that performed very well on this farm.

We drilled some fields of Optic in November. That is now at GS23 and looking well, but will have to be managed differently to those later drilled, especially for nitrogen.

Over the past four years we have been testing residual nitrogen and on a small scale trying to match rate to yield and nitrogen content. The trials have been reasonably successful and, with the maltsters demanding a 1.6-1.75% N sample rather than the traditional 1.5%, I think it is time to turn plots to complete fields. On one or two we will use 19kg/ha (15 units/acre) more nitrogen, bringing the total up to 125kg/ha (100 units/acre). But I have to admit that the three wet growing seasons we have had make me nervous. A dry year could give quite different results.

Next years sugar beet seed has arrived, before all of this years crop has left the farm. This must be one of the only variable costs that has continued to rise in price year on year. I appreciate the advances that breeders have made in germination, establishment, sugar content and root yield. But, with a 30% drop in the price of our final product, I find it hard to justify the rising cost of seed. That is monopolies for you.

Through our local Agricultural Training Board I started a BASIS course in November and we are now nearly halfway through. One thing that stands out is the high percentage of farmers who are attending. It is always good to discuss topics with others and interesting to find out that some of us are using more chemical than others. &#42

How come sugar beet seed is the only input that keeps on going up, asks Lincs grower Mark Ireland.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Mike Cumming

Mike Cumming is manager at

Lour Farms, Ladenford,

Forfar, Angus, where spring

malting barley and seed

potatoes occupy about half

the 749ha (1850 acres).

Other crops include winter

wheat, barley, oilseed rape,

swedes and grass

CROPS have come through the exceptionally open winter well and as day length increases thoughts of fieldwork begin to flicker in the back of my mind.

Our oilseed rape is not as forward as some and is due to have 250kg/ha of Kemiras 27.0.0.30 product, Double Top, any day now. Winter barley will receive some 25.0.13 soon but most of the wheat can wait a while.

After wrestling with my anxieties, our spring barley area will be 33% Optic, 25% Chalice and 42% Chariot. I say anxieties, as I am only too aware that we are moving heavily towards later maturing varieties.

Coupled with a significant increase in wheat that certainly increases our risk. It is a fact of life that as crop prices fall we all have to run faster to stand still and increased risk is an unfortunate part of that scenario.

All of last years grain is now away, with output beating budget by a whisker. Our pathetic winter oat performance, 4.32t/ha (1.75t/acre) at £68.50/t knocked a big hole in my expectations and I still do not know what went wrong. But wheat saved the day, returning the highest average yield we have ever achieved, which was sold at an average of £78.75/t.

As for this years marketing, I have put half of our expected malting barley tonnage on a fixed price contract as I do not favour contracts based on premiums over feed barley this year. No wheat has been sold forward.

I am trying to sell last years potatoes. Seed enquiries have picked up lately but the price is still rock bottom. As for selling tops, selling is the wrong word. We are simply too far away from the markets in a year such as this and we are almost giving them away delivered to a processor at £15.50/t net. The demise of the Potato Marketing Board has been a disaster for producers, but utopia for the processing sector, which seems to influence the lethargic British Potato Council far more than producers. &#42

Mike Cumming is anxious about the unavoidable swing to late maturing spring barley varieties at Lour Farms, Angus.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Mega-farms a simplisticsolution…

I was interested to read Max Cliffords remarks below the Sean Rickard/Ben Gill debate (News, Feb 11). I would be intrigued to know what Max Clifford thinks of Mr Rickard.

As a publicity guru, he would probably give Mr Rickard top marks for the way he plays his role as the most odious man in farming; a role he has to share only with Oliver Walston.

Mr Clifford would also appreciate the way Mr Rickard manages to get across the same old message repeatedly without being challenged. Its breathtakingly brilliant for a man so obviously lacking in charm.

Of course, the larger the farms in the UK, the more competitive they will become. Simple logic and sheer genius in PR terms. But when will someone ask Mr Rickard how far he would take his simplistic ideas? How far do amalgamations have to go to achieve a viable holding? Will 10,000 acres be the optimum size? Or will that seem like a smallholding in 10 years time?

I was amazed at his assertion that mega-farms are no more damaging to the countryside than family farms. Has he told conservationists how that would work on the western side of the country?

Malcolm Read

Broadmead Farm, West Grimstead, Salisbury, Wilts.

Theory nice but not realistic

The case against farm support put by Sean Rickard (News, Feb 11) contains many desirable objectives but little guidance as to how they can be achieved. It is a sobering thought that our farm minister and his superiors may be taking advice from economists propounding similar theories.

Mr Rickard states that we need to be objective and realistic but his attitude is naive and unrealistic. The real problem facing farming is that, as in the economy as a whole, living standards and social costs rise relentlessly but are only partly absorbed by the manufacturing, retail and service sectors. Those are striving constantly to pay higher wages and increase their profits.

So most of the increased costs are passed to primary producers who are paid less for their produce but are denied the means to recoup their extra costs in the same way. That happens to farmers all over the world whatever their size. Unless that situation can be altered, it will be impossible to abolish subsidies.

The only way to change the current situation is for farmers to drive up prices by creating a food shortage. Is this the Rickard solution? He does not tell us.

The message of increased farm size, efficiency and diversification is as old as the hills. Walter Blith was telling farmers that in the 1660s. Farm size and efficiency has been increasing ever since but those left in farming find that their situation is unchanged. Farmers response has always been to increase both efficiency and production; fine for the economy but little benefit to farmers.

If Mr Rickards theory is correct, we should have had a small number of large, efficient farms by the 1930s. In fact, there was no prosperity and subsidies were brought back in the nick of time, when it was realised that world agriculture was about to collapse and threatened to take the rest of the economy with it.

The world cannot be fed using only food from those producers who have climatic and economic advantages. Prices in countries must reflect the differences in the cost of production. The crucial question is not whether British farmers can compete in unsubsidised world markets, but whether world agriculture can generate the capital to survive and expand in those circumstances.

F J Banks

Wakendale House, Oldstead, York. Fred.Banks@farmersweekly.net

Throw crutch of CAP away

Once again, we see the old argument surfacing in your Letters pages (Feb 11) about the merits of CAP.

It has been a crutch to the farming industry for far too long. CAP has been the main reason responsible for British farming reaching its present sad state of affairs.

The less efficient have been carried on the backs of those who have worked hard to build their businesses. Some farmers seem to be worried solely about subsidy from MAFF. They dont realise that by constantly taking hand outs they are little better than dole scroungers who drag the rest of the industry down with them. They also give the government a whip hand when dealing with farmers.

So my advice to farmers is to stop begging and start working. Dont give the government any more excuses to meddle in the industry.

Mr D Stubbs

Burton Hole Farm, Burton Hole Lane, Mill Hill, Middlesex.

Should have left Blair stranded

It is bad enough having Mr Blair on every news bulletin without having him on the front cover of farmers weekly. He obviously couldnt care less about the agricultural industry. In my view, every farmer at the NFU AGM should have walked out when he came in.

J &#42 Lippiatt

Frys Farm, St Catherines, Nr Bath.

Where is the NFU taking us?

Having recently attended Monmouthshire NFU AGM, I question the direction the NFU is leading us.

We were addressed by an Irish gentleman from the Agri-Food Partnership of Wales. He said farmers should co-operate more to sell stock etc, as is done in Ireland. He was oblivious to all the grants that Irish farmers have had from the EU. And he had not heard of Irish farmers blockading the abattoirs to achieve beef prices similar to mainland Britain.

Then, Hugh Richards, President of Wales NFU, told us that the only happy beef farmers, are the ones selling deadweight through producer clubs. Farmers selling through live auctions are not happy. Also how happy we all should be with the near completion of yet another St Merryn abattoir at Meryther Tydfil.

I also read at Ceredigion, and Brecon NFUs AGM a representative of Asda encouraged producers to sell deadweight to them, rather than in the live auction. Why do the NFU organise such speakers?

Over recent months prices of beef and lamb have risen because of competition by buyers in the livestock markets. Deadweight buyers have been forced to increase their prices, albeit not a lot, which has resulted in producers returning to the livestock auctions in droves.

If the NFU succeeds in shifting the marketing of finished stock to the deadweight system, markets will close, competition will diminish and prices will fall. If you lose your markets, you lose your competition. Can the NFU not see this? Selling deadweight and the proposed All Wales Meat Co-Op is a recipe for disaster in Wales as all products end up in the few hands of the supermarkets.

Rhys and Judith Parry

Gwerninog Farm, Llansoy, Usk, Gwent.

There is money in the kitty

Recent statements (News, Feb 11) by Nick Brown claiming that there is no more money at MAFF or the Treasury to help farmers is untrue.

Since 1990, I have been making government aware of the serious effect on the social fabric of rural areas due to farmers selling development land for between £200,000 and £800,000/acre. Then they have bought several farms with the proceeds of only one field, which may have an agricultural value of only £2500 per acre. That has cut the numbers of farmers and customers for rural businesses.

On May 12 1999 I, with two MPs, had a one hour meeting at the Treasury with the paymaster general, Dawn Primarolo MP. I made the above point and asked that the 40% capital gains tax be retrieved from greenfield development land sales and re-directed in part back into supporting agriculture and the rural areas.

With many farmers in Scotland having a net income of only £1770, it is incredible that the present situation with development land is being allowed to continue.

In England and southern Scotland there are many farmers with development land sales of £5m-£50m and the benefit of full 100% roll-over tax relief. Hopefully NFU and SNFU leaders will bring this to the attention of government ministers. That potentially much needed revenue could help most of their members in their desperate current plight. It would be a tragedy if the vested interests were allowed to continue to suppress this vital issue.

Gordon Day

The Pheasantry, Panton, Market Rasen, Lincs.

How the tune has changed

We were looking through some old papers at home last week and came across a collection of Party political manifestos. We hear many sound-bites from proud politicians when they implement their manifesto commitments, but our memories are often too short to remind them of their all too frequent failings.

In view of the present state of British farming it was interesting to find the page fall open at the following passage, contained in the Labour Party manifesto of 1970 and titled Now Britains Strong Lets make it Great to Live in; (e) Food and Farming. "The importance to the economy of British agriculture is beyond question. Our policies will continue to be devised to the benefit of the farmer as well as the consumer. We intend, first, to promote an expanding farm industry. This policy is based on the proved system of guaranteed prices and production grants. However, we are continuing to develop arrangements for greater market stability; we have recognised the need for clear long term objectives, and for the first time have introduced successive long term programmes for agricultural expansion. We shall continue all that we are doing to improve life in the rural community."

A J T Carter

Kings Farm, Foxes Lane, West Wellow, Romsey, Hampshire.

Strong £ is the real villain

I cannot believe the naivety of J Routley (Letters, Feb 11) concerning the re-allocation of milk quotas and saving the farmers 2.5p/litre.

With the present marketing system, where does he think that the 2.5p/litre is going to end up? I do not know whether J Routley is a dairy farmer but if he is, he is clearly in trouble, by probably leasing in too much milk quota which is unaffordable to his business if he is carrying too much debt.

J Routleys letter is written with no comment about what is causing the real problem in the dairy industry which is the strength of the £ buying in milk products from abroad, thus putting more liquid milk on to an already saturated market.

There are probably only two courses of action, which could be taken to resolve the problem. First, a reduction of the national milk quota. Second, some action to reduce the value of sterling. What he suggests smacks of a "nanny state" or even communism. With reference to re-allocation of milk quota, if the government were to legislate on this point, it would send shock waves through the let housing market or anyone else having a tenant in their property.

Cecil J Price

Brockmanton Hall, Pudleston, Leominster.

Graphs punch home message

I am sure that Sion Roberts explanation (Business Jan 28) of why the strong £ is damaging agriculture was enlightening for many readers.

Most farmers realise that the strong £ effects farm income, but seeing the graphs produced by Mr Roberts put the message across very effectively.

What Mr Roberts did not spell out was that all producers of goods, and manufacturers along with farmers, are affected because they are competing with imports at artificially low prices caused by the high £. On the other hand, companies importing at these artificially low prices are having a bonanza as there is no evidence of prices in the shops coming down because of the high £. Hence the concept of Rip off Britain.

But the government is happy because it appears to have engineered a buoyant economy, so farmers must accept that there will be little or no help from this direction. Supermarkets will not help as it would reduce their profits, and why should they when they can buy cheaply on the world market?

The solution is in farmers hands. Get together, form small local co-ops, open farm shops in towns, sell direct to customers, invite them to join your co-op. Make friends with us townies. Customers will then know exactly where their food is coming from.

If French farmers can do it, I am sure that you can. It wont be easy, but has anyone got a better idea? I cant think of one, but Im only a simple agricultural engineer who pays 40p a pint (70p a litre) for milk delivered to his doorstep. Who is making the profit from this? It certainly isnt farmers, but it could be.

David Lucas

Dairy Farmer Supplies (Bath) Ltd, 108 London Road West, Bath.

Stop dealing in milk quota

With the ever-worsening crisis in dairy farming, much attention has been focused on veterinary costs, and recent estimates have suggested an average figure of 0.7p/litre of milk produced.

Meanwhile, quota leasing represents a cost of 2.5p for every litre of milk for the national industry or 12% of the total milk income. The source for this is the Agricultural Committee, Second Report on the Marketing of Milk, p199 which quotes work conducted by Manchester University.

It has been suggested by a previous Letters contributor that milk producers should refuse to trade in quota next year, thereby saving this considerable drain on income. If all producers were to produce the same level of milk as they produced in 99/00, less an adjustment for over-production this year, then the net effect would be a rise of 2.5p/litre. I appreciate that this will be of no benefit to those who currently do not lease quota, but it will help many other dairy farmers.

The immediate response of some will be to say that farmers will not work together to that extent. If that is true, then matters will continue to become worse and more will leave the industry.

At present dairy farmers pay 0.7p/litre to those providing them with a full veterinary service and 2.5p to those who have nothing to do with dairying – an odd situation. Lets assume that you cut your vets bill by 20%; it works out at a saving of 0.14p/litre, which is not going to keep anyone in business. Focusing on the cost of leasing could yield 18 times more – surely an area worth pursuing that is going to make a real difference.

Stephen Davies

George Veterinary Hospital, High Street, Malmesbury, Wilts.

Reject organic milk offer

The recent announcement by AXIS that it will pay 31.5p/litre for organic milk is bad news. Its offer should be boycotted by organic milk producers.

It gives out signals to the outside world of a fast-buck mentality that is contrary to organic standards. It deliberately seeks to better OMSCos headline price using the same 1p/litre bribe, which brought financial ruin to conventional milk producers and will inevitably do the same for organics.

It smacks of a situation where a large-scale processor has approached AXIS and said:"For every 1m litres of organic milk, will buy an extra 20m litres of your conventional milk". The biggest threat to organic producers is that the supermarkets pledge of organic produce at conventional prices will become a reality.

The only way they can achieve this is if a processor or supermarket takes a loss on organic sales for six months amid a flurry of Press coverage. Other supermarkets would then have to follow suit, with cut-price organic milk.

That is not a hypothesis. It is an imminent threat – but only if processors can get enough organic milk on short-term price contracts, rather than OMSCos five-year rolling contracts.

The AXIS offer contains, in small print, the words guaranteed for six months. Organic producers should avoid it like the plague.

Michael McCreath

Scottish Organic Milk Producers Association, Garlieston Home Farm, Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire.

Organic problem yet to occur

Mike Rowland questions the differing standards of organic production in other countries (Livestock, Feb 11). I wonder whether, when supply meets demand, that will lead to the same problems that the pig industry is suffering.

Will retailers and consumers buy more expensive home-produced organic food, or will they be tempted to buy cheaper produce from abroad? It also begs the question whether imported organic food that does not comply with British organic standards should be sold as organic in this country?

The standards proposing to make growers use organic seed will just add to their costs. Why organic cereal seed should be selling for £400-500/t, I cant think.

I do not imagine the average consumer has asked for food produced from organic seed. They mostly want to be sure it is free from pesticides and GMOs.

R A Cross

Huntsham Barton, Tiverton, Devon.

If its not broke then dont fix it

Having read the letter (Feb 11) from J Routley regarding the change of base year for milk quota I would like to reply. This idea will work well for the farmer who leased in a lot of quota for the new base year which is chosen.

They are the only people who will gain. Milk quotas have been with us now for 17 years. After the initial problems with restraint on milk production the system has worked well with farmers being able to lease or buy quota to their requirements.

Anyone who had a good year for milk production for the new base year, possibly leasing in 50% of their quota, will be happy to see this happen.

The farmers who will lose out are the ones who need the help most; council tenants and young farmers starting business who will still get a low quota allocation and have no chance of leasing. There are farmers who borrowed money to buy quota who will be upset to find that if they leased in the quota for the base year, they would have had the quota given to them. The decision to lease in quota, and at what price, is up to the individual.

This year, with low milk prices, we may see farmers milking fewer cows and not leasing quota. Others may decide to milk more to reduce costs. We have a system (although not ideal) that is flexible.

Why change for the sake of it?

David Creed

Alwyn, Melplash, Bridport, Dorset.

Get em clean but be careful

We write in response to your article entitled "Getting em clean for sale" (Livestock, Feb 4). We at the British Leather Confederation support the Meat Hygiene Services stringent requirements for only clean livestock to be presented for slaughter. I, together with colleagues at the University of Bristol, conducted and published research on the impact that very dirty sheep have on abattoir hygiene which led to the establishment of the Clean Livestock Policy.

Although we agree that, under some circumstances, clipping sheep before slaughter may improve abattoir hygiene, producers should be aware of the potential reduction in value of the skin from animals that have been extensively clipped. Such skins are suitable only for fell mongering and are worth considerably less. In addition, clipping may also result in small nicks and cuts to the skin which damages the grain and again results in a loss of potential value.

During the peak of the sheep skin trade in mid 98, the difference between the two types of skins was up to £6 which has clear implications for the sheep price and returns to the producer. The sheep skin trade is experiencing well publicised difficulties and hence, the value of skins is severely depressed. However, if widespread clipping is adopted by the industry in these beleaguered times, the true value of sheep skins will never return leaving sheep prices depressed. We urge both MAFF and sheep producers to clip only when necessary and in particular, keep belly clipping restricted to a combs width along the mid line.

Phil Hadley

British Leather Confederation, Leather Trade House, Kings Park Road, Moulton Park, Northampton.

Will NFU back non-ACCS idea?

Wakefield branch NFU has sent a resolution to our headquarters cereal committee requesting the creation of a register of agricultural merchants and co-ops willing to buy grain from non-ACCS registered cereal farmers. That would enable those farmers to buy their seed corn, fertiliser and animal foodstuffs only from those organisations which were prepared to reciprocate by buying non-ACCS produced cereals.

There are about 8000 ACCS members, which leaves the vast majority of cereal farmers, 60,000, operating successfully outside this costly and bureaucratic scheme.

We are aware that since the introduction of the NFUs new constitution, headquarters is anxious to show its democratic credibility. Support for the Wakefield resolution, by the HQ cereal committee, would delight the vast majority of democratically minded farmers.

Dick Lindley,

Vice-chairman, Wakefield NFU, Birkwood Farm, Altofts, Normanton, West Yorks.

Scots must be in UK research

Gordon Rennies letter (Dec 24) argues for more effective use of Scotch as a global and local brand image. He links this concept to the suggestion that the levy paid by Scottish farmers to HGCA should be retained in Scotland.

Since devolution, the concept of dividing levy board funding between Scotland and the rest of the UK has been expressed more than once. That cereal farmers are currently under substantial pressure is not a matter for dispute, neither is the contribution to this pressure from factors which lie outside the UK such as low world grain prices.

But would Scottish or UK farmers benefit most from a strategy which divided the limited funds of HGCA into national pots compared with a UK strategy?

The most recent HGCA R&D Strategy for Cereals, published last autumn, identified a series of objectives aimed at improving competitiveness and profitability in the UK cereal industry, while limiting its environmental impact. The strategy identified key areas for research. Those included developing further variety evaluation and crop improvement, developing cost-effective farming systems which were also environmentally responsive, and improving the understanding of crop management. These important objectives are likely to be best delivered by a UK-based effort.

Scotland has a long and envied tradition of high quality strategic agricultural research. That has benefited from the ability of Scottish institutions to obtain funding from UK and international sources on a competitive basis. About a quarter of HGCAs expenditure on research, an annual budget of around £6m, is spent on projects, which involve Scottish institutions with direct expenditure on research in Scottish institutions taking up a significant proportion of the total Scottish levy.

An open market within HGCA has benefited Scotland and allowed Scottish Institutions to contribute their skills to the UK research effort. It is this effort which is required to allow the UK to become increasingly competitive in the world market.

Prof D Atkinson

Vice-Principal (Research and Education), SAC, Edinburgh Centre of Study, West Mains Road, Edinburgh.

Study allays nitrate fears

Producers suffering in NVZs may be interested to hear of a recent article in New Scientist which quotes work on nitrates conducted by Ben Benjamin at the University of Aberdeen.

Apparently, the alleged dangers from ingesting nitrate, from vegetables and water, are purely theoretical. The suggestion that nitrate might cause stomach cancer was based upon the idea that microbes in the mouth could change nitrate to nitrite, which might react with secondary amines to produce carcinogens. No evidence was found.

If one does not get enough nitrate from vegetables and water, then ones body naturally secretes nitrate in the saliva. It is true that nitrite is produced in the mouth; but it was found that this is decomposed by powerful stomach acid, to produce nitric oxide, and other strong chemicals, which kill salmonella, e coli, etc, thereby guarding against gastro-enteritis.

Nitrate has also been charged with causing blue baby syndrome. Mr Benjamin believed that gastro-enteritis was the main factor in this disease, so nitrate ingestion should guard against it. The author of the article remarks that all the cases of blue baby syndrome of which he knew were caused by water from wells, 98% of which were privately dug, and many of which were found to be polluted.

Is there any chance of a review of NVZ regulations, based upon science, for once, instead of conjecture?

G Smith

Old Milton Farm, Thurleigh, Bedford.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Mike Allwood

Mike Allwood is owner-

occupier of 82ha (200-

acres) near Nantwich,

Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy

herd block calves during

May and June. Besides

converting to organic

production, he is also

planning to produce

unpasteurised cheese

SPRING planning has been complicated by constant references to the bible – the Soil Associations standards for organic food and farming.

Our whole farm suddenly seems covered with molehills, and we can now only control the moles by trapping. The pest control man said he would need to set about 60 traps to do the job. He helpfully commented that moles had probably migrated to us because we have many worms due to our organic farming.

We start feeding organic grass on Apr 1, which means our milk will be classified as organic on July 1. But we were ready for turnout on Feb 11. When we do start grazing there will be much silage left over, which we cannot feed in any quantity next winter, as it will not be organic.

We are still able to feed a small proportion of non-organic silage, but this must be stored separately from in-conversion silage (second year of conversion only) and from organic silage.

A simple answer is to keep our cows in until April and use most of this years silage up, thereby creating a big first cut organic silage ready for next winter. But I do not want to do this for two reasons.

First, we could get more milk from less cake and save other costs if we turn cows out. Second, our milk protein to fat ratio is wrong for good cheese-making.

I think we could solve any milk quality problem by feeding grass. I used to scoff at the idea of designer milk, but am now starting to realise the importance of consistent raw material for the manufacturing process.

Recently, our local council decided to resurface our road, so we now have a large heap of road planings in the silage pit ready to extend cow tracks.

The plan is to lay some large aggregate stone first, cover it with planings, roll well, then top it with a thin layer of limestone dust to provide a good surface for cows feet. The track will then be used by cows, not tractors. We could certainly be grazing Italian ryegrass now if we had better access to far-away fields. &#42

Mike Allwood has a silage pit full of road planings, courtesy of the local council. He hopes to use these to make some more cow tracks.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Burdens Distribution, importers of vegetable and cultivation equipment, has expanded it product range with the introduction of the Dutch-built Sieger Drain Jetter – a maintenance tool for cleaning underground drains.The three point linkage machine is equipped with a 126 litre/min piston diaphragm pump designed to pump liquid through 315m of hose. Offering hydraulic drive with speed regulation, the hose is unwound through four rubber wheels. Other standard features of the Drain Jetter include a suction filling hose, a hydraulically operated guiding arm and a distance counter. Price is £6850.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Unloved and unappreciated? Forced

by a cruel fate to spend your life in the damp and muck, working all the hours God sends? Many farmers may feel the description fits them, but in this case its the scraper tractor its intended for.

One result of the common neglect of scraper tractors occurs deep within their brake drums. The brake shoes are usually so seized up or out of adjustment that the drivers stopping procedure eventually resembles that of a novice ice-skater – some fancy footwork, lots of swearing, then a bang as something solid and immovable

is encountered.

But dont suffer in silence; follow our step-by-step guide to overhauling the drums on the small, old Masseys and Fords that usually shoulder yard duties on stock farms. Then

look on with relief and delight as the cowman exhibits renewed accuracy and poise as he or she negotiates the many obstacles around the average yard.

Also this month, we visit the first of 1999s crop of farm inventions. This one

is a bit different – an

all-terrain carrier for wheelchair users that involved rather different technology from the average farm invention.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

uREPEAT low-dose use of post-emergence herbicide Croptex Steel (sodium monochloroacetate) on cauliflower, broccoli and calabrese, now has off-label approval. Better weed control, less crop damage and lower chemical usage rates should be possible, says distributer Hortichem.

uNEW label extensions mean Platform S (carfentrazone + mecoprop) can be used on winter and spring oats this season as well as on winter and spring wheat and barley, says FMCs Simon Leak. It can also be used twice on any one crop, once in the autumn and once in the spring. The window has also been extended from leaf two to before third node (GS12-32 inclusive). Small amounts of Aurora, a new straight carfentrazone-ethyl formulation, designed for tank-mixing with other products will also be test marketed this season. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Madonna and Child is one of the 50 paintings in Philip Hicks latest collection, Looking Back at Ewe. Sheep are a recurring theme for this artist, who now has more than 30 solo gallery exhibitions to his credit.

Details from Messums Fine Art 01628 486565.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Hugh Jones admires his millennium tribute, a Welsh dragon etched in stone into the hillside at Machynlleth. "Its going to be there for a lot longer than me," says the Powys farmer, whose plans were first outlined in FW last autumn (Farmlife,

Oct 29, 1999).

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Save Our Shop… locals outside the village shop and post office in Ickford, Bucks. Villagers united when they heard it was to close, with more than 160 pledging cash. The money raised – together with borrowing – helped the group meet the £145,000 asking price and, by the time you read this, it should be open again for business. Here, project supporters Sarah Martin (with three-year-old Aaron), Jan Thomas (with

one-year-old Max) and Sue Murphy are seen outside the business.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

THE state of agriculture driving you to drink? Drown your sorrows then in an aptly named pint of Tormented Turnip, says Tom Montgomery.

Tormented Turnip is one of a range of 45 new beers launched by the Kitchen Brewery, Huddersfield, which are proving increasingly popular. Belching Broccoli is another good seller, so is Barking Brussels Sprout, Bungling Beetroot, Raucous Radish and Carrot Cruncher.

All are traditional ales flavoured with genuine vegetables and fruit and sold nationwide through free houses, pub chains, supermarkets and off-licences.

Brewery owner Rob Johnson says there is stiff competition among small, independent brewers like himself so he had to come up with something different. Hes now making 3500gal a week and demand is rising.

Customers have been knocking back barrels of Gruesome Grape and the ladies cant get enough Strawberry Blonde.

If its horses-for-courses you want, heres one for when the French start playing up again. Have a good cry into a glass of Livid Leek.

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Archive Article: 2000/02/25

25 February 2000

Sarah –

pony-mad girl

SARAH cant understand anyone who doesnt like horses.

She cant think of anything more beautiful. She even loves the smell. She lives, breathes and talks horses – as far as Sarah is concerned, New Zealand is a rug not a country.

It was her mother who taught her to ride – as its her mother who makes her do most things. "Grip with your knees," shed bellow from the end of the lunge rain as Sarah tried to master the sitting trot on Amber, her beloved 12.2 bay mare. Sarah learned to grip.

Sarah cried when Amber had to go – but knew she needed something bigger. Something faster. Ambers replacement, Pickwick, is a bit headstrong and prone to laminitis if he gets too much grass – but Sarah doesnt mind. She loves him.

When not at school, Sarah lives in well-worn Puffa and Hunter wellingtons. She has a pair of long leather boots which she lovingly cleans but are seldom worn. Her father claims they were a waste of money. Sarah tells him shes saving them for "best".

Sarahs bedroom is a shrine to the horsy world. While Lucy, her best friend, has posters of Westlife and Boyzone on her walls, Sarahs are lined with pictures from Horse and Hound and rosettes. Dirty jodhpurs litter the floor – but she doesnt notice the smell.

Sarah is torn about hunting. Her school friends say its cruel but her mother says they dont understand and she ought to have a go. She knows she doesnt like the idea of a fox being chased and killed – but she does like the idea of galloping through the countryside. She could wear her new hacking jacket – the one she got for her 12th birthday. And her leather boots.

"You look pretty with your hair down," dad tells her. But she prefers it drawn back into a ponytail. Its not like she wants to impress the boys or anything. Half the time her hair is hidden beneath her skull cap anyway. Sarah would rather ride without a hat, but her mother says she must always wears one. "You only have one head," she insists.

When he feels like winding her up, Sarahs older brother Toby teases her that shell get a get a big bum when shes older. "All horsy women do," he reckons. She used to ignore him but shes started having doubts. Shes seen her mother from behind.

She worries about this and her spots and whose class shell be in next year, so to make herself feel better she goes to see Pickwick. Hell understand. She strokes him and, yes, everything seems suddenly better. Hes just so, so beautiful. How, she wonders again, can anyone possibly not like horses.

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