Archive Article: 2000/03/03 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

One of the last sugar beet loads of the 1999/2000 campaign is added to some of the 2.2m t handled by the Wissington factory, Norfolk, since last autumn. The campaign length at 163 days falls just one day short of the factorys longest and 17,000t below the record achieved in 1997-98.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Gang-workers plant out salad onions at J E Piccaver and Co, Norfolk House Farm, Lincs. The 69ha (170-acre) crop is destined for processing markets. The 959ha (2347-acre) farm has 37 ha (96 acres) in organic conversion growing potatoes, calabrese, carrots and trial baby-leaf lettuce.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

uA NEW finance company aimed at the agricultural sector and related country industries has been launched by First National Bank, a member of the Abbey National Group. First National Country Capital, due to be launched in March, will finance land, machinery and vehicle purchases. It views agriculture as a key area for expansion, says managing director, Bob Wilson.

uMORE shoppers are buying their meat at supermarkets, according to the latest Meat Demand Trends from the Meat and Livestock Commission. Supermarket share rose from 58% in 1995 to 70% last year, though there are signs that the switch is slowing. The number of butchers shops has fallen by almost a third in the past decade to 9700. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

&#8226 FARM minister Nick (from Newcastle) Brown has launched a new look for his namesake beer. Newcastle Brown Ale will carry a distinctive EU logo after it became the latest product to be granted protected status for its name and identity by the EU Commission.

&#8226 WEATHER forecasts may never be the same again. Weather scientists, IT experts and mathematicians have created a new weather index which takes into account the sun, rainfall, wind and temperature expected and comes up with an index score for the day. The system, which has been developed by wpindex, gives the day a mark out of 100 depending on conditions. The index will not be fully launched until May but can be previewed at www.wpindex.com.

&#8226 A RESEARCH unit at the University of Aberdeen, which carries out research into issues related to rural change, has won a £1.5m grant to study young people and the rural labour market. The PAYBIRD project aims to analyse the effects of policies on 16-25 year olds across rural areas of Europe.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Leicester-based AC Shropshire Ltd – who finish pigs and cattle and supply feed – have repainted their wagons with a special buy British meat logo to help the farmers cause. Pictured here are drivers (l to r) Maurice Brown and Mark Read ready to spread the word to the motoring public on their daily delivery round which goes nationwide.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

COOL, wet weather has slowed grass growth in the past week and wet ground is delaying turnout in some areas.

Heavy rain at Greenmount College, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland means turnout is still at least 10 days away, according to grassland technologist, David Patterson.

"Cool, wet weather has depressed soil temperature meaning grass growth is a disappointing 2-3kg DM/ha/day and covers are averaging 1800-1900kg DM/ha. Three to four days of drying weather would make a big difference."

However, ground conditions are the most important factor currently preventing turnout at Greenmount. Soil is too wet and vulnerable for poaching, says Dr Patterson.

"We have a saying that you can poach ground once but if you poach it twice, grass growth will suffer for the rest of the season."

But cows are out on Richard Davis farm in south east Anglesey where soils are lighter. Of his 90-cow herd, 40 freshly calved cows are currently grazing 9kg DM/head/day.

"Cows are only out by day at the moment but we are hopeful that there will be enough grass for them to be out day and night in about a weeks time," he says.

On farms well equipped for grazing, BGS consultant Paul Bird reports that cows are already out day and night.

"Farms with tracks have been grazing cows day and night for some weeks. Yields from grass for some freshly calved cows are 17-25 litres a day and concentrate feeding varies from nothing to 4kg/day.

"Grass daily growth rates are averaging about 15kg DM/ha and concentrate feeding levels are falling on farms as producers gain confidence in grazing management," Mr Bird adds. &#42

Daily growth rates

Anglesey 6kg DM/ha

Northern Ireland 3kg DM/ha

Pembrokes 20kg DM/ha

Sussex 10kg DM/ha

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

MAR 4 Dispersal of tractors (7), self-proppelled forager, arable kit and workshop equipment. Ballycotton, Co Cork. Daniel Flemming (00 353 21 385525)

MAR 4 Dispersal on behalf of executors of machinery and implements. Marston, Wilts. Atwell Martin (01249-462222)

MAR 4 Dispersal of Deutz tractors, Unimog, three Bobcats, hedging and arable kit. Ridley, Ches. Wright Manley (01829-262100)

MAR 6 Monthly sale of store cattle (1000 head) and store sheep. Millhall. Caledonian (01786-450922)

MAR 7 Sale of implements including 12-tonne oil-fired grain drier and drier engine. Crossford, Dunfermline. United Auctions (01786-473055)

MAR 8 Dispersal of spring-calving suckler cows and heifers (98 head) plus Continental X heifers, stock bulls, and arable machinery. Sherborne, Glos. Dreweatt Neate (01635-553500)

MAR 8 Dispersal of six MF tractors, Claas 96 combine, potato harvester and other vegetable machinery. Preston, Lancs. Smith Hodgkinson (01772-555403)

MAR 8 Sale of JD, MF and Case tractors, Dowdeswell ploughs, 4m arable kit and grassland machinery. Standon, Herts. Cheffins Grain & Comins (01223-358731)

MAR 9 Late Winter sale of hay and straw. Newbury. Dreweatt Neate (01635-553500)

MAR 9 Potato cultivation and harvesting kit, arable machinery and Matbro. Wyberton, Lincs. Brown & Co (01205-311622)

MAR 9 Spring sale of tractors, machinery, implements and timber (sleepers). Lanark. Lawrie & Symington (01555-662281)

MAR 9 Sale of store cattle (650 head) and breeding beef cattle. Ayr. James Craig (01292-262241)

MAR 10 Sale of Blonde dAquitaine cattle (73 head) including entries from the Artington herd. Carlisle. Harrison & Hetherington (01228-590490)

MAR 10 Dispersal of arable kit, grain equipment, livestock hurdels, troughs and crush. Daventry, Northants. Howkins & Harrison (01788-560321)

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

RESTRAINT in strobilurin fungicide use, as recommended by the Fungicide Resistance Action Comm-ittee guidelines, makes a lot of sense.

That is the view of David Laird, development manager for trifloxystrobin at Novartis and a member of FRACs working group on strobilurin and related compounds (STARs).

Trifloxystrobin may still be awaiting approval, but the company is keen to see it introduced responsibly to a long-term market, says Dr Laird. Following FRAC guidelines is the key to doing that, he maintains.

"Manufacturers spend a lot of time and effort bringing new, hopefully better products to the market. New products must be positioned in a sustainable manner so long-term benefits to the grower can be realised. "All evidence to date suggests the resistance risk to STAR fungicides can be high in certain situations. Resistance is target site type and similar in several unrelated fungi."

Already powdery mildew resistance to STAR fungicides is present in commercial cereals (Arable, Dec 10) and melons and other diseases could follow, it seems.

"There is evidence that resistance can occur in Black Sigatoka disease of bananas, in downy mildew diseases of grapes and cucurbits and in apple scab. So it is not just in powdery mildews. The fact that resistance can be found in such a diverse group of fungi should be seen as a big red flag."

Much is still to be learnt on managing strobilurin fungicide resistance, he says. "We are working diligently to understand the basic mechanisms and applications for sound management. "But our position with STARs is that there is a real risk, so we must apply basic principles pro-actively.

"One of the most important of these is to limit exposure of the fungus to the fungicide. Hence Novartis supports a restriction in the number of STAR fungicide applications in wheat to two and use of strobilurin products in mixtures." &#42

NOVARTISONSTARs

&#8226 FRAC guidelines sensible.

&#8226 Resistance risk not just mildew.

&#8226 Still many unknowns.

&#8226 Precautionary principle.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

HAVING sharpened the hedge-cutter, dug the 30-year-old hedge-back plough and rusting excavator out of the nettles, March will be the month that trees, hedges and wildlife habitats are customised for the new IACS rulings on field boundaries.

It is barmy that this new EU-led decision should destroy the huge effort of wildlife sensitive farmers to plant, trim and resize hedges over recent years. I have had the whole farm surveyed by Premier Design Surveys, Thirsk, using "laser workstations", the most accurate system of measurement I could find and certainly surpassing any wheel or OS map. This new ruling seems certain to cause a few headaches this year and I am glad that MAFF and the NFU are seeking urgent "clarification" on this matter. Surely 99.9% of farmers are not dishonestly appropriating EU funds?

The potato trade this year has truly become a consumer rather than a production world. We all know the strong £ has devastated processing, but in the wholesale packing trade that is not the case.

There is simply a surplus of unwanted and unmarketable potatoes, but a severe shortage of quality. Of the total crop, 40% are planted without an intended market, and numerous varieties are planted that the consumer has never heard of and so wont buy. That is exemplified by the fish shop trade and supermarkets now preferring selected quality imports from Cyprus and Egypt at £10 and £7.20 for a 20kg bag, respectively. Demand is such that the imports are being rationed.

Recently I overheard a customer trying to get a refund on a pure woollen jumper in a clothing shop. It had shrunk in a hot wash followed by tumble dryer, which makes me wonder just how many food labels are actually read and abided by.

Not only is everything so clinically clean today that no one has enough immunity, if labels are not read it is no wonder food poisoning and allergies are rising. &#42

MAFFchanges to field boundary rules are ludricous, says Yorks grower Kevin Littleboy.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

James Hosking

James Hosking farms 516ha

(1275 acres) with his

parents and brother at

Fentongollan, Tresillian,

Truro, Cornwall. Land is

equally split between share

farming, various FBTs and a

tenancy. Crops include

wheat, oats, barley and

daffodils, alongside sheep

and cattle enterprises

PICKING and marketing daffodils dominates our activities at this time of year.

So far, the season has gone well. Cool weather has kept flower growth steady, allowing us to keep on top of the picking. In warm weather the daffodils can come into flower faster than we can pick.

I have not put much thought into the arable crops or started walking the fields yet and any available spray days have been used to apply fungicides to daffodils. We usually spread the first nitrogen on the winter cereals in February, but they seem to have come through the winter very well this year, and, if anything, are carrying too many tillers, so we will hold off for a while.

My brother has also had a busy month. The module tunnels are rapidly filling up with cauliflower, cabbage and calabrese plants for summer cutting and we are about to start drawing the first of our 1800 autumn born lambs. At £2.70/kg, the current price is a lot better than we feared it might be.

Farmers are used to speculating about the weather and market prices, but all too often these days we are trying to plan around other uncertainties. The EU and MAFF have said the flax regime is to be reformed, but as far as I can gather the Council is not meeting again until late March and it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached at that meeting.

Flax should be drilled in March, so what do we do? We could disrupt our rotation, growing it on land cultivated for flax in the past three years, just in case it is brought within the Arable Area Payments Scheme. Alternatively, we gamble that no decision is reached and stick with our usual system, growing on ineligible ground that has been in grass and bulbs. With the EUs track record on speed of decision-making I think that the odds are in our favour, so we will take the latter option. &#42

Daffodil picking has been a steady business for Cornish grower James Hosking this season. Flax planting decisions are proving more tricky.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Andrew Keeler

Andrew Keeler farms with

his parents at Church Farm,

Aylsham, Norfolk. Sugar

beet, potatoes, winter

wheat and premium malting

barley are grown on the

32ha (80-acre) farm

LAST years wheat and sugar beet have all left the farm so now we can work out precisely what our yields were.

Riband wheat came out at 10.1t/ha (4.1t/acre). That is 0.4t/ha (3cwt/acre) below our average, but considering the conditions in autumn 1998 not a bad result.

Sugar beet yielded 65.5t/ha (26.5t/acre) of clean beet at an average sugar content of 17%, dirt tare of 6% and 7% tops. That gives us 63t of C-beet, but, despite being over quota, we will not reduce our area this spring. First it would upset our rotation and, second, who knows what next season holds.

I have been to a couple of meetings recently. The first was positive and up-beat. CropCare reported barley trial work on the yield and quality effects of using more nitrogen combined with new chemistry and Simba presented their new one-pass seed-bed technique. I doubt it is a system we will use here but I can see the potential benefits for larger, heavyland farms.

The second gathering was a British Potato Council area meeting. Only 50 attended, which is surprisingly low considering the number of growers in the region, and some of those were from the processors rather than farms. The BPC highlighted how our levy money is spent. Research takes a large portion together with promoting the potato both at home and abroad.

During the open debate at the end of the meeting many of the growers present had a noticeably negative attitude. I know that all sectors of farming are under extreme pressure, but to climb out of this our attitude has got to change.

It is no good waiting for a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand. We have to encourage, persuade and insist that bodies such as the BPC, MLC, or HGCA get out there and encourage sales of our produce both at home and abroad. As growers, lets not just complain about imports, but get out there and promote our quality produce around the world and start fighting back. &#42

Andrew Keeler has been to agronomy and BPC meetings in Norfolk this month. The latter left him with some strong thoughts for growers as well as organisations such as the BPC.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Mike Rowland

Mike Rowlands 141ha

(350-acre) Bowden Farm,

Burbage, Wilts, is in organic

conversion, with 32ha (80

acres) fully organic from

Oct 99. Potatoes, carrots,

wheat and peas will rotate

with grass for suckler cows.

At Amesbury 404ha (1000

acres) is in conventional

seed production

SPRING is just around the corner and our organic grass has already come to life.

At a recent Soil Association seed meeting it was made clear that the SA might remove organic status from growers using conventional seed when organic seed is clearly available.

NIAB has shown that it is prudent for organic growers to sow seed that is inherently free from seed-borne disease, and wheat and bean seed tests, which are currently available, are being further developed. Disease can quickly build up when least expected in an organic situation, so clean seed is vital for farm-saving.

Blackgrass and other weeds can also build up, so buying higher priced seed is not as expensive an option as it first appears. New seed of the latest variety or blend with the best vigour and low inherent disease should achieve higher yields, too. Most importantly, using organic seed, whether farm-saved or bought in, completes the organic cycle, which is what the public expects.

On our conventional farm we have completed our first top dressing with 27% nitrogen, 30% sulphur. Cereals had 124kg/ha (50kg/acre) of product and oilseed rape 250kg/ha (100kg/acre). Ploughing is also finished and we are ready to drill when the soil warms up.

Flavour of the month seems to be to set aside half your farm and sack half your staff. With interest rates at twice the level on the Continent and such a strong £, that might suit some smug politicians – on both sides of the House. Investment is pouring into the country, but 80% of the farming industry is losing money. We are grateful to Mr Blair for his environmental help, but his £ is too strong; we cannot compete on export markets and imports are unreasonably cheap.

Is this of concern to the public? I think so. Only too frequently imports are inferior to home-grown produce, but packed and labelled as if they were British. Such dishonest labelling must be stopped.n

The government must realise that sterlings strength is forcing some to consider set-aside and staff cuts, says Mike Rowland (left). But jobs are safe on his Wilts unit, he stresses.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Stupidity to criticise EUmembership

In the late 1970s, the distinguished American historian, Barbara Tuckman, wrote a book called Folly. It dealt with examples from history where kings, governments and many other groups pursued policies contrary to their own interests and continued to do so even when the folly became obvious.

Various examples are highlighted, one being the French king Louis XIVs persecution of the Huguenots. The Huguenots were the most pious, industrious and skilled people in the country. They were persecuted to such a degree that most of them fled to neighbouring countries. This resulted in the French economy going into decline for 100 years while their neighbours prospered.

Another example was the British car industry in the 1960s.

There was also the American war in Vietnam. The Americans knew they could not win, yet for years continued to inflict misery on themselves and on the country they were supposed to be defending.

I am reminded of all this when I hear farmers criticising our membership of the European Union. No group in our country has benefited as much as they have from this membership.

Since we joined, farmers have received countless billions in subsidies and grants, in many cases guaranteeing a living for the most inefficient. And yet it is the farmers, both individually and collectively, who maintain a continuous chorus of whining and sniping at the very system which provides their security.

I have no explanation for this incomprehensible stupidity except to say that history has many such examples.

It is to be hoped that in 50 years a British historian does not write a book on the decline of British agriculture, recalling how, in 2007, the Tories won a landslide victory, took Britain out of Europe and reduced the farmers to penury.

Malcolm Whitaker

Harcombe Farm, Syde, Cheltenham, Glos.

Joining k is the best remedy

How about blaming the Labour government for refusing to match the European cash on offer £ for £ and so depriving British agriculture from well-deserved aid? Many farmers would say that the single biggest thing that would help would be a lower £. Joining the k is the fastest and best remedy available.

How can some racist, small-minded people force the government to hold on to "our nationality"? Both Spanish and Chinese blood run in my veins, I carry a Finnish passport and speak four European languages including German. My husband is Scottish, one brother-in-law is English and the other one a Jew. Aunt is American, she was educated in New Zealand and married a Greek. There is nothing insignificant in my cultural heritage.

We need easy communication and trade between different cultures. We are not discarding the old traditions, but adding to them. Maybe some people feel threatened because we are no longer imperialists but equal responsible persons in a partnership.

Mrs P Johnston

Townfoot, Kirkmahoe, Dumfries.

Mr Blair just doesnt care

The last sentence of your Leader (Feb 11) asks the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, to help the industry he claims to care for. Sadly, he does not care about farming. I am sure there is an unwritten government agenda to let it wither and die.

They promise to help, but farming eats up too much of their precious budget in relation to the output it produces and the small population involved.

Unless there is some new, huge movement to scare Mr Blair to his senses he will let farming drizzle away. Then this money can be diverted into other ministries. Poor Mr Brown is just a puppet. The chocolate eclair should have been aimed at Mr Blair.

A more effective way of telling the Prime Minister what people think when he prances round the country would be to stand up at the end of his speeches and turn ones back on him in complete silence. Sometimes silent and non-violent demonstrations can be more effective.

Perhaps the urban people, who profess to love the countryside they want to roam, need to be reminded when they fly-tip their waste in the lanes that there will not be any benevolent farmers left to clear it up. And councils will not have the money to take it away.

Glos Farmer

Name and address supplied.

Tesco labelling policy for all?

I was delighted to read the letter (Feb 18) from Chris Ling of Tesco indicating that in future all pig products in the companys stores will be labelled clearly to show whether the animals had been reared in the UK.

May one ask whether Tesco will adopt the same policy for all the poultry and poultry products?

Ian Stevenson

Court Lodge, Whitton, Ludlow, Shropshire.

Others helped, why not us?

I was angered by Sean Rickards comments (News, Feb 11). With his former NFU connections, one would have thought he would have had a better understanding of farmers problems.

On subsidies, he quotes British Leyland as a prime example. British Leyland has enjoyed massive subsidies in the past. More recently its German parent company, BMW, held a gun to the governments head and it gave further large sums to subsidise a foreign company. When British farmers ask for agri money compensation, to which they are entitled, it is refused.

Farmers ask for and deserve a level playing field. Supermarkets and many other industries are encouraged to locate in various areas with the promise of large subsidies. So what is wrong with farmers receiving them, after all, farmers contribute much to the economy of the country as well.

Is it fair that the British farmer is asked to produce to a higher welfare and hygiene standard only to be dumped by supermarkets if they can source products more cheaply elsewhere, completely disregarding both welfare and hygiene? So much for loyalty to the farmer and the consumer.

I agree farmers must be efficient, and most are, they have to be in the present economic climate. But getting larger does not necessarily ensure efficiency; that has been shown in other industries where some companies have expanded only to fail later.

J E A Owens

Glancorrwg, Llanpumsaint, Carmarthen.

Hook up pc and sell, sell, sell!

It seems to be a general rule that over-prolific vermin undergo periods of mass-extinction, victims of their own success. Over-abundant rabbit populations undergo self-culling when they contract myxomatosis and RHD. Now supermarkets are beginning to be ravaged by e-commerce. The £100 shopping baskets are transferring to e-shopping, which will eventually make supermarkets uncompetitive in their present form.

This may be a chance for producers to compete on a more level playing field. Properly designed, your website can look as good as, or better than, anyone elses. A PC-user cannot tell the size of your operation, or the amount of chromium plating you have, by looking at your website. Hook up a bright 12-year-old to your portable computer, and get selling direct to the public. If your product-range is too small, just meat for example, get together with like-minded neighbours who sell vegetables, flowers, hay and straw for horses. And be prepared for barter, something we are much more used to than supermarkets.

Incidentally, New Scientist reports that internet retailers are complaining that two-thirds or more of potential shoppers abandon their electronic shopping trolleys before closing a purchase. It seems that, in many cases, prices are not openly displayed. One finds out the cost of an item by clicking on it, only to discover that it may cost a lot more than one is willing to pay.

G Smith

Old Milton Farm, Thurleigh, Bedford.

Make way for Mr Haddock

There comes a moment in history when the phrase "if only" leaps to ones lips. If only Churchill had come to power two years before he did. If only Captain Smith of the Titanic had been able to change course in time. If only Richard Haddock had been elected president of the NFU, instead of the present incumbent.

The time for a change in direction in farming is now, but valuable time will be lost as casualties of this crisis suffer needlessly. All because someone has failed to plan and lead the necessary changes required. When the head of this country and the whole leadership of the NFU refuse to be in touch with grassroots members, the small and vulnerable suffer.

It is not the mark of a strong, resolute, politically astute leadership able to stand its corner. The NFU council may be full of intelligent men but they have got us into this mess. I, and many thousands like me, hold them responsible for the present position. They are as big a flop as the millennium dome, and should go quietly, to make way for Richard Haddock and people of his ilk who are not only politically astute and hard working but carries the majority of grassroots members with them.

Malcolm Light

Ashbury, Okehampton, Devon.

Buy British clauses needed

I am amazed by our government which is so short sighted and addle-brained. It spends billions of taxpayers money to support other nations with military and other aid. But it is unable to support our own nation, which is also in need of support.

With a stroke of the pen and two words (Buy British), they could support our own industries which are in crisis. Those include farming, manufacturing, steel, coal that would create jobs and reduce the dole queue, therefore saving taxpayers money.

Ministers when signing contracts with supply agents should include Buy British clauses. So what if they have to pay a bit more due to the strong £, it is no fault of the producers. Our hospitals, schools, prisons, forces, etc, will be eating good quality food, wearing and using good quality supplies.

I am sure the taxpayer, if given a choice, would support our industries, thus saving money and providing secure employment. Their own jobs could be on the line.

So ministers take your head out of the sand and create a better future for this country.

Mrs A Pitts

Stockbridge Farm, Eskmeals, Bootle Station, Millom, Cumbria.

Plough/drill is not sustainable

Those whose practical experience of organic arable farming predates the current bandwagon will not be surprised to read of Messrs Greens experiences (Organic Special, Feb 11).

Long-term cereal production by the plough-and-drill system in an all-arable organic programme is doomed to fail for two reasons. First, the build-up of an arable weed burden and second, the decline of soil fertility with weaker crops struggling against stronger weeds.

The problem is not absolute, it is economic. It is more economic to grow heavy arable crops on half the farm in rotation with the other half feeding livestock than to struggle with the modest weedy crops of all-arable cropping. And the need to have some of the land in green manure crops and sometimes in full or half fallow for weed control means that in practice it makes much better agronomic and economic sense to have that area of land grazed as a clover ley.

Maintaining soil fertility on organic farms is costly in terms of land use, labour, time, fuel and materials. Traditional tenancy agreements make fussy requirements about the use of manure and sale of farm straw and limits on the number of white straw crops to be grown.

There is a shortage of organic feed, especially cereals, since hardly any all-arable farms have converted to organic. The feed shortage is likely to remain a problem because organic farming is a system of mixed farming with a high level of internal self-sufficiency. That is its strength. A farm selling off large quantities of feed grain will be hard-pressed to maintain its soil fertility, even with the use of clover and other legumes.

Unless British arable farmers perfect the production of grain crops strip-seeded into permanent white clover and restrict the use of the plough, the situation will be that, just as the fertility of North Africa went down the sewers of Rome, so the fertility of the soil of Polish peasants is going down the throats of British organic pigs and poultry. Is this a stop-gap? Because sustainable it isnt.

Stuart Pattison

Church Lane, Calstock, Cornwall.

Organic myth needs challenge

I note that you have drawn attention to the BBCs huge

bias towards organic farming and its criticism of modern farming methods (Opinion, Feb 18).

Organic farming has a useful niche market and includes some good farmers. Among its top protagonists are people whose passionately held views are frequently expressed with skill and eloquence. But it is mischievous of the BBC to suggest that this outdated and expensive form of production will ever be anything more than niche. It is amazing that a system which is probably eight times more likely to infect its consumers with E coli and is environmentally risky in terms of nitrate leaching should be attracting extra subsidies.

With 99% of our food being produced by modern farming methods there is enough food for all of us and the population has greater life expectancy than ever before. This myth that turning the clock back 50 years will save the world needs challenging. That is difficult while The Archers and other BBC programmes portray a biased and unrealistic story about farming methods.

Good luck to those who have opted to supply the organic niche but please do not denigrate the good wholesome food produced by the vast majority of British farmers.

P J Fairs

hjfwarrens@farming.co.uk

Conception rate was higher

I wish to correct a mistake in your report of the MDC Focus Day at Reaseheath College (Livestock, Feb 4). The first service conception rate in the Langhill select line is 39% and not 30%.

Although this may seem low to those who believe theirs is substantially higher, in intense and accurately recorded herds the conception to first service rate is lower than average because the average is probably overstated. These figures are consistent with other research herds estimates and those from accurate surveys.

Likewise, the purpose of research herds like Langhill is to demonstrate what happens when selection for production is intense. We want to see the consequences, not overcome them by increasing management input. That way we can work out ways of incorporating suitable information into future breeding indexes so future generations of cattle will not exhibit the same consequences.

Mike Coffey

Animal Biology Division, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian.

Time for young to step forward

I am looking forward to seeing the results of your fox hunting survey (Farmlife, Feb 11). I do not live on a farm, but in a small village in Quorn Hunt country. My family has been associated with agriculture all of my life. My father now works at Brooksby College and his brother works a small family farm in Lincolnshire. We have a selection of animals , presently owning around 40 head of cattle with a similar amount of sheep and a selection of poultry.

As farming pushes its way through the worst times in living memory, I am still enthusiastic about agriculture and of my future within it. As farm incomes fall, family farms such as the 50-acre farm owned by my fathers family seem to become increasingly rare. Even I, a 17-year-old – have noticed the increase in the sales of such farms in recent years. It seems to be a sad sign of farming in this country today, and of peoples apathy towards it. Like all other people my age I know that farming will recover. It has to, but I also recognise the fact that we need to help the process along.

I am writing in the hope that other people sharing the same belief as I do may be able to help me. I want to do my bit to help British agriculture, as I am sure all of your readers do. I am a member of Melton Mowbray Young Farmers Club, and have recently been posted with the position of Press secretary. I am currently at school studying A-levels in Geography, Environmental Science and Economics, and after a talk to the school by the RSPCA on foxhunting, I decided that it was time to make a stand.

I was horrified at how people in the Melton area – an area renown for its hunting were taken in by the biased propaganda from the RSPCA. The school enticed us in telling us that we were going to see a debate on fox hunting. There was only an RSPCA spokeswoman there. There was nobody to give the other side of the debate. I have decided that I should attempt to give the other side of the debate.

I am planning to write a series of articles giving a young persons perspective of how country issues and agriculture look at the moment and how they look to be in the future. I then want to get the articles published in a national newspaper, which should be possible, because people are interested in this subject. I hope to be able to educate people about the facts, which at present many people are unaware of.

I would like young FW readers to send me their views, and any facts that they wish to be included because after all it is our future we are controlling. Then I hope to interest a national newspaper in running this story.

Andrew Payne

4 Ash Way, Frisby on the Wreake, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

Make farming an election issue

I am not a farmer, but I have lived close to the farming community for 40 years. I see the accelerating decline of a prosperous industry caused by a lack of political will on the part of the government and the NFU. I have spent my life in an industry that has seen enormous growth, rapid technological change and brutal commercial forces reshaping it. I have seen the contrast between an industry controlled and directed by politicians, and one run by private enterprise.

Any commercial activity run by politicians will fail. That is the prime problem besetting British farming. The secondary problem is how to break away from management by political whim and expediency without destroying the industry. The government and the NFU are the problem, and so it is foolish to think that it can to solve the secondary problem.

Agriculture is in the political wilderness. Tony Blair has only one thought – how to win the next election. Farming is not on his critical list. There are no votes for Labour in farming country.

The industrys new leaders will have to come up with a realistic plan for Mr Blair to support. But if the choice is: Support farming, or lose the election, support it he will. The plan is likely to require all farmers to operate their businesses along subsidy-free, commercial principles and there will be casualties. Certainly, the countryside will change, but no more so than the changes wrought by the demise of coal mining, the railways, public transport and most other services in rural areas.

If the industry does not gather its wits, decide to make its problems an election issue, and strike hard before the next general election, it will have condemned itself to a painful and lingering death.

Bryan Pearson

PO Box 2, Umberleigh, Devon.

Sensible way to grain assurance

In response to Mr Wilsons letter (Feb 18) stating that ACCS has a monopoly on grain assurance in the UK, I assume he is unaware of an alternative whole farm scheme that covers cereal enterprises as well as others.

The Genesis Quality Assurance Scheme has been classed as a sensible approach to assurance and is a not for profit scheme, with any surplus funds being spent on marketing. By publicising the best methods of production to the consumer, it is giving them the confidence to buy assured produce in preference to other supplies.

There is no front to the scheme and transparent accounting is backed up by publishing and issuing annual accounts to all members, in much the same way as a plc.

The combined assurance solution can typically save the farmer more than 50% in assurance subscriptions and benefits can completely outweigh the cost of assurance to the farmer, thereby creating a premium for being assured.

Martin Barker

Managing director, Genesis Quality Assurance, Ryknield House, Alrewas, Burton on Trent.

Selenium and cow conception

Nottingham University researcher George Mann reported at a Milk Development Council meeting that the average dairy cows first service conception rate is now 39%. He warns that if the trend continues the UK dairy herd will not breed enough replacements.

Certainly pushing cows for high production at all costs and at the cost of other traits is a factor in endemic infertility. There may be a copper deficiency problem and stress must always be avoided. But it is astounding that a major research department should be unaware that the major cause of failure to conceive in the cow and of impaired performance in the bull is selenium deficiency. Farmers report that raising selenium intakes increases first service conception rates by up to 90%.

Selenium intakes are deficient because UK soils are deficient, often lower than 0.3ppm, from years of removing it in intensive agriculture and not returning what has been taken off in crop, meat and milk. Acid rain also leaches it out. Ammonium sulphate fertilisers have the same effect.

Mineral blocks, fortified feed and injections are emergency aids but selenium levels need to be restored to pasture arable land so that our animals take it in the way nature intended, from grass, forage and feed.

Since 1985 the Finns have recognised the problem that our agricultural pundits refuse to recognise, and by law 6mg selenium is incorporated per/kg NPK, providing 3g/ha a year and bringing intakes in both animals and humans up to where they should be.

Soil levels should be 0.8-1.2 ppm. Have them analysed and corrected by the right amount. There will not only be increased fertility but also a marked reduction in other selenium deficiency symptoms: Mastitis, lameness, difficult births, malpresentation, retained placentas in cows, contractile ankles, scouring and pneumonia in calves.

Helen Fullerton

Farming and Livestock Concern, 5 Bryngelli, Carmel, Llanelli.

Live exports are our last lifeline

Has Mr Prosser, Labour MP for Dover, given any thought to his actions in trying to ban live exports?

There has been much made in the news of cull sheep being dumped or given away because there is no market for them due to the rules regarding the splitting of adult carcasses and inspection charges. Thanks to live exports a market has been found which gives some of these sheep a home. It may even be less stressful for livestock from south-east Kent to be slaughtered in France than in England. Thats because the nearest French abattoir is closer than the nearest English one – in Luton.

Most sold for live export are for fattening and farming and not for meat. Carcass exports will not be the answer, as yet another slaughterhouse has stopped slaughtering for this trade in our area because it is not viable. Fewer carcasses will be exported in the future.

Each live export ban has been followed by a new wave of EU regulations which shut more slaughterhouses and make our slaughter industry less competitive. Eventually, it will close completely.

Is Mr Prosser a typical MP who just wants to keep himself in the news rather than think of the consequences to agriculture? Or is he a vegan or a vegetarian?

In that case he may not care if the industry survives or dies.

About 25% of the price of a carcass is paid to the government in inspection charges. Many of these are set to treble over the next three years.

The same inspection costs on the Continent are as little as 10% of the price.

That will force the British slaughter industry out of the Continental carcass market, thereby leaving live export as the only avenue left for the British farmer in Europe.

S Martin

65 St Dunstans Street, Canterbury, Kent.

Quantity in – quality out

Henry Fell (Letters, Feb 4) mentions the new GM rice which will apparently solve the problems of micronutrient malnutrition.

It was new crop varieties (and hubris) which largely caused these problems in the first place. That view is developed in the article Hungry for a new revolution, New Scientist, Mar 30, 1996. Plant breeders sacrificed quality for quantity.

Traditional crops were richer in vitamins and could extract minerals such as iron and zinc from poor soils.

Conventional plant breeding with traditional rice varieties at the International Rice Research Institute, has already produced high yielding rice, rich in iron and zinc.

Ian Sanders

Walton Farmhouse, Craibstone, Bucksburn, Aberdeen. ab456@ab.sac.ac.uk

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3 March 2000

How old is your Dowdeswell plough? To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the companys formation, Dowdeswell Engineering is seeking out the oldest Dowdeswell semi-mounted and mounted ploughs still being used in the UK by their original owners. Once found, the two owners will each be presented with the companys Ploughback finance account with a credit balance of £1000. Those who believe they are in with a chance should contact the company on

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3 March 2000

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises of a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

HAS the pig industry been plucked from the jaws of an abyss?

At long last we are seeing an improvement in prices, which is long overdue. There is no doubt that prices were pushed lower than necessary by the buying policy of big processors.

With lower slaughterings, marketing groups must start flexing their muscles. Any processor falling behind the market price must be kept short of pigs, as we are not out of the mire yet.

Processors will try to haul prices back and supermarkets will want to keep them low to suit their own ends, but lower pig numbers coming through the system means their ability to drag prices down should be limited.

Another piece of good news has been a rise in cull sow prices. This not only almost meets the cost of replacing a sow with a homebred gilt, but with our financial year end looming, it will help stock valuations.

Me and my big mouth. I mentioned that January had been a dry, mild month; of course February has been exceedingly wet and windy, but fortunately with little snow. Our only consolation is that days are drawing out and when you live as far north as we do, this has a great bearing on your working day.

My efforts to increase slaughter weight of bacon pigs has met with some success. We moved to terminal type boars a number of years ago and have no regrets. But I was concerned about gradings at heavier weights.

I must admit, I have been pleasantly surprised and there have been no problems with our pig gradings over the past few weeks, averaging over 76kg deadweight and a P2 backfat probe of 11.5mm.

If only we could improve farrowing house performance as well – we are still having problems with uneven pigs at weaning. In an attempt to rectify this we trying a diet supplement for newly born pigs, to give smaller ones a boost.

Over the years I have tried many of these mysterious products. I am trying this one because its recommended by a fellow pig producer who swears by it. Time will tell. &#42

Dennis Bridgeford is delighted that at last theres some good news in the pig industry.

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3 March 2000

Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles farms in

partnership with his parents

in the West Penwith

Environmentally Sensitive

Area near St Ives, Cornwall.

The farm consists of 97ha

(240 acres) of grassland and

45ha (110 acres) of rough

moor land, stocked with 160

dairy cows, 80 followers and

50 assorted beef animals

AT the end of any past quota year, I would have been happy to be 3.5% over quota, but on Apr 1 this year our milk will be sold to a different company.

Our change in milk buyer coupled with national over-production leaves us in the same position as many others, with no threshold. In this corner of the country many of us are pinning our hopes on Milk Link succeeding.

During the few dry periods in February, I have been busy spreading slurry on fields destined for first-cut silage. Historically, a split application of fertiliser was used on these fields to give 150kg/ha (120 units/acre) of nitrogen. But nowadays I aim to spread 2760 litres/ha (1500gal/acre) during February and then in early March apply 61kg/ha (3cwt/acre) of 30.6.16.

A Galloway bull is running with heifers, easy calving being the principal reason for this breed choice. We keep any bull calves and give heifer calves away to anyone willing to rear them.

One of our neighbours, a hobby farmer with about 1ha (3 acres), agreed to take two heifer calves recently. Mother, father and daughter turned up in their VW Polo, and the two calves joined their daughter in the back. As they drove down the lane, I could not help wondering if regulations governing live animal transport covered VW Polos.

We have recently vaccinated the 4-5-month-old calves against husk. Last year, for the first time in many, the calves were not vaccinated. This decision proved to be a false economy, as a group of 20 heifers had to be treated with antibiotics and we ended up losing one. The incident served as a valuable lesson that cutting animal health costs can have exactly the opposite effect.

But cost cutting is still vital as milk prices continue to fall. I have been working on a budget cash-flow for the next financial year, which, although time consuming, highlights our precarious balance between income and expenditure.

From our budget two options emerge: The first is to make some new notches in our belts, the second is to buy a new calculator. &#42

Februarys been a wet month for Chris Knowles, but when it has been dry hes been spreading slurry on fields destined for first cut silage.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

The British Crop Protection Council has revised its boom and hand-held spray application handbooks to include the latest legislation, procedures, application techniques and technology. Rules on Local Environment Risk Assessment for Pesticides (LERAP), waste disposal and buffer zones are covered and the use of all terrain vehicles and low drift nozzles are included for the first time. Priced £8.50 each from BCPC. Tel: 0118 9342727. Fax: 0118 9341998. E-mail: publications@bcpc.org.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Farmer Focus 3

Trimming input bills 6

Mastitis MAP leads the way 8

Feeding for fertility gains 10

Simply improving Irish profits 14

Buying new and oldconventional balers 16

More cows maintain profit 18

Milk quota restricts success 21

Electric supply options 22

Holstein Show report 24

New international bull ranking 25

Using New Zealand sires 26

Long-lasting cows needed 30

Edited by Jessica Buss

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

RULES

1. Competition open to all UK farmers and farm managers.

2. Complete entry form in ink and send to address shown.

3. Closing date is 13 March 2000. Late, incomplete, mutilated or illegible entries will be disqualified, as will any failing to comply with these rules. No responsibility is accepted for entries delayed or lost in the post. Proof of postage will not be accepted as proof of delivery.

4. The judges will be appointed by farmers weekly and BASF. Their decisions are final. No correspondence will be entered into.

5. The winners and runners-up will be presented with awards at a major national event this summer.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

HOW TO ENTER

Follow our four short steps to calculate your unit cost of growing a tonne of wheat:

1. Choose your best wheat field from harvest 1999.

2. Add up its variable costs.

3. Calculate your operational costs using the table below. It takes account of capital costs, finance, depreciation, maintenance, running costs and labour. If you think your costs are lower, explain why in the space provided.

4. Divide your total costs by yield. Entries will be used to draw up a short-list of finalists for farm visits.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

John Round

John Round farms 134ha

(330 acres) in the

Gloucestershire Severn Vale.

It is home to his 180-cow

Roundelm herd of Holstein

Friesians and 180 followers.

Cows average 10,000 litres

on twice-a-day milking. Maize

and cereals are also grown

AFTER more than two years of extolling the virtues of attempting to feed cows properly, the extended grazers and MDC directors can breathe a sigh of relief as this is my last contribution to Dairy Update.

Two years ago we had an industry that was just starting to tighten its belt, the honeymoon days of post-deregulation were just about over and the milk price was on its way down.

However, not many of us would have predicted how far prices would have fallen by now, or by how much more from April. Then we had 160 cows, averaging 9500 litres at just more than 20p/litre, making a profit with some left for re-investment.

We stalled the milk price drop by jumping the sinking ship and selling our milk direct, through a contract that suits our quality and quantity. This decision maintained profits for a year or so. Now, with 50 more cows averaging 1500 more litres and heifers giving as much as the whole herd did two years ago, things are getting tight.

From April, the sons of Milk Marque appear to be competing to supply the dairies by undercutting each other, so another price drop is imminent and the £s strength isnt helping either.

We could take the sensible option and sell up, but Id miss the cows and crap that goes with them – bureaucratic not physical. As the days begin to lengthen, we look forward to spring with grass greening and ground drying out.

At this rate, dry cows will be out by mid-March, along with heifers and even some late lactation fat cows, so we will save straw.

Then theres maize seed to order, but first the decision on which varieties to grow as there are plenty to choose from. We tend to follow a policy of growing one or two varieties that are proven on our farm as well as a couple of newer ones. These are mostly late high-yielding varieties together with an early for later planted fields.

Having had the luxury of hosting the Kingshay Farming Trust trial, we will be growing Orient for the first time along with Ilias, a proven performer here, and the highest-yielding variety on the NIAB list. Antares will be grown again, as the guaranteed early along with one more, dependent on seed price. &#42

Despite bleak times, John Round would miss his cows too much to contemplate selling them.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Spud –

the farm workshop fitter

SPUDS real name is Keith but hes long-since dispensed with that, preferring instead a one-word nickname.

Spuds toiled in the workshop since he was 16. He used to listen to Radio 1 but, as times passed, hes graduated to Radio 2. He smells of gearbox oil, welding fumes and Swarfega. The overalls – washed once a month, whether they need it or not – are partly responsible, as are his roll-your-owns.

The fags, according to the battered tin on the workbench, are made from a brand of tobacco that disappeared from the shops 10 years ago. But theyre probably more likely to be filled with something grown in his back garden and mixed 50:50 with sawdust. "Not marijuana," he insists, "more a sort of dock-leaf".

Spud, for all his lack of social graces, is brilliant at his job. He knows engines inside out and, given half an hour and a Phillips screwdriver, can convert a sugar beet drill into a buckrake. His three favourite tools (sledgehammer, club hammer, claw hammer – in that order) are used with vigour and enthusiasm. If delicate work is needed, he employs less hammering but more swearing. In anyone elses hands its a technique that would simply produce a lot of bent metal – but Spuds skill is knowing where to hit and how hard.

If he didnt have to work all hours in this place, in fact, hed have made it big. "I could have become some hot-shot engineer," he says. "Or an inventor, maybe."

Spud has a cocky, leg-pulling sense of humour. He enjoys nothing more than taking the mickey out of those less gifted than himself in the mechanical arts. He sucks his teeth when anyone brings in a broken machine to mend. Its usually the student that brings them in.

"Good job breakages arent deducted from your wages or youd end up owing us money," he says, smirking.

Shortly after 12.30pm each day he delves into Britains Dirtiest Tupperware for lunch. This consists of two slices of Mothers Pride filled with a mixture of substances not normally found together (other than at a student food-fight). Hes very particular though – pickled onions, Marmite, salad cream, corned beef and chocolate spread are popular choices, embellished with a gherkin or two if theres something to celebrate. Like the arrival of the new John Deere.

Spud isnt a great one for Health and Safety. In 1993 the boss pinned up a 30-page HSE safety guide above the bench. But a week later it was caught in a minor blaze when Spud used the oxyacetylene torch to revive a damp cigarette. The visiting environmental health officer made a few disparaging remarks about Spuds lunch box. Spud promised hed disinfect it monthly. "Nothing a little squirt of WD40 wont handle," he thought.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Mark Osman

Mark Osman is herd

manager for the 300ha(750-

acre) Berks farm owned by

Zeneca. It is two-thirds

owned, and 154ha (380

acres) is cropped with

117ha (290 acres) of grass

and 2.8ha (7 acres) of

maize. Stocking is 150

Friesian Holstein cows,

80 replacements and

300 ewe lambs

I APPROACHED Valentines Day full of hope and optimism that it would be a glorious day with 150 large ladies wanting to chase me up the farm road in my wellies.

My hopes were dashed. This is not due to losing my charm and good looks; my wife has said on many occasions that I lost them just after we got married. It is because we have had to delay turnout.

Peter, the herdsman, has been measuring grass each week since Christmas with the plate meter. After ending November with 2050kg DM/ha average cover, we seem to have emerged with only 1950kg in January.

I think this might be for two reasons: First, that the plate meter needs some maintenance as it has probably seized up over winter or the second, more likely, reason, that grass has succumbed to rust on four of the paddocks.

It is not the 300 ewe lambs that we had out until the last week in January, as these have only been grazing permanent pasture and some Italian tetraploids away from the main cow paddocks.

The Italian tetraploids were only going to act as a winter cover crop and provide early grazing before maize-drilling in April. But now we have decided to keep this 8ha (20-acre) block for first cut silage and then graze it until autumn when it will return to cereals.

In the past we have found that when cows graze tetraploids during February and March, subsequent grass production and quality is lower than grazing tightly with sheep in late January.

This is mainly due to the level of poaching by cows in adverse weather, in fields with no multiple access points. The cost of putting tracks in fields which are only going to be used once or twice every few years is not justified.

Cows will now go out during the third week of February. Restricting intakes to 6-7kg DM a cow a day for the first three weeks until grass growth starts to pick up, should mean we save 22t of silage dry matter at an approximate cost of £45/t. This amounts to a total saving of nearly £1000. &#42

Grass rust problems delayed turnout meaning being chased up the road by 150 large ladies on Valentines Day was only a

dream for Mark Osman.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/03

3 March 2000

Stephen Brandon

Stephen Brandon farms

100ha (250 acres) at New

Buildings Farm, Stafford,

with another 30ha (73

acres) of grazing taken

annually. He has 170

pedigree Holstein Friesians

and 110 replacements.

Recently he took on a

contract farming agreement

involving a further 160 cows

on 80ha (200 acres)

ALL systems are go. With so many cows due to calve we feel as though we have been sitting on a time-bomb waiting for it to explode. But Lesley and I did manage to get away for a weeks skiing at the end of January before the mayhem began.

We are now milking 92 cows. So far calving is going well with most needing no assistance. Having dry cows housed for the last two months has helped as we have had good control over their diet. But time will tell, the Belgian Blue calves that caused a lot of trouble last year are due in early March.

Two years ago we had an exceptionally dry February, and with hindsight missed an opportunity to begin grazing. So when conditions allowed this year 35 newly calved cows went out to grass on Feb 6.

The ever increasing herd of milkers has been grazing for two to three hours most days since then. We have been successfully walking cows over long grass to graze the back of a paddock first and then grazing closer to the track on subsequent days.

Turnout was earlier than the grass budget had suggested. On Jan 31 the average cover was 1919kg DM/ha, 100kg short of our target. But good weather and small cow numbers initially, provided an opportunity to be taken.

Fortunately, last autumn I made the right decision and maintained the cereal acreage, despite our plans to increase cow numbers this year. Rotational grazing continues to prove that it can grow more grass over the season and that we can increase stocking rate.

It is mid-February and we are only just thinking about opening the silage clamp containing last years first and second cut. There could still be 600-700t of silage left in the clamp when cows go out full time. Bad news for our silage contractors.

Calf feeding has taken on a whole new meaning this year, with so many calves born at once. The old single pens are redundant and we now pen calves in groups of eight to 10 as they are born. &#42

With so many calves born at once, feeding them has taken on a new meaning for Stephen Brandon.

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3 March 2000

BERWICKSHIRE/N.NORTHUMBERLAND

Wed, Mar 8, 7.30pm. Meet at Yvonne Nicholsons home, Fishwick Farm for bring and buy and demonstration of crafts by Mrs Pat Bracken. Contact Yvonne

(01289-386787) by Mar 7.

CAMBRIDGE-PETERBOROUGH

Tue, Mar 14, 7.30pm. Meet at Sheila Levers home for talk The Anglian Abbey of Medeshamstede c655-870 by Avril Morris. Contact Sheila (01733-252416).

DEVON-EVENING

Thur, Mar 9, 7.30pm. Meet at Beth Nappers home, Upcott Barton for country dancing with guidance from Isabel Hare. Contact Carole Drake (01884-860892). Jean Howells hopes to be there.

HEREFORD-NORTH

Wed, Mar 15, 12 noon. Meet at Monkland Hall, Leominster for lunch followed by flower demonstration by Edna Hughes. Contact Edna Bemand (01568-760275) or Olwen Helme (01568-612784).

HEREFORD-SOUTH

Sat, Mar 11, 2.15pm. Meet at the Courtyard Theatre, Hereford to see matinee performance of Merrie England. Contact Rosemary Heggie (01432-274909).

LANCASHIRE

Mon, Mar 6, 7.30pm. Meet at Dolphinholme Chapel Hall for a rug-making and craft demonstration by Ursula Davies. Contact C.E. Tallentire (01524-791448).

LEICESTERSHIRE

Tue, Mar 14, 2pm. Meet at Dorothy Jenks home, The Stables, Stanford on Soar for a talk, Post Office Patter, by ex-postmistress Mrs June Taylor.

Contact Jean Mills (01509-880434).

LINCS-BRIGG

Wed, Mar 15, 7.30pm. Meet at Arties Mill, Brigg for fashion show by Spring of Market Rasen. Contact Margaret Gratton (01652-678218).

NORTH-NORFOLK

Tue, Mar 14, 10.30am. Meet at Daphne Howards home, Holt Road, Sheringham for talk on Royal Opera House British is still best by David McEwan.

Contact Daphne (01263-824110).

NORTHUMBERLAND/DURHAM

Wed, Mar 15, 2pm. Meet at Helen Spences home for talk Northumbrian dialect by Denny Spence. Plate tea. Contact Lorna (01434-683359) or

Helen (01434-674257).

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE

Tue, Mar 14, 2pm. Meet at Syerston village hall for a talk Victorian pots and jugs by Mr Terry Fry followed by afternoon tea. Contact Jean Brooks (01636-525216).

OXFORDSHIRE

Wed, Mar 15, 11am. Meet at Brimstone Farm, Coleshill for talk Collectors mania by Jill Henderson. Contact

Mary Berry (01367-240507)

ROXBURGHSHIRE

Mon, Mar 13, 7.45pm. Meet at Catshawhill, Lilliesleaf for a talk by Catherine Tough, food consultant.

Contact Cath Livesey (01835-870724).

RUTLAND

Thur, Mar 16, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet at Normanton Park Hotel for lunch followed by a talk by Judge Robin. Contact

Marian (01780-764289).

SOMERSET-MENDIP

Tue, Mar 14, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet at The Barn, Trudoxhill for lunch followed by talk Gathering no moss – life with numerous house moves by Barbara Slater. Contact Muriel (01373-463078).

Jean Howells hopes to be there.

WARWICKSHIRE

Wed, Mar 15, 12.30pm. Spring lunch at the Falcon Hotel, Stratford on Avon. Cost £13.50. Contact Eileen Worrall

(01926-426485).

WILTS AND GLOS

Mon, Mar 13, 11.30am for 12 noon. Meet at the Thames Head Inn, Cirencester for lunch followed by a talk My flying experiences during the war by Joy Lofthouse. Names and choice of menu to Edna Clark (01285-841205) by Mar 10.

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