Archive Article: 2000/03/24 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

The Princess Royal opened a new £11m agriculture building at the University of Reading, Berks, on Tuesday. Lord Carrington (centre), Chancellor of the University, and Professor Roger Williams (right), the vice-chancellor, were on hand as the Princess was taken on a tour of the new site and shown aspects of the research undertaken at the university.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

uEU FOOD safety commissioner, David Byrne, this week praised France for bringing forward voluntary testing of 40,000 cattle for BSE and urged other member states to follow suit. Paris announced last weekend that its programme will be up and running by early May, following a tender. Meanwhile, Brussels is due to issue proposals for EU-wide testing next week, though it will not take effect until the end of the year.

uAGRICULTURAL production continues to concentrate into fewer hands throughout Europe, according to a new study from Eurostat, with two thirds of output controlled by just 10% of holdings. Over the past 30 years, the six founder members of the EU have seen farm numbers drop 42%, while average farm size increased by 70%. All countries have seen an increase in the number of units over 50ha, except the UK.

uGERMAN chemicals giant BASF has agreed to pay around US$3.8bn (£2.4bn) for Cyanamid, the agrochemicals division of American Home Products. BASF says the move will more than double its annual crop protection sales – around $1.9bn in 1999 – to become one of the worlds leading crop protection manufacturers. BASF believes the acquisition will strengthen its product portfolio, including the addition of a proven insecticides. Fifteen active ingredients under development are expected to be launched in 2006. BASF estimates combined peak annual sales of $2bn. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

These Bintje potatoes coming out of cold store at Stody Estate, Holt, Norfolk are destined for processing. Nationally, prices remain depressed, with poor quality ware in abundance, keeping values at £30-60/t. However, the British Potato Council says rises for the rest of the season are unlikely.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

This analysis has been prepared in conjunction with Grant Thornton, a leading firm of accountants and financial advisers, with a specialist team dedicated to the agricultural industry. It aims to help farm owners and managers maximise their profits, operating via a network of 43 offices across the country (01993-894900).

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

Blooming enterprise… John Evans, Walcot Farm, Lydbury North, is one of seven growers in the Shropshire Highland Bulbs project growing daffodil bulbs on contract for export, made possible by the areas pest and disease-free status. Aided by EU Area 5b funding, the seven now grow 24ha (60 acres) of bulbs, which will be dispatched to a buyer in Holbeach, Cambs at the end of July. "We plant 14.4t of bulbs/ha (6t/acre) and two years later expect to lift around 36t/ha (15t/acre)," he says. Flowers are not picked to avoid compaction which can reduce yield by 10% and returns by about £1650/ha.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

A NEW free MAFF publication, Opportunities for saving money by reducing waste on your farm, a government consultation paper due on regulating agricultural waste, and the threat of a pesticide tax show pesticide waste control and management are still on the political agenda.

Avoiding further legal restriction is partly in farmers hands, says Patrick Goldsworthy of the British Agrochemicals Association. Do a good job, demonstrate it to government and the threat of a pesticide tax may go away once and for all, he suggests.

Key pointers for this spring are:

Avoid pesticide waste

lDo not over-order product.

lKeep accurate stock records.

lReturn surplus full packs where possible.

Minimise packaging

lUse dissolvable sachets if available, the largest convenient pack size and the lowest efficacious dose.

lConsider co-formulations.

lUse multi-trip refillable containers if available.

Clean containers before disposal

lCompletely empty packs into induction filler or sprayer tank.

lIf possible, leave foil seals partly attached for rinsing.

lTriple-rinse empty packs – 20% fill with clean water, recap, vigorously shake for 20 seconds, add rinsings to sprayer. Repeat twice more. After third rinse drain for at least 30 seconds while agitating.

lAlternatively, induction pressure-rinse empty packs, allowing at least 20 seconds of clean water rinse time per pack. Move the pack vigorously up and down and in a circular motion. Ensure neck and handle are cleaned.

lLoosely recap containers.

lPlace upright in cardboard outer.

lIncinerate as soon as possible or store securely according to "Green Code".

Pack incineration – if collection scheme not available

lCheck pack can be burnt.

lUse the BAA developed 210-litre (45gal) oil drum incinerator for high temperature clean burning fire.

lRemove caps, adding them, packs and boxes in a steady flow. Do not leave unattended. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

uPOTATO growers using Micro-band applicators and switching to Nema-thorin (fosthiazate) to hit nematodes should request red plastic rotors, warns Harper Adams Pat Haydock. The new product is more abrasive than other options. And whichever nema-ticide is applied, users should avoid application on bed-tillers followed by stone separation with webbed machines. The double incorporation can distribute granules too deeply and dilute the active ingredient, says Dr Haydock. &#42

uPOTATO growers using Micro-band applicators and switching to Nema-thorin (fosthiazate) to hit nematodes should request red plastic rotors, warns Harper Adams Pat Haydock. The new product is more abrasive than other options. And whichever nema-ticide is applied, users should avoid application on bed-tillers followed by stone separation with webbed machines. The double incorporation can distribute granules too deeply and dilute the active ingredient, says Dr Haydock. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 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

THREE weeks of fine weather and an easterly wind has produced good drying conditions and allowed fieldwork to proceed rapidly.

Priority has been given to applying 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) of nitogen as first dressing on oilseed rape, closely followed by 50kg/ha (63 units/acre) on winter barley, herbage seed and some late-drilled winter wheat.

We have nitrogen probes in the soil at different depths, and it appears that crops that were early drilled, and now have better rooting systems, are obtaining nitrogen from below 60cm. We are not finding any N at all in the 0-30cm probes or the 0-60cm ones.

One block of oilseed rape that received FYM in August 1999 may well not need any N at all, always assuming I am brave enough to keep the spreader out of the field.

Early-sown winter wheat certainly does not need any encouragement to produce yet more tillers. It will probably be towards the end of this month before it receives its first N.

The most important application on these forward wheats was the 2.3 litres/ha of chlormequat with 100ml/ha of Moddus (trinexapac-ethyl) and 2 litres/ha of manganese sulphate, which has been applied in some reasonably warm conditions. Although the crop looks very forward it is still only at GS30, so I feel we are still in control.

We have made a start preparing land for peas. On our upland, which had dried out a little unkindly, the Simba double culti-press has done a wonderful job leaving the frost mould on top of a firm level seed-bed. This should be ideal for the Vaderstad JD8400T combination.

Pea drilling within our vining group seems to be going satisfactorily and our target starting date is Mar 20. We also hope to plough the last of the stubble turnips and sow durum wheat about then. &#42

Soil nitrogen tests show some oilseed rape could go without fertiliser on Tim Pipers Kent farm.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 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

AT last spring has arrived; we are up to date with all the spraying and fertilising for the time being and trying to resist the temptation to apply more fertiliser to oilseed rape.

After months of worry over the Autocast oilseed rape, we shall have to re-drill 50% of the area with spring turnip rape. There is no clear reason why the crop has failed, but the prospect of an adequate yield is almost non-existent. I still believe the system has plenty of potential used early to mid-August in the right conditions.

It is difficult to justify spending more money on spraying broad-leaved weeds in rape. But 1kg/ha of Benazolox (benazolin + clopyralid) will be applied to control increasing numbers of thistles and cleavers. Laser (cycloxydim) at 1 litre/ ha with oil will be used on selected areas to control bad blackgrass.

All second wheats were rolled before stem extension (GS30-31). This should aid root anchorage, especially in those not rolled in the autumn, and suppress take-all. Recent root analysis on our fourth wheat already shows signs of the disease both in the min-till and plough trials. By now, in theory, take-all should be in decline.

There is plenty of concern, and rightly so, over the ruling for farmers to meet the new 2m IACS hedgerow rule. On one hand the EU is encouraging expansion of schemes to help enhance the environment such as Countryside Stewardship. On the other it says that if your hedgerows are more than 2m wide those extra metres will no longer be eligible for IACS payment.

So you either cut your hedges back to 2m or accept a deduction. The question must be, who is given the power to make these insane decisions? &#42

In Suffolk, James Moldon says spraying and fertilising is up to date, but some Autocast oilseed rape will have to be re-drilled with a spring turnip oilseed rape variety later this month.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

Are they fit? Members of Dungannon Meats recently formed Green Pastures Holstein bull club test their skill at selecting animals for slaughter at a recent open day held by the company. Based in Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, the company has so far recruited about 100 members to supply 6000 bulls a year and is looking for a further 4000 bulls. Full story p48.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 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

ONE thing sure to get my heart racing is to return to the office and find a phone message saying: "Please ring MAFF, problem with IACS."

What could it be, I thought. We had been paid and just about forgotten about last years application. Two phone calls, one fax and a letter later the problem was sorted out.

On our IACS 9 industrial rape return I had indicated that through the drier weighbridge we would have 25.5t to deliver. The Intervention Board said we delivered 25.48t. Horror of horrors, the figures were not the same!

I fully understand that ministry staff hands are tied when dealing with such cases. But I would have hoped, both for my health and their workload, that a minute discrepancy like this could be dealt with more simply.

Incidentally, we still have not received our agrimoney compensation that I thought was due in February.

In the fields much progress has been made in the past month. Wind seems to have blown constantly making fertiliser spreading days few and far between. The past three years has seen us using some liquid fertiliser which helped us to keep up to date.

Sugar beet drilling has started in ideal conditions. We were not as soon out of the shed as some of our neighbours, but soils were warm and the crop has had another excellent start. This has been followed by 150 litres/ha of liquid nitrogen, giving 56kg/ha (45 units/acre), mixed with 3 litres/ha Starter Flowable (chloridazon). A nice way to roll two jobs into one.

Samoa spring wheat and Scirocco spring beans complete our combinable drilling for the year.

Wheat in particular is being plagued by our ever-increasing population of rooks. Action will have to be taken to reduce their numbers. Does anyone fancy some rook pie? &#42

"Hello, is that MAFF? I understand theres a problem with my IACS…" Fortunately for Mark Ireland it turned out to be minor discrepancy.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 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

MARCH 9 saw the drill pushed into action and within a week almost half the 243ha (600 acres) of spring barley was in the ground.

All the Optic and half the Chalice was drilled by Mar 14. I was reluctant to start so early after experiences with rook damage. A few years back I had the only crop sown in the district and the weather broke. Rooks from our own large rookery and every cousin from Perth to Peterhead headed this way and left a 60ha (150-acre) battlefield in their wake. Fortunately this year the weather held, and with perfect conditions there is enough in locally to spread the black peril around.

Pastoral winter barley will clearly need a clean-up spray to hold diseases until T1. Mildew is very active and rhyncho is present, so 0.3 litres/ha of Torch (spiroxamine) plus 0.2 litres/ha of Sanction (flusilazole) will be applied shortly.

As expected the remaining 425t of seed potatoes are all required in three days time – or two, "if you can manage it, Mike!" Every merchant thinks his orders are the only ones. Fortunately all stocks have been split and sized to facilitate larger daily volumes when panic buttons are pressed.

In the midst of the depression, BPC advice is grow for a market to secure returns. Sound advice. But I seem to remember it was the statutory powers of market control the PMB possessed that secured its fate. Meanwhile, the market falls into fewer hands each year while varieties in demand are strictly controlled. Hardly a market to get excited about and certainly not free. The BPC must direct levy funds towards reducing the impact of this two-pronged squeeze on producers. Certainly the length of time varieties remain under breeders control distorts the market and a review is long overdue. &#42

As the last of his potato seed stocks are cleared, Scottish grower Mike Cumming says a review of potato breeders rights is overdue.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

&#8226 AGCO has decided to market its Fendt tractors in North America. Launched in February at three major agricultural shows held during that month – Kentucky, California and Toronto – initial customer response is reported to have been "overwhelming".

The intention is to market the complete Fendt Vario range which offers models from 72hp to 240hp. These will be imported from Fendts manufacturing base in Marktoberdorf in Germany.

&#8226 THE good news continues. According to the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) the number of tractors registered in the UK for February was 6.1% up on the same period last year.

A total of 454 tractors were sold which brings the year to date total – Jan and Feb – to 965 units – an increase of 22.2%.

Early days, but an encouraging start to the year, and one which will no doubt be welcomed by the trade.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

High speed and carrying capacity are the main characteristics claimed for Kirbys latest Alliance A-380 agricultural and industrial tyre. Available in sizes from 550/60R22.5 to 750/45R26.5, the tyre is of radial construction and features a bi-directional tread pattern designed to improve braking performance. For off road use, the tyre also offers a wide profile to reduce ground compaction. Available with a 3t to 11t carrying capacity, the A-380 is priced from £500.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

When you hear that Scotland Farm is in Derbyshire, it invites an obvious question.

And Ilene and David Crooks asked themselves that very question when they arrived 30 years ago.

"I did wonder when we came here. It is so far from Scotland, the name seemed unbelievable. But at first I was too busy to be bothered with anything but work," says Ilene.

Two theories have since come to light as to how the farm at Ockbrook got its name.

The first – suggested by a local historical society – is that when Bonnie Prince Charlie was on his fighting travels in the 18th century, his troops camped not far from the farm. "The history books tell us he crossed Swarkston Bridge, and that is not far from here. Then, when he was defeated, some of his troops stayed behind and married local maidens," says Ilene.

"The other theory is that the locals traditionally thought it looked like Scotland. It is very up-hill and down-dale. It used to be very wooded, too."

The jury is still out on which explanation is right. "I use both," says Ilene. Maybe she and David will have more time to investigate the names origins after their recent retirement. "We certainly shant be leaving," she says.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

DEVON

Tue, Apr 11, 12 noon. Meet at Exeter College restaurant for lunch followed by conducted tour of the city by Redcoat guide. Names to Pamela Holding (01626-890768) by March 31.

N.YORKSHIRE AND S.DURHAM

Thur, Mar 30, 2pm. Meet at Brompton church hall for talk A Walk from Rotterdam to Vienna by Mr John Horseman. Plate tea and raffle.

Contact Elsie Kirby (01609-833233).

SHROPSHIRE-OSWESTRY

Mar, 27, 7.30pm. Meet at Oswestry Football Social Club for talk by Mr Yossis Gliksman from Upstairs, Downstairs Kitchen Shop, Oswestry. Contact Margaret Evans (01691-659770) or Dorothy Mottram (01691-772584).

SUSSEX

Tue, Apr 4, 10.30am. Meet for coffee at Sullington Manor Farm before visit to Uppark. Contact Sue Kittle

(01903-742469).

NORFOLK SOUTH WEST

Wed. April 12, 8.30 a.m. Bus to leave Hollies car park Downham Market for meeting at Grantham, Lincs.

Contact M Garrett 01366 501390.

YORKSHIRE-SKIPTON

Wed, Apr 5, 2pm. Meet at the Soroptomist Rooms, Otley Street, Skipton for talk The Lighter Side of 40 years in Education by Miss Hughes. Contact Betty Ellis (01943-831450).

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

EUcorrupt & immoral community

Mr Malcolm Whitaker (Letters, Mar 3) draws strange comparisons, such as the Vietnam War and the persecution of the Huguenots, for his uncharitable jibe at farmers who criticise our membership of the EU.

The "countless billions" farmers have received in grants and subsidy do not justify the end. First, every £1 we get back from the EU comes out of £2 we give it in the first place. Second, what money we receive is for schemes that suit our "partners" rather than us. If we administered all of our money, we would put it to better use. I doubt if we would encourage farmers to grow flax that is not needed and then force them to harvest it just so that it can be burned before the subsidy is paid.

Third, we would no longer have the shame of being party to a corrupt and morally indefensible system that is built largely on fraud, the national greed and self-interest of the stronger members and bribery of the weaker. Add to that the exploitation of economies in the developing world.

Our exit from the EU would resolve the problem of the aid Mrs P Johnston bemoans (Letters, Mar 3) we have lost as a result of the fall in the euro, since we would deal only in British £s. As for some "racist, small-minded people" being able to force the government to hold on to our nationality, what authority has any government to relinquish it? The present threat to our nationhood status originated in a vote of 25 years ago, when the country signified by a small majority that it did not wish to withdraw from the common market the government of the day had signed it up to 18 months previously. Hardly a popular mandate for forcing us all eventually to become fluent in German.

Tony Stone

1 Home Park, Oxted, Surrey.

Not democracy as we know it

Malcolm Whitaker ends his letter (Mar 3) in support of our EU membership by speculating the demise of British agriculture if Britain ended its membership.

Are we not already down this road while still members of the EU? Every sector is in meltdown with no sign of improvements. Whether one is for or against EU membership, the fundamental, indisputable fear in this great empire-building experiment is the democratic deficit which exists at the heart of this political monster.

We are ruled by unallocated, unaccountable commissioners and judges and the elected council of ministers, where our representatives are ruled by qualified majority voting, in which the UK has 10 out of 87 votes. The electorate no longer has any sanction over the people who rule them. This is not democracy as we know it.

June Lawson

Upper Hardwick, Glenogilvy, By Forfar, Angus.

Too affluent – thats a laugh

It is all very well for Tony Blair to tell us we must diversify but what with? Last year we knew we had to do something if we were to survive as a small dairy farm bearing in mind the cost of leasing in quota and the falling milk price.

We decided to go into processing to add value to the milk because it cost more than we anticipated to bring the building up to environmental health standards. We still desperately need a pasteuriser and another chiller unit. When we applied for help under object 5B, we were told we didnt qualify because we live in an affluent area. Does anyone know of any affluent family farms? Or does anyone know of any help available?

Staffs farmer

Name and address supplied.

Pro-British is not being racist

I was astounded by Mrs P Johnstons letter (March 3). I am a second year BSc agriculture student who cannot believe that someone can write such an insulting letter. Aged 21, I am not small-minded or racist – just proud of the fact that I am British.

Modern agriculture and policy worries me. The movement towards European monetary union is only another step that the pro-Europeans wish to follow in order to take even more off us "small-minded" British citizens.

I am proud of our heritage and am sick of the dictatorship from our EU counterparts. Why cant we be left alone? Opinion polls say that most of us wish to stay out of the EMU and hang on to our nationality.

Mrs Johnston is wrong. I wish to follow a career in agriculture – it is my life and hopefully will be my livelihood. Please do not refer to the likes of me as racist and small-minded, I have a mind of my own and am proud of what I and the majority of British citizens believe.

Mr D Halliday

aau98dgh@reading.ac.uk

Market has failed farmers

I was interested to read the letter (Mar 10) from Mr Andrew Payne. Like Mr Payne I am a young person (aged 16) from a farming background – my parents run a family farm in Aberdeenshire. I agree with him that agriculture is in crisis, that the government is not doing nearly enough to help, and that people in urban areas are largely misinformed about the farming industry. However, I would contend that this last problem is largely due to the countryside movement.

The free market has failed farmers, as it failed the miners, the steelworkers and the shipbuilders before them. Blood sports are at best an irrelevancy. With the association of the two questions under the blanket heading of "rural issues" the danger is that urban people will associate a national industrys fight for survival with the practice of killing what they regard as cute, fluffy animals for pleasure.

Fox hunting is, quite rightly, regarded by the vast majority of townspeople with revulsion. The publicity claimed by the Countryside Alliance, and similar groups, means that all farmers will be tarred with the same brush. The farming community should ensure that the two issues are considered separately if we are not to be rewarded with hostility and derision from the general public.

Heather Searle

Nether Hawkhillock, Hatton, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire.

Cows with genetic merit

You report the National Beef Association suggesting that in a year or two we cull all old cows over 10 years of age (News, Mar 3, Livestock, Mar 10).

Robert Forster has overlooked the fact that pedigree suckler cows last a long time. We have Aberdeen Angus pedigree cows aged about 10 and we would not cull them because of their genetic merit.

They are providing young heifers to increase the size of our herd. If Mr Forster continues to recommend culling these valuable animals, he will find no support from us in the future.

Philip and Colin Saunders

Higher Colmer, Modbury, Ivybridge, Devon.

Join crusade to stop rural slide

I am writing to appeal to farmers or people connected with the farming industry to contact me. I am trying to do something to halt the current slide in British agriculture by standing up and fighting. Anyone who has strong views, individual stories to tell or feels enough is enough could be useful to our movement.

The way forward is self-representation by the farming industry. I implore you to join me on this crusade for the countryside. By pooling resources and ideas the British farming industry can box its way out of this corner. The key is publicity and education. Most people have no idea what pressures we face every day as modern farmers. British business is booming and we need to make people realise how severe the recession in rural Britain is starting to bite. Show your support by contacting me at the address below or by e-mailing me at twbhvj@aol.com.

Due to the dire situation in British farming my dream of running the family farm is in severe jeopardy. I have the organisation and communication skills to help pull our industrys strong views together and to turn them into a real force. So pick up those pens and PCs keyboards.

Tim Brown

Waterley Farm, Waterley Bottom, North Nibley, Dursley, Gloucs.

Real aim of supermarkets

UK farmers are operating at the mercy of supermarkets, which aim solely to make money for themselves. They say that they want to provide for customers but we know their real aim. Theres one chain aiming to provide GM-free food. The others hypocritically demand farm assurance, while entrepreneurs set up assurance scheme businesses to be bought and sold.

Politicians of all colours tell us we are in a global market and we must accept that ethos. But they know that many products from other countries are heavily subsidised in discreet ways.

The latest answer for battered UK farmers is to go organic with supermarkets pushing the idea. The more production there is, the cheaper the products will become, they claim laughably.

Whats the answer? UK Farms Marketing – a grand title but absolutely efficient with strong links and even ties with European co-ops.

This type of undertaking requires commitment, loyalty, and discipline from farmers. Thats exactly what supermarkets will eventually demand from all their suppliers, with them in control of us.

The potential from this co-op is phenomenal. All farm products could be marketed using specialists to deal with buyers from feed mills, dairies and supermarkets and, just as important, a facility and willingness to deal with small operators.

Once the aim and spirit of this venture is organised, the buying power could be exploited. For example, British cars sold cheaper on the continent than at home could be re-imported. It may seem naïve but it could be a way of reclaiming our own destiny.

John Fradgley

Shooters Hill Cottage, Wintbridge, Pontefract.

NFUs skills in hi-jacking

It disappoints me that the English NFU continues to claim ideas it has picked up during discussions with other farmers and industry organisations, many of them within MAFF buildings, as its own.

Nothing demonstrates it skill at hi-jacking promising initiatives and concepts better than its recent efforts to suggest it has led the way in persuading MAFF that the Krebs cull will take years to complete. And that cattle farmers with TB infected herds outside the Krebs trial areas ought to be allowed, through government issued licence if necessary, to protect their stock by culling diseased badgers.

When the NBA formed its TB committee 18 months ago the NFU vigorously defended the Krebs trials. It was left to more nimble organisations to challenge this well-rooted concept and set in train the idea that cattle deserved protection from TB carriers too.

Fortunately, MAFF has listened and established a wide range of listening posts, including the all industry TB Forum, at which other ideas on limiting the spread of the runaway TB epidemic are discussed.

So its galling to see the NFU promoting information that it gained through this open debate as its own. And then slanting it through the media so it is seen to be the only source of original thinking in the entire TB debate.

Robert Robinson

Chairman, National Beef Association, The First, Blackmore Park Road, Malvern, Worcs.

GM food is not the bogeyman

All those not in favour of GM crops, please take your clothes off. That is because most cotton has been genetically modified.

If those opposed to GM foods could identify what has been harmful then we could assess the risk. But I dont think anyone has died of GM food yet. I would prefer the protesters to divert their enthusiasm to more harmful products such as tobacco, alcohol or petrol.

The flood victims in Mozambique will not be too concerned whether the emergency food aid is GM or not. Food is available as a surplus only because of yield increases due to better plant growing techniques including GM. It is much easier to protest on a full belly. Developing countries anxious to feed their populations would be unlikely to give the GM opposition much confidence either. When times get tough the protest evaporates.

There are more serious food issues to address and these are the amount of foodstuff the UK imports, and the controls needed on imported foods. We have stringent controls on home-produced foods and the Public Health Department does a good job. But its the imported food that worries me not genetically modified food.

How do we test food for genetic modification? We are good at testing milk but GM foods would need a new department just to monitor it.

G Wynne

Glenshamrock Farm, Auchinleck, Ayrshire.

BLUP figures are suspect

Over recent weeks several articles in your excellent magazine have praised the use of EBVs when selecting beef bulls. That has come from Signet experts. I should like to remind potential beef bull buyers that BLUP is only a computer program and the outpourings should be taken only as a guide.

The figures are suspect especially for those breeds like the Hereford and the Angus which have considerable Canadian influence. BLUP is not able to convert American BLUP figures to the Signet version. Those pedigree breeders who bring in bulls or semen have to wait many years before their imported bulls figures are anything like correct.

In many cases the bulls die before that happens. The early breeders who persuaded the MLC to create their own BLUP system did us a dis-service, as now there are at least three systems and no means of connecting them. The Australian Breedplan is by far the best system and I believe the Americans are moving towards an amalgamation with them. Where does that leave UK breeders?

Your article (Livestock, Feb 11) on beef AI and the Genus expert puts the price for a natural service calf at about £42. Perhaps an expensive Charolais or Limousin bull is being costed. If he was up to date he would be recommending a Hereford or Angus, as both breeds have a specialist beef sale through Waitrose, which shows a premium. I can only speak as a Hereford breeder, but there is a strong demand for cattle sired by a registered Hereford bull. Such a bull would cost about £2000 at the most, often less. The animal would cost no more than £150 a year to keep and would work for at least 7 years. Using the Genus formula each calf would cost less than £5, a saving of over £21 on AI and there would be far less hassle.

Graham Stratford

Aultoun Herefords, Annetts Farm, Farringdon, Alton, Hants.

More to it than just aerobic

I have noted FW dated Feb 18 contained a report on the MGA national silage competition which gave details of farms visited and which, in the notes highlighted as "competition lessons" stated that "additives are not necessary with well-chopped and consolidated maize".

I agree that good silo management is crucial if aerobic losses are to be kept to a minimum during storage and feed-out, and additives can only be of assistance in this matter. However, biological additives do bring beneficial effects with respect to reduced losses and enhanced animal performance.

A trial at IGER with the inoculant/enzyme preparation Maize-All from Alltech gave a significant reduction of 24% in ensiling losses.

A definitive paper on the subject of the value of inoculants in maize silage was actually presented at an MGA Conference (1997) by my friend and former colleague Prof Hans Honig and his colleagues from Braunschweig, Germany. This work revealed an increase in liveweight gain in beef animals of 6% or 75g/head/d as a result of treating silage with an inoculant. This would have been valued at 6.75p at 90p/kg and the cost of treating the 5.9kg of 35% DM silage would be less than 2p. A very satisfactory return on outlay!

I trust this will remind maize growers that additives should be chosen not just for improvements in aerobic stability but for increased conservation efficiency and animal performance.

Dr Mike Woolford

Oxford Biological Consultancy, 63 Mill Lane, Chalgrove, Oxford.

Whats wrong with horses?

Isnt it about time that Tony Blair gave some direction to local authorities in order to classify what is an agricultural income? I live in an agriculturally tied property of 4ha (10 acres) ideally situated to diversify into horse livery.

If I were to do so my local authority could prosecute me for non-compliance (making a living outside agriculture). I could end up with not only a criminal conviction but also eviction.

They claim that horses are not agricultural and yet, reading articles in the farming Press, it is obvious that this is one of the few growth industries for farmers and yet it is classified as a farm diversification project.

If a person is honestly making a living from the land they own, what does it matter if it is cows, sheep, horses, llamas, bison or whatever?

Should all of those of us who live in agriculturally tied properties form an action group? Our hands may be tied but we are not tongue-tied.

Name and address supplied

Why is the UK odd man out?

While studying the latest proposals to integrate flax and hemp into the arable area payments scheme, I was astounded at the commissions suggestion that the UK is in a unique position. Apparently we are the only country in the European community to have croppable land that is not registered as eligible to receive arable area aid.

It is inferred in other member states all cultivable land is eligible. Is this correct, and if so, why are UK farmers not in the same position? Were all countries treated equally when the current system of support was introduced?

Mark Shepheard

Laurence Gould Partnership, Office 10, The Old Yarn Mills Business Centre, Westbury, Sherborne.

Setting poison record straight

I am writing to correct the inaccuracy of your article "Turn a blind eye to bunnies at own risk" (Arable, Feb. 11). Although agreeing with the factual information in the first half of the article, we are astounded by the subjective references to the available forms of fumigants for rabbit control in the UK.

Cyanide and phosphene-generators are both vertebrate control agents with the potential to kill vertebrates including humans. There are effectively no differences in toxicity of the two product types. However, there are antidotes available for cyanide but none known for phosphene generating compounds.

There is inaccuracy in the quotes relating to the use of the phosphene-generators. Any prudent operator using the product will realise that respiratory protective equipment is required when handling and using the product.

We also question the reference to MAFF trials and are unable to find any reference to such trials. It is well known that power gassing with cyanide is the most effective and efficient method for treating warrens, especially large ones. This method is the preferred choice of professional operators.

Dr Roger Johnson

Managing Director Sorex.

Where is the evidence?

I read with astonishment Ms Fullertons comments (Letters, Mar 3) concerning the MDC meeting at Nottingham and its failure to recognise that the major reason for cows inability to conceive is lack of selenium (Mar 3).

Where is the scientific evidence from properly-conducted trials that correcting soil selenium levels will improve conception rates by up to 90%, improve mastitis, lameness and avoid difficult births? If only fertility problems in our high-yielding cows could be sorted out so simply. Trace elements are usually at the bottom of the list of factors affecting fertility.

Selenium is an important trace element and we should ensure that the cows needs are met along with all the other key nutrients. There are other more effective ways of supplementing rations than applying this potentially toxic trace element to land to increase soil levels.

David Peers

Bone Newydd, Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey.

Heavier breeds given raw deal

If you think your cattle have lost their value due to the capping of weights under the OTMS, which has also reduced the value of breeding and younger stock, lets do something about it. Please will you and your neighbouring farmers write to me as soon as possible stating if you are a member or a non member of the NFU and how it has affected your business.

Discrimination against the heavier breeds has been the major cause of this loss of value brought upon us by the government. And the NFU has allowed them to maintain it. All cattle farmers need compensating for this injustice.

Tony Mason

Hindsloders, Stonebridge Lane, Fulborn, Cambridge.

Radio portrays genuine anguish

Although not a regular listener to BBC Radio 4s The Archers, I tuned in on Friday, Mar 3 to hear auctioneer Christopher Norton on the BBC. The detail and politics were amazing to hear, and the heartbreak of a tenant being forced to sell his cows due to bankruptcy was too real for comfort.

I believe congratulations are due to the BBC for the portrayal. Just one criticism – who milks dairy cows just before a sale?

S Elmes

swallowdale@farming.co.uk

What difference would it make?

Could you let me know what difference it would have made to David Richardsons beet returns per ha, had he planted Monsanto GM seed? The seed costs £17.20/ha extra but gives 20% higher yield.

According to Davids article (Mar 3) 70% made £28/t (42t/ha on a 60t/ha crop) with 18t/ha having to carry a £1.10/t loss. That is £73.80/ha.

I ask in response to your article "Admirable Actions for GM Farm Trials" (Opinion, Mar 10) because I dont trust Monsanto. Last July I received a copy of The Gazette, Montreal. It had nothing but praise for Monsanto, and nothing but vicious condemnation for Britain and the EU.

In 91 column inches, an article by Monsanto did not state that it adds a hybrid terminator gene to all seed sold. I wonder why? My contribution explained that, like sugar beet, UK and EU oilseed is subject to WTO penalties for over-production. Therefore, anything which encourages farmers to grow more, can only benefit Monsanto, at the expense of European farmers. The Gazette, Montreal would not print, what I called An English Farmers View. I wonder why?

George Scales

Cobblers Pieces, Abbess Roding, Ongar, Essex.

Red tape chokes common sense

Its nearly a quarter of the way through the claim year and farmers have still not received full details of the beef extensification scheme. The brief information that has been distributed is inadequate.

Until we receive full details, how can we know if we have been compliant since Jan 1, 2000, or if we are breaking some trivial rule? The methods of demonstrating that you have remained inside a particular stocking level are such that it is no longer possible to use a simple word processing software package to list groups of animals.

The date of birth of each animal has to be used to check its age and hence a proportion of a livestock unit. The so-called simplified scheme is more complex than the full scheme since it requires farmers to remain below the threshold throughout the year as opposed to just the MAFF nominated days.

Until the full detail is released nobody will risk purchasing software, not that I have seen any advertised yet, apart from the photocopier necessary to send copies of passports. It is a farce. Even worse, MAFF has all the data to make these calculations without further information from most farmers thanks to BCMS and IACS returns. So why are we bothered by this dreadful red tape?

TRN Walford

Upton Bridge Farm, Long Sutton, Langport, Somerset. walfor@globalnet.co.uk

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

uANY nutrition queries relating to feeding sheep can be answered by a freephone service run by ADAS on MAFFs behalf. Callers will be directed to their most local sheep consultant, and can receive advice on forage and concentrate quality, feed rates and other aspects of sheep nutrition. Contact (01902-693437).

uCONTROLLING rats in pig arks is causing a particular problem for outdoor producers, according to Cotswold. The area between the two skins of pig arks which contain insulation provides a comfortable bed for rats where they are well protected from predators and have easy access to food and water. But finding a suitable control method is difficult, as introducing poison close to arks puts pigs at risk, it says. The company is seeking solutions from producers on how rats can be controlled.

uLUPINS could provide a home-grown protein alternative to soya following further experiments at IGER Aberystwyth. Results from last year show that lupins can yield 8t DM/ha over 16 weeks with a protein content of up to 20%. This year lupins at the institute will be ensiled and fed to cattle and sheep.

uDISCUSSIONS are to continue into the possibility of setting up a mobile slaughterhouse in the M4 corridor. A MAFF grant has helped to establish the project, and further funding is being sought to employ a project officer to confirm the commercial viability of the proposal. A decision on whether to build the unit will be made later this year, says the Humane Slaughter Association.

uADDING vitamin E to beef cattle rations could help meat keep its red colour for longer, making it more attractive to consumers. Research at Bristol University, funded by the MLC, MAFF and other industry sponsors found that feeding vitamin E increases the stability of meat colour, so it remains red for up to four days longer. Reduced losses could be worth £4-£5 more an animal to the meat supply chain, researchers believe.

uCOWS which have received less concentrates than usual in March to reduce milk output and avoid super-levy payments could be at risk from staggers, warns FSL Bells. Although calcined magnesite is the most commonly used magnesium source, it is not easily absorbed when cows are on a diet including lush, nitrogen-rich grass, it says. Feeding molasses blends which contain the mineral is a more effective way of ensuring adequate absorption, it adds. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

Angus Tuppings –

the auctioneer

THE auctioneer likes his steak rare. "So rare its almost mooing," he bellows at the waiter. "And leave the fat on – its the best bit."

Hes at some dinner – the RICS, the CAAV or the LAA. And hes making the most of it, getting stuck into the wine and the port, sinking ever lower in his chair as the evening progresses. His stomach is expanding, his waistcoat stretched to breaking point.

The auctioneer speaks in a dialect that went out of common usage in the 1840s. You hear him as he strides around the countryside, looking like some extra from a costume drama, yelling something incomprehensible about "two-tuths".

Hes understood by other auctioneers, a clutch of farmers within a five-mile radius of his market and an assortment of farm animals. Not that it matters – no-one else needs to understand him. And he certainly doesnt care if they dont. He hates veggies, government and anyone involved with deadweight selling. "Markets are the only transparent method of selling," declares Angus.

The auctioneer loves market day – all the noise, the people, the hustle and bustle. You can hear him coming across the yard at 100 yards, his dealer boots clicking. Hell be smoking, his cheque shirt open, the chest hair poking out like ivy on an oak.

Hell eat with the farmers in the canteen. "Usual, please, my love," he bellows at Doreen behind the counter. His usual is steak and kidney pie, beans, peas, mashed potato (extra large portion) and three slices of bread and butter. And thats just breakfast.

When hes not in the mart youll find him out in a muddy field of turnips, frost in his sideburns, grading sheep. Hell have been there since the crack of dawn – hes the only person in the parish, in fact, who gets up earlier than the farmers.

Angus can tell the conformation of a sheep at 100 yards. He knows what proportion of Limousin a calf is. He knows how much a carcass weighs to the nearest half pound. "And it is a bloody half pound, I tell you – not one of these kilos."

Angus loves standing up there on the rostrum, surrounded by familiar faces. Gibbering insensibly. Banging his gavel. Cracking smutty jokes about back-ends and well-endowed bulls.

Sometimes he wonders why hes laughing, though – it hasnt been a laughing matter since BSE. Prices are down. "And that means commissions are down."

Maybe he should have gone back to the family farm after all – but his older brother did. Still, auctioneerings a way of life, Angus thinks, tucking into the port.

Hes had a glass too much, in fact, and starts slurring his words. Not that youd notice – he was incomprehensible before he started drinking.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

Gunning for victory… Bob Jones, captain of the Harper Adams team, practises before the recent British Universities Sports Association Clay Pigeon Championship. Harpers mens team chalked up

their fourth victory in a row at the event held at the West Midlands Shooting Ground. The ladies from the Shropshire college claimed their first win.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

&#8226 WITH 70% of wheat for organic animal feed having to be imported there are great opportunities for UK producers to fill the gap, says Essex compounder W & &#42 Marriage & Sons. "But not everyone has land suitable for organic cropping and the official standards are continually being tightened to protect this premium market," notes the firms Graham Loveday.

&#8226 SUBSCRIPTIONS to the Arable Research Centres in 1999/2000 have been held unchanged for the fourth season running due to good farmer support and trading surpluses, according to chairman Martin Jenkins. The move has been well received by members who face unprecedented cuts in income on all enterprises, he says.

&#8226 SOFT-MILLING wheats Claire and Consort occupy 19.4% each of the UK certified seed area, enough to supply half the certified winter wheat seed market this autumn, according to Nickersons Bill Angus. "Growers have jumped in to Claire. It has become the biggest-ever variety in its first year of recommendation," he says. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

THE wind was shaking things up again last weekend. Although it made me feel a little edgy, it seems that the cows have settled down now and accept it as normal, even though they are more open to the elements than during the Christmas gales. We have £16,000 worth of damage to the big shed, and there is still plastic sheeting on the house roof but no further damage was incurred with the recent bad weather.

Local roofers reckon they have enough work in storm damage to keep them busy for the next three years – I dont know where we are placed on the list of priorities.

Over the last year or two our landlady, Mme Dufresne, has had two men Yves Monton, and Gerard, working on our half-timbered outbuildings. They have been doing a really good job renovating them. Since the storm, while Yves is pointing, Gerard has been fixing the roofs but he doesnt feel up to tackling our big shed or our home roof (we have four storeys) so that will all have to wait a while.

A few weeks ago we bought back the meat from a barren cow that went to slaughter and our freezers are full of the most tender beef and steaks. Gerard took the tripe home to his Mum, who cooked it in the Tripe à la mode de Caen tradition, with cognac, white wine and carrots from the Chateaus kitchen garden and he brought us some back all ready prepared. Tim was very impressed. Surprisingly so, as I recall when we were first married I used to buy and cook tripe the way my Mum did, and Tim had to leave the flat, he couldnt stand the smell, never mind eat it. But since we have been in France the situation has changed, now Im not so fond of it and he relishes the dish. So much so that he invited his friends for a lads breakfast this morning (it being Sunday and his weekend off).

At 9.30 a.m. the local baker, insurance man and another friend sat down at the table to piping hot tripe and white wine followed by cheese, 50-year-old Calvados and coffee, and very tasty freshly baked bread which Tim was teasing the baker with. Weve recently bought one of those bread making machines, and he wanted to try it out on an expert, with a favourable result despite the threat to his industry!

You would think that would be enough of a gastronomic experience for one day but in fact we were then invited for lunch at some friends of ours, Deb and Joss.

She made an Indian meal hoping to sweeten Tim up enough for him to let her get her hands on Gerard for a few days to work on their buildings, as they cant get a roofer in either.

Tastes have changed at Vimer but Chrissie is not as keen as Tim to breakfast on tripe.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

uGROWTH regular Bettaquat (chlormequat chloride) has had its approval extended and may now be used on winter wheat up to GS39 (flag leaf ligule just visible), says Mandops.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/24

24 March 2000

ACROSS

1 Fowl ends old hardier hybrid (5,6,3)

9 Gambled and cut it fine (5)

10 Writer whose work is heard by stages (9)

11 Opening room to spare (9)

12 Put in with cross

selection (5)

13 Go out with fruit (4)

14 Experienced in city life,

having cabbies knowledge? (10)

17 Given tales by wandering preacher (10)

19 One twice given bird (4)

22 Leather impressed, we hear (5)

24 Dressed and expelled (6,3)

26 Ten dangle mixture in a jumble (9)

27 I need key for toilet in

cold house (5)

28 Cross his north yard or milk cattle (5,9)

DOWN

1 Italian dictator infiltrated left-wing cut (7)

2 Carthorse shifted band (9)

3 Target river in Yorkshire

last (6)

4 Car touring Andes (5)

5 Observation of a battle on eastern loch (9)

6 Provincialism of ruined citadel (7)

7 The Spanish, Italian and English cream (5)

8 Speak about fashionable work of art (6)

15 Inform with revelatory point (4,5)

16 Given eccentric rig I

bloom in row (9)

17 Followed small measure taken to court (6)

18 Grain initially thinner with harvester (7)

21 Sketch of the French

chosen, we hear (6)

23 More wide, say (5)

25 Didnt take part in riding contest? (5)

SOLUTION TO 766

ACROSS: 1 Border Leicester, 9 Ambient, 10 Supreme,

11 Nile, 12 Starboard,

15 Trailed, 16 Mamba,

18 Risen, 20 Amnesia,

23 Flammable, 24 Lath,

27 Oceania, 28 America,

29 In the nick of time.

DOWN: 1 Brainstorm,

2 Rubella, 3 Ewer, 4 Latitude,

5 Insure, 6 Employment,

7 Theorem, 8 Reed,

13 Blancmange,

14 Paraphrase, 17 Tailback, 19 Solvent, 21 Swahili,

22 Salami, 25 Foci, 26 Beef.

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