Archive Article: 2000/03/31 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

Around 500 farmers from across the midlands travelled to Chatsworth House in Derbys on Tuesday (Mar 28) to join the Duke of Devonshire and his tenants for a crisis rally. Timed to come before this weeks farm summit the farmers said government action was urgently needed.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

British beef was given the royal seal of approval when Prince Charles showed a party of chefs from eight European countries around Douglas Scotts farm in Moreton-in-Marsh, Glos. The visitors were shown Mr Scotts South Devon herd and briefed about quality regimes.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

&#8226 IRISH agriculture minister Joe Walsh has fixed the price for leasing milk quota at just 4p/litre, as he seeks to reduce costs for committed producers. In future, permanent transfers will take place almost exclusively under the Restructuring Scheme (at 30p/litre), with 70% of quota targeted at farmers with less than 160,000 litres (27 cows).

&#8226 GERMAN chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was treated to the best of British beef when he dined with Prime Minister Tony Blair in Oxford last weekend. "Im quite confident Ill survive," he quipped after the meal.

&#8226 FRANCE reported its 12th case of BSE this year on Monday (Mar 27) in an eight-year-old dairy cow in the central Haute-Vienne region. This was the 92nd BSE fatality in the past 10 years, with the authorities blaming cross-contamination by feed intended for non-ruminants. All 112 cows in the latest herd to be affected have been destroyed in line with French regulations.

&#8226 FOOD and drink manufacturers face big cuts in their export refunds as Brussels seeks to keep within limits agreed under the last world trade agreement. The EU Commission is looking for savings of k145m on processed foods and drinks next year – 26% less than this year – a move which now has the approval of most farm ministers. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

Giving children a taste of real-life farming…Charles Bennett of the 48ha (120-acre) Sandy Lane Farm, Tiddington, Oxon, demonstrates tail-docking to youngsters from St Ebbes School, Oxford. Mr Bennett has been running trips, which cost about £2/head, for the past nine years. He is keen to avoid a theme park image, preferring to educate children on the practicalities of farming.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

&#8226 THE Environment Agency has updated its booklet Understanding Rural Land Use which outlines management practices which can help reduce damage to soil, water and vegetation. For a free copy call 0113 2312392.

&#8226 A FARMER near the North Wales village of Aberdaron, Pen Lyn faces legal action following a slurry spill into a nearby river.

Environment Agency Wales was alerted to the spill into the Afon Cyll-y-Felin early last week.

It is thought that between 50,000 and 100,000gal of slurry had been discharged into the river.

&#8226 SCRAPIE compensation for sheep slaughtered in April will be £24.31 if the disease is confirmed at post-mortem and a maximum of £400 for suspects where scrapie is not confirmed.

&#8226 BSE compensation for cattle slaughtered in April will be up to £385 if the disease is confirmed at post-mortem and a maximum of £481.25 for suspects where BSE is not confirmed.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

Sty-lish… It girls Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Winnie the pig "doing lunch" at the pig vigil in Parliament Square. After sharing a chocolate eclair (what else), Ms Palmer-Tomkinson launched a childrens letter writing campaign and picture competition. She added that she identified with farmings cause because she came from a farming background.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

SPRAYER testing is mandatory in many European countries. In the UK the Agricultural Engineers Association protocol for sprayer testing is voluntary and serviced by 50 test centres.

However, pressure on margins, the high value of chemicals flowing through the machines and the need to build government and public confidence, mean sprayer testing could be a wise move.

"Every sprayer we test needs some attention," says Barry Shearman, divisional manager for machinery depots for HL Hutchinson of Wisbech, Cambs. Tests cost about £120 for a 12m sprayer and £180 for a 24m version with many machines tested on-farm by mobile fitters, says Mr Shearman.

Most test failures come from worn jets, boom defects, worn hoses, water or hydraulic leaks, inaccurate pressure gauges, unsafe power take-offs, unreadable sight gauges and missing control labels, says the AEA.

It is wise to check those items not only before the machine goes in for test but throughout the season, suggests Mr Shearman. That will help contain unnecessary costs, which can easily add up to £5.60/ha (£2.25/acre), as well as minimising breakdowns.

"It can be a bit of everything that we find wrong. Sprayer owners dont realise how much their nozzles are worn or if the pressure gauge has been strained, even on sprayers that are only one or two years old."

Before a machine is tested it must be thoroughly decontaminated by the farmer, using appropriate cleaning agents. In addition to tank rinsing and washing the outside of the unit, nozzles, filters and other removable parts must be thoroughly cleaned. If they are not, the test will not be carried out.

Boom stability is often overlooked. Testing is by deflection and noting whether and how fast booms return to their proper position. Many growers dont pay enough attention to that, given its importance for accurate even app-lication, especially with reduced doses, says Mr Shearman. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 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

SPRING is certainly in the air in west Cornwall. Although February gave some fairly challenging conditions, March has brought the kind of balmy spring days that you can only dream of on wet, cold winter mornings.

We managed to get a small group of 50 cows out for a few hours each day from Feb 20. We found that cows would graze for about three hours, before coming back to the yard.

This group was joined by the rest of the herd on Mar 4 – when ground conditions had improved. Cows took about four days to settle down to their new routine and by mid March were picking up 6kg DM/head/day between morning and afternoon milkings.

As many would-be ornithologists had told me; starlings would leave in early March. On the morning of the Mar 7, as if by magic, they were gone. Ironically, weve only got another couple of weeks worth of maize silage left.

The starlings will be disappointed to know that we have made a decision not to grow maize this year. Although it is undoubtedly a great feed, the cost and logistics of growing the crop five miles away, and of course the above mentioned feathered menace, made this decision for us.

We had the chance to rent 18ha (45 acres) of grassland next door, so have taken this on instead of growing maize. This land is close enough to walk the cattle to, and will give us flexibility of either cutting or grazing it. There has been no cattle on this ground since last autumn, so we have used our bulling heifers to eat out winter growth before applying some fertiliser.

We have just endured our annual TB test. I was a little concerned before the test because neighbouring farms have had recent breakdowns, so I was relieved when we were given a clear test.

An extra pair of hands when testing is always welcome – this year I ought to thank my mother and father-in-law who helped out. Knowing how busy they both are, I would not normally have asked, but when I found out that they had helped my brother-in-law with his TB test, I thought they wouldnt mind helping me with mine. &#42

Starlings and cost have forced Chris Knowless hand: He wont be growing maize this year.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 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

AT last I have caught up with the winter wheat spray programme, though strong winds delayed progress until the second week in March. Having a field with a garden fishpond only a few metres away really focuses the attention, especially when I found out some of the fish are worth £250 each.

I have used a mixture of 1 litre/ha of Ingot (ipu + flurtamone + diflufenican) topped up with 1.1 litre/ha of straight ipu, plus 15g/ha of Ally (metsulfuron-methyl) and 0.25 litres/ha of cypermethrin. Meadow grass is the main problem in our winter cereals but Ally was added to spice up the mixture as the grass is getting a bit big, pushing the cost up to £23.34/ha (£9.45/acre). We expect to go back again to clean up thistles and cleavers.

David, our Crop Care agronomist, and I have spent some time counting dead tillers, the tell-tale sign of the wheat bulb fly larva. Our conclusion was that at less than 25% of tillers affected, treatment at about £11/ha (£4.50/acre) wasnt justified. Some plants had seven tillers, and the average was five. As the variety is Claire I am confident we can afford to lose a few tillers without affecting the yield significantly.

All our winter cereals have received their first application of nitrogen, with 60kg/ha (48 units/acre) going on the wheat in the second week in March. Maris Otter barley will get its top up dose of 24kg/ha (19units/acre) during the first week in April bringing the total to 88kg/ha (70 units/acre). With strobilurins that should give a good yield and still leave nitrogen under 1.5%, the threshold for the full £40/t premium.

Last Friday I posted off my IACS forms, and by the time this is published we hope to have the beet drilled. Potatoes will be planted in early April as most seed is chitted and we dont like to plant any earlier for fear of late frosts. Lets hope that this crop of potatoes is worth a little more than the last.

All cereals have had their first dose of nitrogen, and Maris Otter winter barley will soon get its second, says Norfolk grower Andrew Keeler.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

Blockades did the business

There is a lot of sporadic protesting going on in advance of the summit with Tony Blair. If the outcome of the summit is not adequate the protesting should escalate.

Last year, pig men persuaded supermarkets to talk by blockading two of the largest depots at the same time. What is needed now is to be able to blockade nearly every depot of each supermarket in turn. They might even listen as well as talk if none of their lorries moved for two hours. On Sunday night Tesco was blockaded in Kent. Was there any attempt to involve farmers in other areas?

To do this, milk, beef, sheep, pig, poultry, arable and horticulture producers must join in. A simple message should be "Farmers need to be profitable to live".

Fred Henley

At an organic disadvantage

British farmers certainly lose out on organics. Why is 70-80% of organic produce imported? It is not just bloody-minded conventional farmers or lack of cash for conversion. The EU sets a minimum requirement for organic production, which we choose, in a typically British way, to exceed.

The result of having less flexible rules and a longer conversion period is to put British organic production at a disadvantage. Of course, most organic produce is imported. It is cheaper and easier to grow elsewhere in Europe.

The EU accepts the organic regime in Hungary, as achieving the minimum standards required. Under that regime organic production can be rotated around the farm (one-year conversion, one-year organic crop and then back to conventional cropping on a field by field basis).

Organic agriculture is not sustainable. There is not enough land to feed a global population organically, and nothing which relies on a finite fossil fuel supply is truly sustainable.

The most disappointing feature of organic agriculture today is its unwillingness to embrace GM technology. Here we have a real opportunity to reduce the total impact of agriculture on the planet, while increasing the nutritional value of many basic foods. This ought to be at the core of organic thinking. Instead it has been overshadowed by the quasi-religious dogma of those opposed to GM and new science.

Organic agriculture is a marketing opportunity, which offers the wealthy a way to feel good about themselves. By its very nature, less efficient use of solar energy, organic agriculture is not going to save the planet.

WRN Tapp

St Nicholas Court Farms, St Nicholas-at-Wade, Birchington, Kent.

Switch success lifts depression

When I read the comments made by Rob Neil (Letters, Mar 17) I cant help thinking that my decision to change to organic farming methods (something that I have been considering for many years and only made possible by the cash on offer from MAFF) must be the correct thing to do.

Since I took the decision I have been intrigued by the number of my farming friends who secretly admit that they have looked at turning some of their land over to organic production (probably for the wrong reasons). It is this that has got the agchem industry worried.

The fact is that farmers are primarily out to make a profit – sorry living – and they will find the easiest way to do it. If there is more profit, or less to be lost, by producing 30cwt/acre than 4t/acre, so what? If that can be done in a more environmentally friendly way, so much the better.

Unfortunately, it takes a depression, for that is what farming is in, to make people stop, stand back and take a fresh look at the road ahead and decide which way to go.

But why are so many people so angry because the organic producers are making a success of things? Of course, like all things, some will fall by the wayside, but it is necessary for the anti-organic lobby to grasp at the few that do to try to prove their point?

If like the GMO lobby, Mr Neil is really worried about the worlds starving millions, he need not worry: Should the politicians ever have enough bottle to tackle the problem, I have no doubt that if the farmers of the world can see some profit in it, starvation would disappear in a matter of years.

David Redgate

Coney Grey Farm, Mansfield Road, Brinsley, Notts.

Yorkshire group targets converts

Thank you for publicising the start of the Yorkshire Organic Farmers Group (Business, Mar 17). However there are some errors in the article.

I am not a farmer but carry out management advisory work both in my own right and for the Organic Advisory Service. Secondly, I help run the farm near Boroughbridge for a client of mine.

The aim of the Yorkshire Organic Farmers Group is to enable initially three meetings a year to be held on organic farms in the region to help those in the process of conversion. The secondary aim is to allow local organic farmers to get in touch with like-minded neighbours to help them work together, for example exchanging fodder for FYM.

For the £60 fee you will also receive a subscription to Elm Farm Research Centre magazine, Bulletin.

The group will be under the umbrella of the Organic Advisory Service, the UKs premier organic consultancy organisation, based at the Elm Farm Research Centre for the past 20 years.

Mark Palmer

Milk malaise has answer

As the wife of a dairy farmer, I feel very strongly about the way the industry is going. People say there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but I disagree. There could be a solution.

You only have to look back in history to find the answer. In the 1930s the MMB was set up because farmers couldnt get a decent price for their milk. Then, after deregulation, farmers could sell their milk to any dairies with the attraction of high price, only to find that within a couple of years it was to drop to below the cost of production, causing many farmers to go out of business.

With the setting up of sons of Milk Marque, Zenith, Central and Axis, this could be an opportunity for farmers to group together. Some would say that this was madness, but would it be? I can hear you saying, "Im not going to leave my contract to go back there, the milk price is lower than Im getting." And so the dairies win again, dictating the price once more.

If those dairy farmers with direct supply contracts were to resign and join these groups, then the dairies would have to negotiate with the farmers which, to me, seems like a much better idea.

On the other hand, we could just stay as we are, waiting for another drop in price, and eventually go out of business.

I know which I would prefer.

Mrs M Cannon

Swindon, Wilts.

Fuel price in US up nearly 40%

I note with interest the comments of your American correspondent Alan Guebert, concerning the needs of American farmers to receive emergency assistance (Features, Mar17).

There are good reasons for this because the price of gas in US has risen alarmingly this year and is likely to rise further. For a country which is used to paying less than $1/gal for gasoline, present prices have risen to $1.40/gal which is a rise of nearly 40% in less than a year.

The other good reason for paying state aid to farmers this year is because it is an election year in the US and, as a major food-exporting nation, no politician wishes to upset their farmers at this time. No doubt they could argue that the World Trade talks, which are due to re-open in Geneva soon, were not designed to restrict the ability of American farmers to produce foodstuffs at lower prices than anywhere else in the world.

The WTO talks are designed to undermine other countries agricultural systems in such a manner that there will always be good market for raw materials or technology from USA.

I have just returned from visiting California and they are really concerned about the increasing price of gasoline there. But we must also realise that the price of road fuel in this country is five times greater. Their cost of $1.40/gal is equivalent to about 17.5p/litre. UK prices are now about 80p/litre. The other interesting feature was the changing attitude of American farmers to biotechnology.

It is most likely that plantings of GM maize will be considerably less than last year as more food companies now wish to purchase conventional products only.

The reduction in growing GM Soya beans will be less marked. However, US farmers are concerned if there will still be a market for these products when they are harvested and sold later this year.

Arnold Pennant

Nant Gwilym, Tremeirchion, St Asaph, Denbighshire.

Vote against Unigate merger

All dairy farmers and Dairy Crest shareholders should vote against the merger with Unigate. Dairy farmer selling groups were stopped from having more than 12.5% share of the market.

If this merger went ahead it would lead to two companies having a 90% share of the milk buying in this area. Why is that not a monopoly? It is not going to lead to cheaper food or more choice for the consumer.

Dairy Crest is looking to take on £100m of Unigates debt and spend £65m modernising old plant, which would cost them over £12m a year. Any further cuts in the farmers milk price will cause permanent damage to the countryside and country life.

D M Drake

Snaggs Farm, E Knoyle, Salisbury.

Guernsey has electronic ID

Regarding your editorial (Leader, Mar 10) on electronic identification for Scottish cattle, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the island of Guernsey will have completed its EID programme covering all cattle within several weeks. This will make us the worlds first, not Scotland!

Alan le Patourel

La Ramee de Bas, St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands.

Dairy nutrition mixed message

I must write to expose the duplicity (Livestock, Mar 10) of Mr Gardner. I have heard him talk on several occasions during the past three years discussing dairy nutrition.

Each time he has praised high input and concentrate use systems and frowned upon extended grazing – even as late as last summer. This article contradicts his theory.

On the last occasion I was told: "The less said about extended grazing and low-cost, Kiwi-type systems the better." Far better was to go for high yields and push my cows with a variety of concentrates was the message.

RM Smart

Greenway Farm, Dowlish Ford, Ilminster, Somerset.

GM evaluation waste of cash

It was refreshing to read Peter Lundgrens well-argued Talking Point (Mar 17) on GM technology, particularly his assessment of the farm-scale evaluation trials.

These are indeed not scientifically valid and take into account only the impact of the herbicide. In addition, they are being conducted by industry which is hardly independent. A fact sheet, produced by MAFFs joint food safety and standards group, states that "the evaluations will take four years and will ensure that the introduction of genetically modified crops will take place safely". If, as this indicates, the introducing of GM crops is inevitable, the evaluation exercise would appear to be a waste of taxpayers money.

J Bower

Hon Secretary, The Farm and Food Society, 4 Willifield Way, London.

Dangerous to reveal GM sites

I was amazed to hear on the television that the so-called British government had decided to tell the country where the genetically modified crop tests were being held.

Do they not realise that the farmers who have these sites on their land are going to have to put up with more worries than ever?

There will be protesters to worry about as well as the poor state of the agricultural economy. We do not need this extra worry at any time, but particularly now.

DJ Hovard.

1 Rissington Rd, Bourton on the Water, Cheltenham, Glos.

GM trials are back-door ruse

The claims by companies producing GM crops, that field-scale trials are in the public interest are, to say the least, spurious. The widespread production of these crops in the USA and Canada has already proved to have no financial benefit for these farmers, because they are only able to survive by vast government grants which are increasing each year.

It is also interesting to note that since these crops entered the US food chain there has been an alarming epidemic of obesity and since these unproven products came to Britain later, obesity is becoming an increasing problem here.

GM trials are a back-door method of forcing these crops into the food chain. The British public doesnt want GM foods and has forced supermarkets to supply GM-free food. If British farmers rejected GM crops they will gain public support and protect their livelihoods from floods of GM imports produced by large overseas and East European low cost competitors.

Remember scientists are not always right, they gave us OPs, thalidomide and Russias leading scientists developed Chernobyl. Unnatural practices lead to unnatural problems.

William E Lucy

Dairy Cottage, Largs Farm, Twynholm, Kirkcudbright.

Set-aside solves IACS dilemma

Following your letters from Dr Mark Avery and AJ Coleman (Letters, Mar 17) regarding IACS regulations concerning field margins/hedgerows, it most surely would appear to be in direct conflict with present conservation concerns. Perhaps an idea to solve the dilemma, given that there were sufficient areas on a holding to qualify, would be to register it as set-aside. These areas, of course, would be over and above the current statutory amounts. Yes, I have indeed already spoken to my MP, as Mr Coleman suggested.

CJ Coyle

Butland, Modbury, Ivybridge, Devon.

Image of Brazil is unrealistic

Although its encouraging that farmers weekly is increasingly addressing farming issues worldwide, I was troubled by David Richardsons article (Mar 17) on Brazil. His claim that: "It appeared most Brazilian farmers could make profits even at todays depressed commodity prices" is extraordinary. While, as he admits, the FW tour did not see everything, the phrase "there is poverty but there is also great wealth" hides the levels of disparity and the scale of the poverty. And it gives an unrealistic picture of Brazilian farming. That they saw "few farms of less than 500ha" says less about Brazil than it does the type of tour being taken.

The overwhelming majority of Brazilian farmers are poor and the countrys wealth is concentrated within a very small strata of society. Mr Richardson refers to the processes of clearance and reclaiming as affording huge profit-making potential for Brazilian farmers. But those processes dispossessed thousands of farmers and Indian communities, leaving them landless and poverty stricken, as well as causing untold ecological damage.

Is this worthy of the chairman of a leading farming and environment organisation?

A visitor to the UK who only visited large-scale, high-input industrial farms would no doubt leave with the impression that UK agriculture is doing well, probably concluding that measures are required to limit the potential threat posed by UK exports.

If misrepresentation of our predicament is not acceptable, the same must apply to others.

Dr Matt Smith

Farmers World, The Arthur Rank Centre, NAC, Stoneleigh Park, Warks.

German exports bring beef relief

It is reassuring to those involved in British agriculture that Germany has, although belatedly, agreed to begin importing British beef once more.

This small measure by the Germans is a step in the right direction and reflects the dedicated and persistent efforts by such representatives of the Welsh farmers as Peter Rogers (the Conservative assembly spokesman on agriculture) who has worked tirelessly over a long period to highlight the plight of Welsh farmers.

The beef industry is of such importance to the farmers of Wales and to many others like ourselves who are involved in agriculture. It is to be hoped that this small gesture by the Germans will encourage a wider revival throughout Europe.

Morgan Evans

28-30 Church Street, Llangefni, Anglesey.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

John Alpe

John Alpe farms with his

parents at New Laund Farm,

near Clitheroe in Lancashire.

Besides the tenanted 80ha

(200 acres) the family own

36ha (90 acres) and rent a

further 40ha (100 acres).

Stocking is 60 dairy cows

and 60 followers, 500

Swaledale and Mule ewes

and 250 store lambs

AS PART of the stewardship scheme we entered last October, we have just planted three of the five new hedgerows we intend to complete.

During this winter we have spent time double fencing sites in preparation to plant Hawthorn, Dog Rose, Hazel and Blackthorn saplings this month. I have never been to a nursery that specialised in trees before, and had no idea of the value involved.

The plants I purchased were 12 months old and about 26cm (12in) in height, varying from 9p to 14p each depending on variety. I also bought some slightly larger trees, such as Mountain Ash, Scotch Pine, Alder and Sycamore to plant around the farmstead.

At the nursery all plants ready for sale were tied up in bundles and standing in trenches with loose soil. It transpired, to my surprise, that the saplings had been grown in Holland, even though I had carefully sought out an English nursery. Unfortunately, I was not supporting English growers after all.

I bought over 1000 plants, which took up little space in the back of the Land Rover, but they did take a considerable amount of time to dig and plant. Next time I may be slightly less ambitious with the quantity, and more cautious with my spade.

In 1976, the year after I left school, my father bought a butchers shop. It was run in conjunction with the farm until the late 80s when my youngest brother, George, took it over, and still runs it now.

Latterly, due to problems faced by beef producers and dilemmas of the consumer, he decided to sell only local beef and instructed his wholesaler to supply beef produced only from the Ribble Valley.

To emphasise this, he displays individual carcass passports in the shop, relating to beef in the counter. This has became even more relevant recently, when we had a FABBL inspection to ensure traceability.

Traceability is a service individuals finance for supposed benefit of our customers. However, when I hear that a farmer-friend had been to the local supermarket to buy some beef and enquiring of its origins, found that no one in the store could give him an answer. I wonder where traceability has gone? &#42

Tracing his steps… John Alpe is not happy about traceability, which he says falls down when a supermarket cant identify where its beef comes from.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000


We originally wondered whether the place was once the site of a stray animal pound, says Hazel Broom, who lives at this curiously-named farmhouse, at Clyst St George, Devon.

But Hazel, whose home it has been for more than 40 years, favours another theory nowadays – that back in the 1600s, the property and 18 acres of land was let at a rent of one pound a quarter. "It could have been a fair rent back then," says Hazel.

The house, of course, has changed a lot in more recent years. "Donkeys years ago, it was thatched – and, more recently, a dual carriageway has been built right outside the door."

The "Living" part of the name could, says Hazel, be an old West-County word for dwelling. "There are a lot of places in this part of the world called Living."

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

Rich Flashman –

the salesman

RICH is dead pleased with himself. Fresh out of college and he landed this job as a salesman. "A junior representative," as he prefers it to be called.

The money is decent and then theres the car, the Ford Mondeo – the smart one with the CD and the spoilers and the cloth seats. It gets a bit messed up visiting farms – but thats the way it goes. You cant sell without getting out and seeing your punters. "I know my patch inside out," claims the salesman, proudly.

Not that many farmers are that pleased to see him. "Were less liked than tax inspectors," he laughs, sitting in the bar of some hotel on another overnight stay. The salesmans telling the young barmaid the story of how he got bitten by a Border collie on his first day. And – sinking his pints, watching her – hes got things on his mind other than selling agricultural products.

There are a lot of overnight stays in this job. Lots of long, boring evenings in hotel rooms. SKY films marked "miscellaneous" appear prominently on the salesmans bills.

The junior representative is full of ambition. He, like his all-time hero Richard Branson, is going to conquer the world. Hes read a book called How to be a Winner. He wants to be a winner.

"Closing the deal – thats what its all about," he tells his mates. Anyone would think Rich was trading millions of pounds of stocks and shares. In fact, hes selling an obscure form of (largely unnecessary) cattle feed supplement manufactured in a small market town.

And, if theres one thing the salesmans learned most about since starting the job, its route planning. He can tell you the precise mileage from any two given points in his patch, knows the A and B road network like the back of his hand and, in most detail, where the best places are to eat.

He sits in country pubs at lunchtime, deliberating whether to have a starters or a dessert with his scampi (juniors have a lunch budget of £7 and that wont cover three courses). He goes for the icecream then, with an hour-and-a-half before his next appointment, pulls into a lay-by, loosens his Next tie, and has a nap.

The salesman prides himself on having good interpersonal skills. He reckons the word "persuasive" best describes him. "A cocky little git," is what farmers say when they come home to find him sitting in their chair, drinking coffee, chatting familiarly with the Missus and patting the dog (the name of which, of course, he always remembers).

The salesmans very familiar with everyone. He remembers to ask how middle son is doing at college, how that badly-drained field is standing up to the wet weather and whether its a good year or not for jam-making. Its almost as if he cares.

Then, seamlessly, he moves on to the subject dearest to his heart and his wallet – cattle feed supplements.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

The farmers weekly horses and ponies poster has just been updated. It shows

18 UK breeds and 27 European ones, ranging from well-known names such as the Shetland and Clydesdale through to

less familiar ones such as the Knabstrup from Denmark and Dole from Scandinavia. The poster costs £3 plus £1.40 post and packing from Simmonds Postal Publicity, 82/84 Peckham Rye, London SE15 4HB. Or you can buy one from the farmers

weekly stand at any of the major farm shows this spring and summer.

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Archive Article: 2000/03/31

31 March 2000

German manufacturer Sauter has developed a range of front linkages designed to fit John Deere 6000, 7000 and 8000 series tractors plus the latest 10 series models. Imported by Burdens Distribution, the linkages are available in 3.5t, 4t and 5t capacities and are equipped with category three lift arms and gas accumulators. The linkages are designed to fit around Deeres own front pto and TLS front axle suspension system. Prices for the linkages start at £2000. Sauter also manufacture a front pto system which carries a price tag of £2100.

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