Archive Article: 2000/04/14 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

The Clydesdale is Scotlands working horse, and

the breed societys annual sale is a crowd-puller,

as FW saw at Lanark last weekend

Experienced hand, John Strang of Lanark dresses out this entry ready for judging. Soft soap is applied to the coat to give definition.

Shoe shine…

Society secretary Kate Stephen confers with past president and the days judge Fred Hanna from Ballymoney.

Outside looking in…buyers came from across the UK and three entries went home to Northern Ireland where the breed has a strong following.

Dating back to the 1700s, the Clydesdale still retains its power, although most are kept for private or showing work. Here, Peter Tennant shows his colt to the Lanark crowd.

Right: James Thomson holds Ingleston Jade steady for the judges inspection.

Below: Line up…prices on the day ranged from 140gns to 1420gns for the champion.

Phillipa Stephen holds her uncles entry which sold for 400gns. Average on the day was 500gns. "Compared to the 1970s things are pretty rosey. Vendors were being realistic, but would like to see values higher," commented Kate Stephen.

Champion… sisters Christine Halliday and Jackie Marshall from Lockerbie took the title with their entry Howsgillside Lily. It sold to the days judge Fred Hanna for 1420gns.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

First sip from the milk bar… Devon Farmer Focus writer Peter Delbridges Swaledale ewes have just begun lambing at his Exmoor National Park farm. Despite blue skies, the beginning of spring lambing, brought dreadful weather – just days before his farm was hit by snow blizzards. This caused loads of extra work, says Mr Delbridge (see p52). Across the country early impressions suggest that lambing has been a mixed bag so far. MLC economist Lesley Greens initial forecast is for lower lamb numbers than last year.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

Trevor Horsnell

Trevor Horsnell, a former

Sugar Beet Grower of the

Year, part owns and rents

182ha (450 acres) at

Gorrells Farm, Highwood,

Chelmsford, Essex. Besides

beet, his cropping includes

potatoes and winter wheat,

barley and oilseed rape

SOME might have thought me slightly mad when, back in the balmy days of mid-March, I said there could still be some winter to come.

I was not going to rush into potato planting just because April last year was a washout and we ended up planting in May. We have some very good, and expensive, seed and the last thing it wants is to sit in cold soil for a prolonged period before emergence.

But on Mar 31 my patience ran out and we planted 5ha (12 acres) of chitted Estima on some easy working soil down by the river. Winter duly returned with 28mm of rain on Apr 3-4 and it was not until Apr 7 that it finally warmed up sufficiently to recommence chlormequat application to the cereals.

Heavier soils are again going to need a lot of patience this spring, as there has been so little frost this winter. Sugar beet drilling was completed by Mar 20 and the lack of frost action was apparent with the soil a bit raw inside. As we only work the ground once and drill at the same time, seed-beds are a little uneven in places.

My costings for last years sugar beet show that the total cost of growing, harvesting and delivering a tonne of beet after transport allowance was £9.69. With the prospects for C beet for this year unlikely to substantially improve I decided to reduce the beet area by planting the headlands with spring barley.

In a bid to reduce the paperwork and cut the accountancy bill I have been to the local computer store to see what programs they have to offer. But when I told the salesman that my computer was five years old, he looked down his nose at me and said that it would not drive the software, and that I needed a new, higher capacity machine.

He was even less impressed when I suggested that perhaps we could turbo-charge my existing one and fit bigger tyres! &#42

Waiting for the weather… Essex grower Trevor Horsnell is in no rush to plant potatoes at Gorrells Farm – at least, not yet.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

John Best

John Best farms 320ha from

Acton House Farm,

Pointspass, Co Down.

Wheat, conservation-grade

oats and potatoes are the

main crops on his 220ha of

clay loam arable land

OUR accounts for the year ending Jan 31 are complete and the profit and loss account does not look healthy.

The farm is a mixed enterprise business, but all are struggling, the cereal sector as much as any of the enterprises. It is a mystery to me why arable aid was omitted from the package announced at the Downing Street summit.

Over the past month the weather has improved, with only 30mm (1.2in) of rain since the second week in March and daytime temperatures averaging 12C (54F). This has lead to a rapid increase in crop growth, but a cold snap and frost last week halted spraying.

We have already applied 45g/ha of Druid (amidosulfuron) and 20g/ha of Simba (metsulfuron-methyl) to two particularly bad fields of wheat, which are infested with speedwells. Fortress (quinoxyfen) at 0.15 litres/ha was applied to the Barra winter oats to counter the varietys susceptibility to mildew. We must apply the fungicide before disease appears, as no eradicant chemicals are approved on our conservation grade contract for oats.

The base compound fertiliser was applied in mid-March using an 8-12-38 blend. Phosphate levels are still high in the majority of fields due to the application of sludge three or four years ago. Rates were based on individual field analysis.

Now, crops are all well tillered and 60kg/ha of nitrogen plus 12kg/ha of sulphur is being applied as liquid to the early winter wheats. Later wheats and oats will follow in the next few days.

Drilling of spring crops was completed last week in excellent conditions. As I have ploughed out some grass leys, we are growing Chablis and Raffles on seed contracts. This is my first attempt at producing seed, and it will be interesting to see whether the appealing figures produced on paper by the merchant actually materialise in practice.

Our bean acreage is down to just 5ha (12 acres) of Sirocco, which could be unfortunate in a year when demand for home produced protein is forecast to increase. &#42

Dry weather in March saw John Best crack on with spring drilling at Pointspass, Co Down.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

Ian Brown

Ian Brown is a third

generation tenant on the

156ha (385-acre) Lee Moor

Farm, Rennington, Alnwick,

Northumberland where he

grows winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape as well as

spring peas

Ian Brown is a third

generation tenant on the

156ha (385-acre) Lee Moor

Farm, Rennington, Alnwick,

Northumberland where he

grows winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape as well as

spring peas

THIS is my last Farmer Focus article and, much as I hate good-byes, I shall sign off by telling you my inner thoughts on the future of farming.

The past year has been a defining period for Lee Moor as we move further away than ever from being a typical mixed Northumberland tenanted farm of about 160ha (400 acres). And, I guess, I am moving with it in terms of my views. I do not apologise for this, on the grounds that the strategy taken was one of survival and I think that many people within the industry are living with an anachronism.

To illustrate just where I hope we will end up, and at the risk of being foolishly brave, I shall pretend we are in 2020.

Co-operation with other farmers is on a higher plane than ever before. But it took the 1998-2003 farming recession to make it happen. Commodity prices did eventually pick up after that, but too late for 15% of farmers.

Here, we survived by diversifying and becoming a re-training centre for rural people. Lee Moor continues to be a demonstration and educational site, one of many such centres that justify the k6bn of rural funding a year in the UK. The aim is to deliver the things the British public demands for its beloved countryside, the things that cant be delivered from the free market post the 2003 WTO agreement and CAP reforms.

Coming back to the present, I am both scared and excited by the future of the countryside. There are many opportunities to seize, but my Achilles heel is the cash. Needless to say I will work with whomever I need to so that the plans that live in my head are delivered.

Lastly, I would like to thank Andrew and Charles and the team for the opportunity and, of course, you the reader for taking an interest, perhaps because you are local to me, know me from the YFC/NFU or perhaps because what I said struck a chord. &#42

Ian Brown has a 2020 vision for the future of Lee Moor farm, in this his last article for farmers weekly. It envisages a future after the 1998-2003 farming recession. But 15% of farmers will have left the industry.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

Barmy logo just beggars belief…

It was with absolute disbelief that I read your article (News, Apr 7) regarding the new British farm standard logo.

I would have expected the logo to represent Great Britain and her farmers. But it is more likely to induce childhood memories of Lego building in the nursery, rather than appeal to the patriotic sentiments of our customers.

Why this barmy design was ever approved by serious-minded grown-ups beggars belief. We in this wonderful country have the finest trademark in the entire world, the Union flag, which immediately conjures up images of quality and reliability wherever it is displayed.

I have no doubt that those sad individuals willing to surrender our sovereignty to the US or Europe, will find this Lego-like image represents the kind of emasculated nation they want to see.

Dick Lindley

Birkwood Farm, Altofts, Normanton, West Yorks.

Kitemark is appropriate

At first glance (News, Apr 7), I thought how awful and poorly designed, the new British Farm Standard kitemark logo was.

However, as the logo is largely composed of a letter F, lying on its back, I then thought how appropriate it is, as this is exactly the position that British farming now finds itself in.

Clive Trollope

Broomclose Farm, Longbridge Deverill, Warminster, Wilts.

Helping farmers in hard times

Those many people who listen regularly to The Archers on BBC Radio 4 will know that the Grundy family is in trouble because they could not pay their farm rent or feed bills. Their circumstances are fiction but, in reality, many farmers throughout the country face similar difficulties in the current farming crisis – the worst since the 1930s.

The Royal Agriculture Benevolent Institution (founded in 1860) is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland dedicated to helping members of the farming community suffering hardship. In real life, we are helping people like the Grundys every day of the week.

We are not able to pay off business debts, but we can help a farming family through a difficult period by making a contribution to household expenses. We are also helping many like old Joe Grundy, who have retired from farming through age or disability and have a low income and little or nothing put by for emergencies.

J D Wallis

Chairman, RABI, Shaw House, 27 West Way, Oxford.

Simple solution to rampant £

Media coverage of the disastrous effects of the overvalued £, making UK exports from industry and agriculture uncompetitive in world and EU markets, has omitted to identify the main cause or the solution.

This economically incompetent government seems oblivious to some simple and easily implemented procedures. Some measures could easily be taken to bring sterling back to realistic values without inflaming the domestic economy.

At present, we see an even more absurd inflationary housing market than in the late 80s. That is created not by shortage of supply, there are more than 1m vacant dwellings, but by a hyped frenzy of misinformation and near hysteria.

Inflation is at a historically low level and on target. But the Bank of England monetary committee, because it can only set one interest rate, is now clobbering industry and agriculture with a rate which is at least 2% too high. That is solely in an attempt to control the over frothed house price spiral.

There are two simple solutions. First, the Chancellor should give the monetary committee the power to set a separate rate for all housing mortgages and loans. These could be varied up or down on a regular basis to maintain a stable and non-inflationary house market.

Second, the Chancellor should introduce a separate stamp duty rate for housing which could be varied on a regular basis as required by the house market at any given time.

None of the frothed up companies will thrive unless the UK manufacturing and agricultural industries are able to compete with a lower valued £. Your readers and those involved in manufacturing should canvas their MPs and ministers to implement these two simple solutions.

J L Wright

Riverview, Toad Row, Henstead, Beccles.

Simply positive about pulses

Your editorial comments (Opinion, Mar 31) coupled with the observations (Arable, Mar 31) of Barometer grower Mark Stevens give a welcome boost to home-grown pulses. Even if it comes a little late for spring 2000 drillings.

There is currently little for the arable farmer to enthuse over. But, at least in home-produced peas and beans, we have a source of genetically modified free protein with a ready market and the potential for premium prices. Long may it continue.

John Manners

President, The British Edible Pulse Association, c/o United Oilseeds, William Road, Devizes, Wilts.

Right track for farmers

For some time Ive heard farmers complaining about the strength of the £ and its damaging effect on their export markets. Is a population of 57m too small a challenge?

Farmers should not attempt to set up stall in a global village reliant on a fickle foreign market. Instead they should produce good quality food for sale in their home.

The public should also be educated to realise that quality and availability of food can best be maintained by buying from a local source with a first hand knowledge of its market.

The waste of time and resources incurred by the excessive movement of foodstuffs, the paperwork, bureaucracy and now complicated electronic tagging can only be guessed at.

Im not suggesting we should give up eating bananas or that Welsh lamb should never be served in Paris. But farmers, politicians and the public should be reminded of the dangers of straying from a home-based agricultural economy, where international currency fluctuations are of more minor importance.

David Boulton

c/o 24 Camerton Road, Greenbank, Bristol.

Brit Friesians deliver goods

Although I was interested to read the article on the rearing of Holstein bull calves (Livestock, Mar 17), it is the British Friesian calf that is able to deliver the more profitable system.

Its ability to finish from 11 months of age, together with superior grades, affords an opportunity for dairy farmers able to claim the beef premium, to achieve a gross margin on 90 animals of about £20,000.

Many British Friesian breeders have been following the policy of breeding all their cows to black-and-white bulls, with a private trade for surplus heifers and rearing on the bull calves. Alternatively, due to low replacement rates, they cross with beef bulls whose calves sell well, the heifer calves being particularly sought after for suckler dam replacements.

Dairy farmers know that all too often longevity has been sacrificed for production but the advantages of the first outweigh the second in terms of associated costs.

Over the years the Friesian has proved to be the ideal dairy animal for this country, able to sustain high milk yields over a number of lactations.

The fact that the index system was designed for the marketing of semen, (which farmers ought not to overlook), the Friesian has been continually disadvantaged due to comparison with the Holstein cow. This is something that many dairy farmers will not forgive our advisers for.

Clearly, type merit figures are totally misleading and in addition no allowance is made for the lesser energy requirements of body maintenance, for the smaller animal. On closer examination of the formulae used, it appears that the Friesian has been cheated of a more than 1000kg of milk.

Surely the time has come to examine the Index system, in the light of overall farm profitability.

Trevor Griffin

Kirkby Fields Farm, Newbold Road, Kirkby Mallory, Leics.

BLUP starting to prove worth

Graham Stratford (Letters, Mar 24) is correct when he describes BLUP as a computer program. But the estimated breeding values it produces represent the most accurate method of predicting the genetic merit of individual beef animals. BLUP itself is widely accepted by geneticists and breeders throughout the world as the most sophisticated system of evaluation available.

The correlation between beef value and price, as reported by FW following the Perth bull sales, simply shows that commercial producers are developing a growing awareness of the benefit of using BLUP performance data when choosing herd sires.

EBV figures are generated from an increasing number of members from all the main beef breeds enrolled on the Signet Beefbreeder scheme. This growing bank of data, combined with an intensive level of recording, including routine weighing of livestock and ultrasonic scanning for muscle and fat depths, helps to increase the accuracy of results.

It is not only Hereford and Aberdeen Angus breeders who import significant numbers of sires. However, UK data is soon generated depending on how well the imported sire is related to other animals in this country and how extensively he is used. The annual sire and dam summaries for all breeds include numerous imported sires in the rankings, born from 1993 onwards.

The development of international conversations, to estimate the potential UK ranking of a foreign bull, and international comparisons, to allow across country evaluations, are under way. But it will take time to come to fruition, because of different identification systems and recording protocols.

The UK BLUP evaluation system was developed after extensive consultation with the industry, and we believe that the present system has strong support from breeders and breed societies. Additionally, MLCs involvement with ICAR (the international livestock recording body) will ensure the future effectiveness of Beefbreeder and BLUP within the UK and internationally.

Jim Stark

Signets breeding services manager, Signet, PO Box 603, Winterhill, Milton Keynes.

NFU protects democracy

I write in reply to John Redmans letter (Mar 10) about NFU Officeholder voting procedures.

The NFU operates democratic election procedures that are fully laid out in its constitution. They are similar to those used in most other membership organisations and unincorporated associations.

All members are given notice of the day of the national officeholder elections and invited to nominate candidates. On the day of the election, elected representatives on the NFU governing body, the council, vote in a secret ballot. The number of votes cast for each candidate is not disclosed. Neither are council members obliged to reveal the way they have voted.

This system is designed to protect the democratic process by allowing council members to use their judgement after considering the views of the farmers they represent.

Alan Roberts,

Secretary of the NFU, Agriculture House, 164 Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

MAFFs local links severed

Is the closure of the MAFF regional service centres throughout the country a demonstration of government support for agriculture?

Their replacement by offices in Newcastle, served by a call centre, will force all producers to use e-mail for their IACS or livestock forms. They will either have to invest in computers or use a third party at extra cost. Any problems could not be sorted out face to face as now. Could a call centre deal with the unique problems of each individual?

Would it not be more sensible to move to IT and one centre but serve it by smaller local centres as there used to be? This would allow a local office, which could deal with queries and email the forms of those without computers.

More importantly, the centres could be a source of information to enable farmers to understand increasingly complicated schemes from Europe, and help the rural community get its fair share of support.

Surely this would be a demonstration of ongoing government support for rural areas and at the same time safeguard the jobs of the MAFF staff who themselves are an integral part of the agricultural community.

John Yeoman

Barnspark, Soar, Malborough, Kingsbridge, Devon.

UK not taking kindly to metric

I am responding to your article "Metric now compulsory for meat" (Business, Mar 3). Of particular interest is the comment that compulsory metrication may "seem like another Brussels inspired whim to boost consumer confusion". Also that it has the fundamental aim of "removing confusion".

As recent consumer surveys conducted on behalf of the British Weights and Measures Association and others have shown, there is opposition to compulsory metrication from up to 90% of the population. Despite more than 20 years of attempts to compulsorily metrify the British people, the vast majority still think in terms of pounds and ounces, feet and inches.

Confusion has been caused solely by attempts at compulsory metrication; unsupported by British people. The introduction of compulsory metrication is at the behest of Brussels and their 1989 Directive, which orders the obliteration of British weights and measures at the point of sale.

More than 40% of independent retailers are still trading in British weights and measures, so strong has been the resistance to compulsory metrication. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that there is a drift back to trading in British weights and measures. For independent information on the legality of the weights and measures (units of measurement) regulations 1994, please contact us.

Jeffrey Titford MEP

U.K. Independence Part Office, Rochester House, 145 New London Road,

Extensification scheme defence

Mr Walford complains (Letters, Mar 24) that farmers have not yet received full details of the extensification scheme nearly a quarter of the way through the claim year.

Beef farmers were sent an outline of the scheme before mid-January. By early March they were sent fuller notes for guidance with information about how to qualify for the premium. On 20 Mar we announced that the first of the six check dates under the standard scheme was 2 Feb. We will shortly be issuing further information on points flagged up as still being clarified when the Notes for Guidance was sent for printing.

MAFF does not have the information to make the calculations itself. That may become possible once all cattle and movements are entered on the cattle tracing system, and the European Commission has approved it. As soon as that is done, we will consider how the extensification scheme, and other livestock subsidy schemes, can be streamlined.

Joyce Quin

Minister of state, MAFF, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London.

BSE & warbles treatment

During a recent visit miles away from home I was talking to a group of farmers about BSE. As we all know, it was compulsory once to treat cattle with organophosphate with the aim of eliminating the warble fly.

One farmer said: "I did not treat my cattle for warbles and Im the only one in our area compared with similar farms who did not have a case of BSE." Another farmer said: "I didnt treat mine either and I didnt have BSE".

So, all you guilty people. How many with closed herds didnt treat your cattle for warbles and didnt have BSE? We had 10 cases of BSE and treated for warbles.

Mrs Hilda Thomas

Stupping Farm, Coxhill, Marberth, Pemborkeshire.

OPs to blame for mad cows

There are plenty of examples like Edward Godsells on BSE (Letters, Feb 18) pointing to OP. When the Phillips BSE inquiry reports next month, too late to make much difference anyway, OP will resurface as the most likely cause of BSE and variant CJD. Some of us are waiting to examine its reasoning.

The politically correct version of infective feed was dreamed up by the pharmaceutical research agencies, without research, since OPs would implicate the companies making them. Why would British cows alone react to infective feed supplied worldwide? No other case of disease discriminating by nationality has ever occurred. Science can be fiddled like everything else in the EU. The inquiry itself was rigged from the start with a brief to stick to inter-party games and leave the science to scientists. Learned judges, with no science, can be relied upon to shirk the issue. You must remember MAFF, too, had responsibility for OP douching.

The liabilities are so huge governments as well as multinationals will fight to stop the truth getting out. There is evidence of orchestration, but its devilish hard to prove.

Two variant CJD victims were vegetarians for goodness sake. Anyone with the persistence to wade through over a thousand pages should read The River examining the alleged establishment cover up of vaccinations against polio in the Congo starting AIDS. Worldwide liabilities there, perhaps even great enough to bankrupt the US, make it hard for truth to survive.

Lord Walsingham

The Hassocks, Merton, Thetford, Norfolk.

Tough decisions for abattoirs

We are a low volume abattoir in Caerphilly, South Wales, oval stamp number 7182. We supply local butchers, farmers and a large wholesaler.

It seems there is no answer to the crippling charges of the Meat Hygiene Service. Due to the inflexibility of its attitude to charging, I am faced with two choices.

Either I close my abattoir down and put 10 men out of work. Or, I send the MHS an amount of money towards inspection and vet costs that I can reasonably afford and stay in business. Due to the urgency of the situation, I would advocate that all abattoirs unable to face these costs to do the same.

A D Havard

The Abattoir, Black Brook Road, Caerphilly.

Horses offer income boost

I read with interest the letter (Mar 24) entitled Whats wrong with horses? If the author would care to write to me at Harper Adams I may be able to provide him with some information that could help.

Additionally, the failure of the authorities to classify horses as agricultural animals is doubly illogical, given that they are just so classified in Europe. That means they do not receive the same protection in terms of transport and slaughter that they do in the UK.

Planners may like to rethink their approach to horsiculture, as it offers some hope for ensuring income and employment in rural areas while agricultures role declines.

From the point of view of landlords, if they wish to maintain the rental value of their land in the face of falling farm incomes, a more open-minded approach to farm diversification could benefit their wallets.

Alison Monk

Senior lecturer in agricultural economics, Harper Adams.

Costs lurking in contract work

I found your article "True cost could be more than thought" (Machinery, Mar 24) most interesting. Several years ago, I conducted a similar exercise when a neighbour asked me to quote for his combining.

The article made me realise that I had made some errors in calculating the cost of extra work, but I think the article does too. Several specific items in your article demand comment. First, your article suggests depreciation would be constant for the two situations. I cannot agree with this, due to reduced machinery life expectancy.

Second, you suggest that insurance would be constant. My insurer doesnt like that idea, and charges a flat £500 for contract work. But I pay far less for farm insurance than I have seen in your overhead management articles.

Third, I wish I could put a competent person on a combine seat for £6/hr including all expenses. Taking on extra work would mean a greater amount of overtime, so the charge would not be constant.

Your cost per hectare for the increased areas includes the whole acreage, not just the increased areas included. However, the marginal cost for the extra hectares is less. Charging your neighbour should perhaps be based on that figure, adding a suitable profit margin.

Your article does not address what I consider the most important practical implication of taking on extra work at such a busy time of year. Can the staff cope? While you recognise that work on the core acreage may suffer, you take no account of the fact that you may overload your staff with far more serious consequences, perhaps through effects on family life or health. The working time directive recognises that problem but UK agriculture is not well placed to implement it. I would caution any farmer against risking the long-term usefulness of good staff to a marginal or non-existent profit.

When calculating what benefit might be possible, it is important to be cautious. You use a work rate of 1.2ha/hr.

That may be realistic for the more expensive combine you describe. I have used 0.8ha/hr, as experience has sown that this is what is achieved after allowing for downtime such as maintenance, repair and moving fields.

M A McDowall

Townhead (McDowall), Townhead, Gifford, Haddington.

Scholar given a raw deal

Your correspondent George Scales letter (Mar 17) entitled "Chickens are not kangaroos," is misinformed when he attacks Nuffield Scholar Pamela Gladwin. He criticises her for not considering all the factors that tend to make UK producers uncompetitive compared with producers in North America, France and Poland. She has indeed considered all the economic costs of production, though the report may not have majored on these.

The important point is that she has illustrated the areas where UK producers have advantages and where they are at a disadvantage. She suggests that we can become more competitive by lateral thinking in many of the areas that are usually classed as fixed costs.

I believe that Pamela intends to keep the costing comparison updated and I am sure that this will be a project that will interest FW readers.

I will send Mr Scales a copy of Pamelas report. For others, it is available from the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust for £5.00, or can be downloaded from the trusts web site:

Steven Bullock

Be extra wary with badgers

The article "Badgers Dig into Farm Profits" (News, Mar 17) highlights an increasing problem for farmers and landowners.

There are actions that can be taken to mitigate the losses, but farmers must be aware of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Under this Act, it is an offence to kill, injure or capture a badger or attempt to do so. It is also an offence to interfere with a badgers sett, which includes obstructing access to the sett. These activities can be carried out to prevent serious damage to land and crops if a licence is obtained from MAFF.

MAFF cannot unreasonably withhold a licence but it can impose conditions and it will not grant a licence if other methods of control have not been attempted unless they are impractical in the circumstances. MAFF can also grant licences to interfere with setts for the purpose of agricultural operations.

If farmers contravene the provisions of the Act, by acting without a licence when one should have been obtained, or does not comply with the terms of the licence, they may be liable to a fine of up to £5000 per badger affected and/or imprisonment of up to six months.

Self-help without careful consideration is not advisable.

Alison Bailey

Wilsons Solicitors, Steynings House, Fisherton Street, Salisbury, Wilts.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

EU proposals to tighten incinerator regulations (News, Mar 24) could affect the practice of burning pesticide packaging on farms.

Unless spray pack disposal is done professionally this safe and efficient way of disposing of empty, rinsed, clean pesticide packs may be lost, says Ross Dyer of the British Agrochemical Association.

Incinerating thoroughly rinsed and drained pesticide packs at up to 900C gives rapid combustion, little smoke, fumes similar to those from burning pine logs and minimal contaminant-free ash.

The BAA incinerator design developed in co-operation with Silsoe Research Institute lets farmers do this easily.

A 210-litre (45gal) oil drum with the bottom intact needs 11 flame-cut 50mm holes equally spaced at 150mm above the base and eight 60mm holes at 440mm. A 530mm diameter circle of 3mm gauge/30mm hole weldmesh is then supported with a four leg frame of bent steel 190mm high placed in the drum. The configuration is critical to get the right temperature.

The incinerator should be sited at least 15m from a roadway and away from livestock, hedgerows, houses, farm buildings, watercourses and other vulnerable areas, including fertilisers and the packs to be disposed of. Always keep a bucket of water or bowser at hand.

Efficient burning relies on getting a hot fire established and feeding it regularly. Failure to do so may lead to black smoke and the risk of prosecution.

Open a cardboard carton and unscrew the pack tops. Light a firelighter or diesel soaked rag placed in the middle of the case and within five minutes a raging hot fire can be obtained.

Add cases of packs with caps removed when at least 90% of the box will go into the incinerator. Powder formulation packs can often be rinsed with the induction bowl rinser. When drained, put them in a cardboard box or 50kg seed bag ready for placing in the incinerator.

Fifteen cases of 5-litre packs can usually be disposed of in 30 minutes. Large quantities are best dealt with by making more incinerators and setting them up at least 5m apart, BAA advises.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

Bob –

the village postman

BOB gets up at 4.30am and spends the next eight hours driving around country lanes and farm tracks in his van, whistling along to the radio. He even gets out from time to time – mostly to call into peoples kitchens for a cuppa although he does deliver the occasional letter.

Hes got regular refreshment stops. He stops with Jeff at 5.30 just before he starts milking, at Harolds at 7.10 as hes unlocking the farm workshop and at Bettys Bakery for tea and a bun at 10am.

Between 10am and getting back to the depot, most of his stops are to attend the call of nature. Bob, like a badger, has his favourite spots for this.

The residents love him. Hes so cheerful, so friendly. Always got time to stop for a chat. Always makes sure the parcels are delivered undamaged, the letters uncreased.

He closes gates and rings the farmer up if he sees a dead sheep. Hell lend a hand if a cows escaped and needs rounding up. He feeds the cats for Mrs Baraclough when she goes away to her daughter for the weekend.

Hes even been known to get up a ladder and replace a tile for the widow – and local gossip is that its not all hes replaced for her.

Even the dogs like Bob. Hounds that otherwise go straight for the jugular sidle up to him and rub against his legs, their tales wagging. That scatty spaniel at the Jenkinss place has even stopped cocking its leg against his van now.

"Get away, thats Post Office property," he used to yell at the small, embarrassingly balanced animal as it went about its business.

Bobs been doing this job for 10 years now, ever since he came out of the services. The pays OK, not brilliant. And you should see the tips at Christmas – not just money, but food and booze too. The widow gave him a bottle of expensive whisky. "Hes been delivering more there than letters to her," they said in The Wheatsheaf.

He knows the route inside out. He could do it in his sleep. Which is just as well because he sometimes does it in his sleep – after a late night. A late night, for Bob, means 9pm.

"Whats it like having to get up in the middle of the night," people always ask him.

"Never mind that," he replies, "Im finished by 2pm – all the afternoon is mine." But thats academic. He never does anything in the afternoon except go fishing.

"I pulled a 20-pounder out of mill pond on Friday," he tells everyone he meets on his round. One or two of them are even interested in fishing. "You should have seen it fight," he says. "Put the kettle on and Ill tell you about it."

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

&#8226 RESEARCH at Leeds University shows that feeding pigs the wrong diet in the first three weeks after weaning can significantly reduce future performance. The work, sponsored by Primary Diets, found there was a link between growth rates in the post-weaning period and performance in the finishing shed.

&#8226 THREE beef bulls from Cogent have been approved by farmers marketing co-op Quality Calves. The approval, based on the bulls EBV scores, means calves sired by these bulls will receive a premium when sold through the co-op.

&#8226 YORKSHIRE Country Feeds is aiming to supply all of its customers with growth promoter-free broiler rations. The move started a year ago, and the company now supplies 80% of rations free of growth promoters. It is also running on-farm trials for remaining broiler customers keen to monitor the effects on birds.

&#8226 NOVARTIS and Youngs have added blue dye to their sheep products Crovect and Vector, respectively. The dye will aid identification of treated sheep. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

Forget fattening chocolate for your Easter prezzies, let charity gain rather than waistlines take the strain by giving

tasteful natural marble eggs instead. These pretty eggs cost just 99p each from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund gift range , which also includes these colourful

china chubby

piggy banks

(99p each),

available in the

charitys shops

until May 1.

The Imperial

Cancer Research

Fund is


to the



and cure of

all forms of


Its 1000

scientists and

doctors are at the

forefront of the

worldwide effort to find new answers to cancer. The charity relies overwhelmingly on voluntary funding to carry out vital work.

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

&#8226 LUPINS can replace soya as a protein source in beef diets with no adverse effect on performance, but more work is needed on lupin agronomy before producers can confidently grow the crop, according to Stephen Webster, researcher at ADAS Rosemaund. "Cattle fed rolled or hammer milled lupins perform as well as cattle receiving soya as the principal diet protein source.

"Early agronomic studies on lupins show they yield 3-5t/ha and perform best on light land as they are susceptible to slugs. They are also acid tolerant and can be grown in soils where pH is as low as 5."

&#8226 ESSENTIAL oils from plants such as garlic, oregano and thyme could replace antibiotic growth promoters in calf diets. In research at Leeds University, calves between two to 10-weeks-old were fed a supplement containing a mixture of essential oils incorporated in calf milk replacer and calf concentrates. Researcher Henry Greathead says growth rate improved from 0.61kg a day to 0.75kg a day and feed conversion ratio improved from 2.22 to 1.94 in calves receiving the supplement. Adding oils costs £2.50/t of milk replacer or concentrate. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

THERE has been a resurgence of interest in butterflies in the past few years following top TV documentaries and glossy books covering the subject. Even gardening magazines are keen to promote these charismatic insects and how we can attract them into our gardens. However, until now there had been nothing for the PC, so it was good news for me when I discovered a new CD-ROMdisk*

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of data that CD publishers can squeeze on to a disk. For a start, there are 300 video clips of all 60 British species, plus habitat clips.

A text database by Ann and Richard Williamson details the life-cycle of each species; where it lives, where it lays its eggs, what its caterpillars feed on and where and when you are likely to see it. To augment this are distribution maps. Or if you prefer, just sit back, click, and listen to Richards spoken commentary and view the 500 superb illustrations not only of the butterflies, but their eggs, caterpillars and chrysalis by Richard Lewington.

* The CD-ROM Guide to British Butterflies is published by BirdGuides at £75 plus £2 p&p (Tel: 0800-919391).

Michael Edwards

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