Archive Article: 2000/05/12 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000


FENCE the sheep and not the farm. That is the advice of electric fencing manufacturer James Ridley who says more sheep farmers are switching to portable fencing systems as part of flock management.

The upturn in store lamb prices at the start of the year led to a marked increase in the demand for electric fencing, reports Mr Ridley of Rappa Fencing, Stockbridge, Hants. However, he believes there are signs that more radical changes within the sheep sector are attracting new converts to portable methods of stock control.

"Unfortunately, many flocks have been cutting back on shepherds leaving less labour to look after more sheep. Electric fencing, particularly systems incorporating ATV-mounted equipment to make moving fences easier, is seen as a labour saving system enabling a reduced labour force to achieve more in terms of flock management."

While electric netting to control sheep is not as popular as it was when introduced in the mid-1980s, three-strand systems are providing an adaptable system now demanded by sheep producers, particularly those relying on rented grazing away from home.

"If this years prices encourage more store lamb finishers to be involved again next season, and they can negotiate a fair price for grass keep on dairy farms, we expect to see a big demand for electric fence systems next winter.

"Portable fencing is also being recognised as an aid to effective grazing management of breeding ewe flocks where grass is part of an arable rotation.

"As margins tighten in all sectors it makes sense to fence the stock and not the farm, especially where there is a two-year grass ley, which needs to be grazed as part of an arable rotation," says Mr Ridley. &#42

Flocks cutting back on labour have found ATV-mounted fencing equipment makes moving fences easier and saves on labour.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Neil T Clarkson Forage Services of Sidlesham, West Sussex, get stuck into the first silaging job of the year at a farm near Chichester. The firm expects to silage around 890ha (2200 acres) of grass and 930ha (2300 acres) of maize this year.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Mucky stuff…farmer and contractor Chris Bolt of Morrelf Farm, Huntsham, Devon takes advantage of a break in the weather to make a dribble application of livestock slurry on to a field of winter wheat near Taunton.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Back to school…Prince Charles is shown how the farm at Oathall Community College, Haywards Heath, Sussex, is used as a resource for the teaching of the national curriculum. The school aims to give students an insight into modern agriculture and pupils wanting to go into farming have the opportunity to take an NVQ in agriculture. For more on the princes visit to Sussex, see page 20.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Farmspeed foreman Dave Rust digging ancient trees out of a Norfolk field. The "bog oaks" which may have fallen thousands of years ago, periodically rise to the surface where their re-emergence can cause severe damage to machinery. This field at Southery Road Farm, Feltwell, is being readied for a crop of potatoes and has already yielded several trailer loads of oaks this year.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000


uTHE Organic Livestock Marketing Co-operative has announced a 15p/kg rise in its cattle base price for 2000/01, taking the value of an R4L beast to £2.60/kg dw. "With current growth in demand, there is strong upward pressure on prices," said Ralph Human, general manager of OLMC. "But going for a large rise in price is not sustainable." The co-op is the leading marketing agency for organic livestock. It is owned and controlled by its 120 members, based throughout the UK, and markets about 40% of all organic livestock.

uIN the latest consolidation of the farm supplies sector, Aberdeenshire-based feed firm Harbro Farm Sales has completed the purchase of Scottish Wool Growers from the British Wool Marketing Board. The deal will add five SWG retail outlets across Scotland to the three shops already operated by Harbro in the north east of the country. "The integration of the SWG business will complement areas where we have an established feed sales base but are less strong in animal health," said sales director, Graham Baxter. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

&#8226 THE charity Milk for Schools has accepted a one-year official sponsorship from Welsh organic yogurt producer Horizon/Rachels Organic Dairy. The money will be used to raise awareness of the EU school milk subsidy scheme and encourage secondary schools to introduce vending machines selling dairy products.

&#8226 FARMERS in East Yorkshire are the focus of a new campaign to cut the high suicide rate and alleviate rural stress. Over 60,000 helpline cards will be distributed to mark the launch of the East Yorkshire Rural Stress Initiative on May 23, which will emphasise that it is "OK to ask for help". The card will carry the numbers of The Samaritans 0345-909090, NHS Direct 0845-4647, and RABI 01865-727888.

&#8226 SUPERMARKET managers got the chance to see for themselves exactly how food is produced when they visited a mixed farm in Herefordshire last week. The managers – who came from branches in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Birmingham – were shown livestock, cereal, soft and top fruit enterprises. Organised by the NFU, the aim of the day was to break down barriers and improve communication.

&#8226 FED up with rural crime? Then, here is your chance to help strike back. The Countryside Alliance is compiling a report of serious incidents in rural areas and the adequacy of policing. Its report will be presented to the Home Secretary during discussions on the Rural White Paper. If you would like to contribute information about serious crimes such as burglary or assault, send brief details to Nigel Burke, head of Policy, Countryside Alliance, 367 Kennington Rd, London SE11 4PT. Please state whether the incident was reported to the police, the distance to the nearest manned police station and the response time. Replies will treated in strict confidence.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

&#8226 NEGOTIATIONS on farm policy reform received a boost at World Trade Organisation headquarters in Geneva this week, with the appointment of a new chairman for agriculture. Jorge Voto-Bernales, a Peruvian, will oversee discussions aimed at further market liberalisation. Initial talks in March were blighted by a row over who was neutral enough to chair the sessions.

&#8226 FRANCE has recorded its 17th BSE casualty this year, a five-year-old dairy cow from the La Manche area of Normandy. This means that in the past four months, the country has had more than half the number of cases than for the whole of 1999. All 142 animals in the herd have been destroyed.

&#8226 CENTRAL and east European countries have been told they must establish fully functioning land markets – both for nationals and for outsiders – as they prepare for EU accession. Speaking at an agri-business forum in Sofia, Bulgaria, farm commissioner Franz Fischler said this was essential if the CEECs were to compete effectively within the EU.

&#8226 PUNITIVE tariffs, imposed by Washington on a range of European food exports in retaliation for the EUs ban on hormone-treated beef, could be re-targeted, according to Reuters. So far the $117m (£76m) duties have been aimed mainly at French and German products. But trade representative, Charlene Barchefsky, has warned she may change the hit list, to keep the EU policy makers on their toes.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000


uCONTACT number for the Novartis booklet The Art of Spray Application (Arable Apr 28) is 01223 494141.

uUS-BASED pesticide manufacturer Dow Agrosciences is to close its research facility site at Letcombe in Oxon with the loss of 50 jobs. In a move said to reflect the competitive market, the companys formulation science and technology group will be consolidated at its existing Kings Lynn, Norfolk site and laboratory work made more cost-effective by using contractors.

uPOTATO blight fungicide Micene DF (mancozeb) has received approval for use at seven-day spray intervals according to conditions, says Oxon-based Sipcam. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

John Best

John Best farms 320ha

(791 acres) from Acton House

Farm, Pointspass, Co Down.

Wheat, conservation-grade

oats and potatoes are main

crops on his 220ha (544 acres)

of clay loam arable land

MUCH of the past month has been spent in the office dealing with paperwork on IACS, Beef Special Premium, and cattle movement permits.

Such chores hammer home how the declining value of the k is rapidly eroding our support payments. My concern was further compounded by a recent visit from a New Zealand farmer who runs a low cost system and seems reasonably content with his lot.

Listening to Nick Brown at the Ulster Farmers Union AGM did little to promote optimism, unless one aspires to be a park keeper. As one delegate commented during question time, the only time the minister sounded sincere was when was criticising the previous government. But we are fortunate in having elected a very astute candidate as deputy president of the Union, one who is more than capable of holding his own in the political arena.

Recent good weather has seen our crops recover from a cold end to April and 70mm (2.8in) of rain, that checked forward cereals and delayed potato planting.

In April, all wheat had 60kg/ha (48 units/acre) of nitrogen and 12kg/ha of sulphur (10 units/acre) and the early-drilled crops have had a second application, bringing the total to date to 180kg/ha (144 units/ acre). Final applications will be made at the end of May, tuned to match the yield potential of each field.

Wheat has also had 1.4 litres/ha of chlormequat and 0.8 litres/ha of Starane (fluroxypyr). Jubilee (metsulfuron-methyl) was added where speedwells were a problem and last week we got on with fungicides. Mildew is almost non-existent on the wheat and septoria levels are low. Last week we applied 0.7 litres/ha of Opus (epoxiconazole) or 0.9 litres/ha of Granit (bromuconazole). Opus has performed well in the past, but I thought I would try Granit in a number of fields this season.

The Oats are growing rapidly with some mildew in the base of the crop. Fortress (quinoxyfen) should keep it at bay. That went on at 0.15 litres/ha with Bettaquat (chlormequat) and manganese. &#42

A session of form filling really brings home the impact of sterlings strength, says John Best, and farm minister, Nick Brown, offered little support at the Ulster Farmers Union AGM.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 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

ONE of the problems with committing ones thoughts to print each month is that from time to time they come back to haunt you.

Last month I said I was not going to rush into potato planting on our heavy, cold soil. It is now nearly five weeks since the wheels of the planter turned and 80% of my seed still sits in the cold store. I have to admit there is more than a touch of egg on my face.

Experience tells me that our best maincrop yields come from plantings at the end of April or early May, but we are rapidly moving out of this window. Yields and, more importantly, quality are going to suffer as harvest date is forced back by the delayed planting. But if yields are reduced nationally at least that may boost prices, as would a reduction in crop area by those irresponsible growers who increased their plantings last year.

The promised better weather has been slow to arrive in this part of the country. Daytime temperatures failed to reach double figures for much of last week and the outstanding T1 fungicide plus Starane (fluroxypyr) mix has been put on hold for our later sown wheats. We have our best ever crop of cleavers but these crops are only just at GS32 so I hope a wait for warmer weather will be beneficial.

Our sugar beet has emerged well and is making reasonable growth. Low-rate chloridazon pre-emergence paid handsome dividends and the only weeds so far are a few speedwells and chickweeds. Post emergence "FAR" applications are keeping those in check and volunteer potatoes are also few. I hope to avoiding using chlorpyralid which will reduce the herbicide bill considerably.

The recent farmers weekly comparison of a Ford and a John Deere tractor (Power Farming, Apr 28) was interesting. But I am sure what would be of great interest to most farmers is the same comparison five years later when the bits have started to drop off. &#42

Still in store and egg on my face, says Essex grower Trevor Horsnell. His patience in March with potato planting has been upset by Aprils deluge.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Mark – the Young Farmer

MARKS not happy. Hes back at work and, though its nearly a fortnight since Blackpool, he still hasnt recovered. He had four hours sleep in the whole three days – two of them on the beach. It would have been longer but the tide came in.

Mark travelled to the Young Farmers Annual Convention with a group of fellow club members. It was a long, uncomfortable journey, made only slightly more bearable by the eight cans of Boddies.

It was the second time Mark had been to a convention in Blackpool. "Whats it like?" people asked. "Like Ibiza, but cold," he told them.

It was, too. Music blaring from pubs and clubs along the seafront, bouncers on every door. Blackpool had to be about the only place, he reckoned, where DJs still played Right Said Fred. And it went down well.

Mark hasnt missed a convention since he was 15. Thats 10 years ago. He remembers them all. Well, he doesnt remember any of them in precise detail – theyre all a vague blur of rude T-shirts, fancy dress and party breasts.

He was determined to go to this one. It was his first weekend off for three months. A chance to let his hair down and forget about potatoes. Except, that is, when debating "the missing margin" with the bloke in the chippy.

The first thing Mark and his mates did when they arrived was put on a pair of party breasts. Then they went to the hotel bar. They broke for a quick visit to some arcades and a walk along the beach in the rain but then it was back to the pub.

The only time they took the party breasts off in the next three days was on Friday and Saturday night to don a shirt and tie for The Wintergardens dances. "Great fun, but you should have seen the queues for drinks on Friday night."

Mark didnt find out until after arriving back on his familys farm that Nick Brown had been at the event. And Ben Gill, apparently. "AGM?" he laughed. "I didnt know there was an AGM there."

Though he didnt see any of the speakers, he did see the contents of his stomach (three times) and he did see that girl he snogged last year in Bournemouth.

He bumped into her on Friday night. She careered across the dancefloor towards him on someones shoulders just as he was beginning the chorus of a song with a lot of expletives in it. She didnt look quite as good as he remembered. A little smaller… and heavier. But by midnight she was looking better. "Has anyone told you before, you look like Victoria Beckham," he whispered into her ear.

Mark couldnt find her on Saturday, but he did meet up with some friends of friends from the West Country as he danced to Hi Ho Silver Lining. One of them seemed particularly impressed with the way he stamped on her feet and they were soon on rather more familiar terms.

"Going for a hat-trick tonight are you," Marks mates laughed on Sunday, as they donned wigs, sunglasses and big-collared shirts for the 70s night. But Mark was too tired by then to consider pulling.

He had, however, managed to snatch a couple of hours sleep on the beach at the sandcastle competition. They had intended to build a rudely-shaped one, but found that human anatomy had already been well represented by the time they got to the seafront.

Now, a fortnight on, Marks skint. "Still," he rues, "lap-dancing was never going to come cheap, was it."

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

A dossier of crime in the countryside

Commentary on the Tony Martin case has reached a fever pitch. Many people who do not live in the countryside must be thinking that the underlying reality of rural crime does not justify the hullabaloo. On the contrary, rural crime and the fate of isolated victims has needed urgent attention from policy makers for years, but it has taken the Martin case to focus minds. Media attention will soon fade, but we must not allow the issues to be shelved.

To this end, the Countryside Alliance is compiling a dossier of serious crime incidents in rural areas and the adequacy of policing. We will analyse the information, and present this dossier to the Home Secretary during discussions of the Rural White Paper.

We invite rural dwellers who have experienced serious crime such as burglary and assault to send a brief account of the incident to us, stating whether they reported the incident, the distance to the nearest manned police station, and the response time, if applicable. We will treat replies in strict confidence.

Replies should be forwarded direct to Nigel Burke, head of Policy, Countryside Alliance, 367 Kennington Road, London SE11 4PT.

Mal Treharne

South west public relations officer, Aley Well, Aley, Over Stowey, Nr Bridgwater, Somerset.

Compensation for strong £

The strong value of sterling against the euro should entitle arable farmers to agrimonetary compensation. There are mechanisms in place to claim this as FW has highlighted.

In January you estimated that British arable farmers were due £18m for compensation for the effect on prices and another £38m for compensation for the effect on direct payments. At that point, £1 equalled 1.59 euro compared with 1.72 euro today. We arable farmers are therefore due £57m from the EU and UK government.

It will be a scandal if compensation to which we are entitled, and which the EU is willing to pay, is lost. Farmers need to make their voices heard. Sadly, the NFU, having gained extra funding for other sectors, has given up the fight for arable farmers.

It has been cowed by the "Oliver Walston" effect and seems to have no answer to Mr Walstons TV documentary. If all subsidies were abandoned throughout the EU it would lower land values and rents and provide opportunities. But since we have to compete within rules laid out by politicians then I expect Britain to do no less than the French or Germans when it comes to supporting agriculture.

The £ has risen 36% since its 1995 lows, more than half of that rise occurred before the election. Most of the rest occurred during the first year after the election. About 5 to 10% of sterlings rise is down to Euro weakness.

Every quarter for the past five years, the Bank of Englands inflation report has assumed that sterling will fall. Had the Bank of England assumed a rising £ then interest rates would have been much lower and paradoxically we would have a lower £.

Every arable farmer reading this letter should make their voice heard and urge the NFU to do its job and fight for what is just.

G Rennie

Stenton, St. Monans, Fife.

UK should put EU behind it

At long last people are acknowledging, as did Tony Stone and June Lawson in their excellent letters (Mar 24) that being in the EU is not good for British farming or the UK in general.

We British contribute £10-11bn/year for the privilege of membership of this club; about £1m/hour. In return, not only has CAP led to disaster for our farming, other policies have led to our fishing waters being plundered by foreign vessels, and our shipbuilding and coal industries being unable to compete with their subsidised continental counterparts.

EU accounts have not been passed by its own auditors for the past four years. Its Commissioners have been forced to resign en masse. Many of its leading European proponents, including Helmut Kohl, who was given the freedom of London, have also proved to be corrupt. Huge sums of money are unaccounted for by EU officials who grant themselves extravagant life-styles while imposing more red tape and directives on the rest of us.

We must question the judgement and standards of our own politicians, church leaders, and industrialists, the NFU and the CBI. In fact, all those who boast of wishing to be at the heart of Europe and who long to adopt the Euro.

Being in the exchange rate mechanism was a manifest disaster. It resulted in 3m unemployed, 1m home re-possessions, and enormous social problems. Having to leave it was a clear blessing. Yet there are still those who cannot wait for the chance to make the same mistake again, on an even greater scale, by joining a full economic and monetary union.

Britain has proved more than capable of managing its own affairs. The sooner we leave the EU the better it will be for all of us.

W Furrow

Blandford Forum, Dorset.

Last chance for dairy farmers

I recently joined an audience of 170 concerned dairy farmers in the Ur Valley Hotel, Castle Douglas. We were addressed by Ian Kerr of the Scottish NFU and John Loftus of the proposed Federation of Milk Producers. Both speakers gave informative talks and, in the case of John Loftus, a refreshing and directional point of view.

The demise of the UK dairy industry is very worrying and needs attention now. Speakers reached the same conclusion that producers must work together to arrest this decline and halt the slide of the milk price. The strength of the £ is a serious problem, but one that dairy farmers can do little about.

The 6p or 9p fall in milk price is attributable to the £, which leaves a balance of 3p that dairy farmers have themselves given away. Why? Because direct suppliers have left dairy farmers in a poor negotiating position.

Both speakers highlighted this in no uncertain terms and appealed for these producers to work in a co-operative movement for the sake of everyone involved in UK dairy farming.

We have been told that dairy farming is in Last Chance Saloon. Now is the time for direct suppliers to look themselves in the mirror and ask, "Am I going to listen this time?"

We must look forward to what we as dairy farmers can do about the future. It is down to us; not the government, NFU or people like John Loftus. Unless milk producers take back control of what they worked hard to supply, there will be a limited future.

We have all been warned, there can be no excuses this time.

A G John

Ingleston, Borgue, Kirkudbright.

Milk co-ops are urgently needed

The price of milk is low because the only CAP subsidy is for butter and skim milk powder for which the intervention prices are steadily being reduced. About 10% of milk is used in these products.

No matter how efficiently a butter SMP creamery operates the low intervention prices, which tend to set the prices obtained for butter and SMP, mean that the price payable for their milk is below most peoples cost of producing milk.

If milk were sold at an enhanced price for use as liquid or for other premium outlets, while those producers supplying creameries producing butter and SMP paid a lower price, before long the lower-paid producers would undercut the better off producers. In the end there would be a small premium covered by the extra haulage.

For most of the past 80 years milk made into butter and SMP has been paid for at a lower price than that used in the premium markets. It was because of the low milk prices paid in some parts of the UK that the milk marketing boards were set up. In South-west Scotland milk fetched 3p per gallon old money before the SMMB and 6p after.

In most continental countries large co-ops pool their receipts and pay farmers for their milk a sum higher than the price butter and SMP Creameries pay but lower than the premium markets pay.

A large co-op is not permitted by the government and theres little hope of quotas being reduced to produce a better balance between dairymen and processors. Unless the government can be persuaded to allow large co-ops to sell and pool milk prices, it is hard to see much hope for sustained higher milk prices.

P G Philpot

Dollymans Farm, Rawreth, Essex.

Want British? Go to Germany

Despite strenuous attempts made to establish a British trademark which can be used to identify foodstuffs that reach British welfare and hygiene standards, the mark offers no guarantee that produce is of British origin.

Apparently, accurate identification of country of origin is contrary to EU regulations. But the German regions have now lifted their ban on the import of British beef (News, Mar 24). Interestingly, that includes a clear labelling of the beef as British through to the point of retail.

So if we wish to be assured that we are eating British beef, we shall have to import it from Germany! For those intent on purchasing British produce, local butchers or farmers markets are likely to provide far greater traceability than any supermarket can offer.

James Hunt

2 Leigh Cross Cottage, Milton Abbot, Tavistock, Devon.

Idea to solve bobby shortage

In the past, I have always found the local police response time and their advice to be very good. But times have changed. We no longer have a local full time police station and we seldom see the same policeman twice so they never get to know the area.

Some years ago in Australia I saw a sign at a farm gateway bearing a four-letter code. I was told that in the event of an emergency, a passing stranger just had to give the number. Would this help here?

Northants Farmer

Name and address supplied.

Organic tale not the whole story

Your Management Matters article (Business, Apr 14) on Tirinie highlighted issues relating to the organic conversion of Ian Duncan Millars hill farms at Auchnafree and Wester Tullich.

Its encouraging to see information on organic farming but it was unfortunate that your report was presented under an alarmist headline and contained misleading information on the Scottish Organic Producers Associations Veterinary Guidance Notes.

The underlying principle of organic standards is the maintenance of animal/crop health by good management practices. Over reliance on prophylactic chemotherapy is discouraged and products are advised to develop management systems, which reduce their dependence on chemical inputs.

The Veterinary Guidance Notes were developed in response to numerous requests for help from producers and veterinarians. They are designed to assist farmers and their veterinary surgeons in producing a plan that will enable livestock to gain and maintain organic status. That is achieved by ensuring that all management and inputs conform to the requirements of the SOPA Standards and those of the EC Regulation for organic livestock production which comes into effect on 24 Aug 2000.

You quote Ian Duncan Millar as saying "the guidance is not to use vaccines against clostridial diseases" and it is suggested that such treatment is banned. That is not true. No medicine is banned in organic farming, but the Organic Standards require that "preventive chemotherapy may only be used to deal with specifically identified diseases or as part of an agreed conversion or disease reduction plan". Standards state, "vaccination is permitted in cases where there is a known disease risk". Single, two-in-one or four-in-one vaccines are preferred to more complex multiple vaccines unless such cover is specifically required.

The SOPA Veterinary Guidance Notes suggest that, in order to comply with the Standards, "a staged programme of vaccination withdrawal should be planned." Also outlined is a suggested programme starting with next years cull ewes and eventually, "working backwards over 4-5 years to the replacement ewe lambs providing, of course, that disease does not break out in the interval."

The SOPA certification committee is aware that defining the known risk of sudden death from soil borne clostridial diseases poses particular problems for the sheep farmer and considers this and all other aspects of a livestock management plan on a case by case basis.

C F Beattie

Certification manager, Scottish Organic Producer Association, Doune, Perthshire.

Safe farms save workers lives

Each year many farm workers and children are killed or seriously injured when carrying out what are often regarded as normal activities such as driving a tractor. Employers must provide both a safe place of work and safe systems of work for their employees by carrying out risk assessments under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

It is also a legal requirement that farmers who employ five or more employees must prepare, and as often as appropriate revise, a written statement of policy with respect to the health and safety at work of their employees and the arrangements in force for carrying out that policy. Any revision of that policy should be brought to the notice of employees.

Managing health and safety at work can be an onerous task especially when time is precious and knowledge of safety legislation is limited.

But help is at hand from experienced professionals such as myself. I can be contacted by letter or by phone/fax on 01621 772711.

RR Smith

Workplace 2000, Rowan, Maldon Road, Steeple, Essex.

Matter far from fully debated

It was with interest that I read your report (News, Apr 21) on the closure of MAFF offices and the debate it started in Devon.

I raised the matter at the end of the Devon County March meeting. Most people were unaware of the implications and many had not heard about it before. When I asked the vice president about its implications, he was unable to answer. The meeting decided to send a resolution to London because the members were concerned enough to show how they felt.

Some members asked Richard Haddock to investigate because other council delegates present did not know about the matter. As regards comments that this matter was fully debated, nothing could be further from the truth.

J Yeoman

Barnspark, Soar, Malborough, Kingsbridge, Devon.

Tolerance in sugar beet

Monsanto states (Letters, Apr 7) that independent reports show: "Roundup-tolerant sugar beet would save 20-50% in the amount of herbicide used in beet."

One of the most recent reports on this type of beet is published in the April edition of Pest Management Science. A number of Roundup usage scenarios were tested on fen land in Cambridgeshire. These gave reduced weed control in GM beet compared with a conventional weed management regime. In some cases this resulted in heavy yield losses ranging from 24% to 32%.

Ignoring the wider aspects of the GM debate and the fact that there is no market for GM sugar beet, few farmers are likely to want to use any technology which risks reducing their margin over seed and spray costs.

Mark Griffiths

Regional leader, Natural Law Party Wessex, 75 Fairfield Road, Winchester, Hants.

Bakers remarks out of context

As a farmer and co-organiser of the recent conference called to address the problems facing British beef producers in the global market, it is essential to present a more balanced view of the statements made than those suggested by recent Press headlines.

Headline remarks (News, Apr 14) made by Shawn Baker were taken out of context. He rightly highlighted the results of recent surveys showing the harsh truth that most consumers buy on price, quality and availability rather than because produce is British. That view was confirmed at a conference staged by the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

Mr Baker also explained that Midland Meat Packers and UK farmers would have to adjust to meet the new demands of the market for more oven-ready meals.

That trend was confirmed by Alan Jansen of Imperial Beef, Nebraska, USA in his presentation on how US beef producers meet the challenge of the global market. As a large-scale beef producer he explained that he co-operated with the food processors to satisfy their needs for more convenient meals as well as their favourite steaks.

The leading retailers, caterers and manufacturers that we supply through Midland Meat Packers are doing a superb job in supporting British beef in driving sales through innovative marketing especially in the fast-growing ready to cook and out of home caring sectors. And we can take considerable heart from their continuing commitment to our quality assured product. Unfortunately, significant amounts of imported meat are being sold by less committed players.

The key to maintaining our markets in the face of this growing competition is by delivering the quality that the market demands on a scale that allows us to be cost competitive. We can only do this if we work closely together to drive unnecessary cost out of the food chain at every stage, while at the same time taking maximum advantage of every opportunity for growth in the fast-changing consumer market.

John Bell

Berryfields Farm, Daventry, Northants.

Farm visits can help immunity

A few months ago, Prof. Hugh Pennington reportedly called for an end to farm visits for children under five years old (Opinion and News, Feb 25).

The incidence of potentially harmful micro-organisms in farm livestock is reported to be widespread. Bearing in mind the contact with animals and their manure that is inevitable for farmers and their families, one would expect that the likelihood of transmission of these harmful organisms to farmers and their families would be high. But is that the case?

Farmers are less likely to suffer from food poisoning and related problems. Is that because they become immune?

If so, we should encourage the visit of children to farms to acquire immunity and not ban them.

George Wadsworth

Fieldfare Associates,

Bigger is not always better

I refer to your report (Business, Apr 21) of the proposed merger of Countrywide Farmers and SCATS. Countrywides message is that bigger is better but the case is unproven. SCATS shareholders should review the proposal carefully.

In the three years before the formation of Countrywide, both its constituent companies, MSF and WMF, had declining turnover and profits. That was reversed by becoming the UKs biggest farmer-controlled company. Shareholders have yet to see whether the formula works.

An early indication that it might not be the answer is the fact that both Claas and Case, having reviewed the plan and the quality of the management, terminated their machinery franchises. Being so big and having so many customer shareholders was not sufficient to stay in the machinery business.

Bigger and better is no substitute for proper management of what you already own.

John Lumsdon

Mayhouse Farm, Hadley, Droitwich, Worcs.

Plea for whole farm scheme

I recently applied to join ACCS, but not through choice. I have been told that my crops of milling wheat grown on a buy-back contract with Allied Grain will not be accepted by the mills if Im not a member of ACCS. Is this not trade bullying?

However, I would be interested in joining a single scheme for all products. Im going to have to join schemes for grain, potatoes and beef cattle. Please lets have one simple whole farm scheme.

R.E. Moore & Partners

West Learmouth, Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland.

Where to point the BSE finger?

I read with interest the letters (Apr 14) from Mrs Thomas and Lord Walsingham. We have a herd of 150 milkers in North Notts and most of the countys dairymen will tell you that ours has been the worst hit county by BSE in the country.

Some can also tell you that we used the least warble dressing. In my case not a spot of any sort, so my cows did not get their BSE from my warble treatment, did they?

Furthermore, BSE has always been confined to the home-reared animals and has not affected the large number of bought-in cows and in-calf heifers that have been needed to keep herd numbers stable. That suggests that our problem has occurred during the rearing period, when everything was fed on milk replacer and calf starter and rearing pellets from the same feed manufacturer. Where should I point my finger?

John E Cobb

Director, Lodge Farm, Darlton, Newark, Notts.

Look to Swiss as role models

Your feature (Apr 21) on Switzerland should be of great interest to everyone connected to agriculture in this country. Switzerland, with its small population maintains a high standard of living for both its rural and urban people.

It gives the lie to much of the propaganda, such as that we are too small to prosper on our own, that has been showered on us in the past. Since the UK joined the EEC on 1 Jan 73, we have seen farming, fishing, shipbuilding, coal mining and much of our manufacturing industry devastated. But we continue to pay £10-11bn/year to a corrupt and fraudulent EU. It is time we left and again managed our own affairs.

G Gait

Pauselam Farm, Haycastle, Haverfordwest, Pembs.

Farmers should get more reward

One of the greatest challenges facing government is to give British farming the support it deserves. Farmers are facing the most severe threat to their way of life since the 1930s.

It is beyond belief that, in a country which is financially the fourth richest in the world, there are people working our land, growing our food, who, in many instances do not pay themselves a penny for fear of losing that most precious commodity – their livelihood. In so-called booming Britain, can that be right?

The reality of farming is that we must all eat to live. The riches of the earth reach us via the skilled hands of many devoted people who work throughout the year. Through farmers top efforts we survive. No other industry can make such a claim. No other industry is more worthy of government support.

It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that a sustainable farming economy, dependent on urban consumers, loyal to home-grown produce is the only way forward.

D J J Harvey

Brookwell Close, Chippenham, Wilts.

Concretes curse – excess water

As farmers and quality-assured suppliers of readymixed concrete, we were disturbed to read (Features, Mar 3) the article about the use of hot rolled asphalt, in lieu of tried and tested high quality concrete, on silage pit floors.

Provided customers select the concrete mix that has been specifically designed for the job, namely a silage pit, ensure that the supplier carries third party quality assurance and that the delivered readymixed concrete is unadulterated with additional water, then the design life of 20 years should be achieved. There are concrete mixes available today which are deemed impermeable.

Unauthorised added water is the scourge of the readymixed concrete industry. Nobody would ever even think about thinning any other quality construction, or agricultural, materials for fear of putting a warranty at risk. But when it comes to concrete, caution appears to be thrown to the wind.

Make your purchases from a readymixed supplier who has a BSI Kitemark Licence. Ask for a copy of the Kitemark Licence. Inform the supplier of the type of construction you are undertaking and ask for his advice on the quality, type and workability of the concrete you will require.

When the concrete arrives do not allow any unauthorised addition of water. Provided those simple rules are followed, farmers should be filled with confidence, armed with the knowledge, that their endeavour has not been in vain.

P R Jones

Tudor Griffiths Group, Wood Lane, Ellesmere, Shropshire.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800-acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The

200 dairy cows average

6500 litres on a simple, high

forage system. They are

allocated 40ha (100 acres)

of permanent pasture,

44ha (110 acres) of short

term leys and maize grown

in the arable rotation

THE autumn calving herd were turned out full-time at Easter. This was later than originally planned due to cold north winds and wet weather in April.

Now that they are out full-time, they are being fed no concentrate and will be used to maximise milk from grass.

In this situation, we get greater efficiency from high yielders, as they still give over 25 litres, most of which is from grazed grass.

We are trying a new theory with the spring herd. Traditionally cows would start grazing for three hours a day, then over a 2-3 week period we would increase grazing time until there is enough grass for cows to be out full-time. But in the past conception rates have always dipped for a month around turn out.

This year, to try and improve this, we will buffer feed 10kg/head of maize silage, despite there being plenty of grass, once the cows are turned out. This would have the grazing fraternity pulling their hair out.

But our theory is that spring grass provides variable energy intake depending on whether it is dry and sunny, or cloudy and wet. This inconsistency is not good for getting a 40-litre cow back in-calf. So maize silage acts as a high dry matter and high energy buffer for bad grazing days.

As a result of this we will make more grass silage than we would have done previously, but it will be worth it if we manage to improve fertility.

They say all good things come to an end. Our docile vasectomised Holstein bull has now started to turn nasty. Bulls seem to have an annoying habit of doing this as they get older. Because of this, I think he has only a couple of weeks to go before he is relieved of his duties. I dont think we will replace him and will rely on tail paint instead.

We had hoped to drill some maize on our lighter land early this year, but a cold wet April has put an end to this. Maize drilling wont now get under way until May, and with some tricky wet fields I am glad we have the flexibility given by drilling it ourselves. &#42

Buffer feeding the spring herd using maize silage at grass is part of Richard Thompsons theory to improve high yielders conception rates.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

John Glover

John Glover milks 65 Holstein

Friesian cows and rears

replacements on a 40ha

(100-acre) county council

holding near Lutterworth,

Leics, having moved from

another 20ha (51-acre) unit

WELL we were the talk of the picket lines. One neighbour referred to our news as the juiciest gossip for a long time. But what is this all about? Well, Ill tell you later.

There has been much local activity in support of Farmers For Action and lets hope it does some good. At least it should show supermarkets and dairy companies how severe the dairy industrys crisis really is.

Standing on the picket lines is also an opportunity to catch up with neighbours – and gossip – and realise that we are all in the same position.

The current crisis makes us look long and hard at our own individual businesses and try and find the best way to survive.

There is much talk about making more from grazing and calving cows in spring. Individually this may be alright, but if too many farmers do it we would produce more spring milk than the dairy industry needs.

We are used to seasonality payments when we are paid less for milk in the spring as national production rises with grass growth, then in late summer when growth slows, milk production falls and prices increase.

I think too much emphasis on producing more milk in spring, from so called cheap grass, will change seasonality payments so the differential between spring and summer increases.

This would mean that producers who rely heavily on spring production will effectively have a lower annual milk price than those herds calving at other times of the year.

Our system is built around a maize based diet, which is fed to the cows all year round, and it means that we can play the seasonality game the other way round and calve cows to produce more milk when seasonality payments are highest.

By the way, the gossip was about my neighbour and myself. We have decided to survive the current economic climate by forming a partnership so that between us we milk 150 cows with followers on 80ha (220 acres). A far cry from the 60 cows and 32ha (80 acres) I had three years ago, but more of that another time. &#42

John Glovers system is based around maize silage – this means he produces milk when the seasonality payments are highest.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Haylor farms 343ha

(850 acres) of owned and

rented land from Blackler

Barton, Landscove, Devon,

growing cereals and

combinable breaks. Organic

vegetables occupy 24ha

(60 acres) and a further

160ha (400 acres) is farmed

on contract

WEATHER is always a talking point, and with 185mm (7.5in) of rain in April it has had a fair influence on our fieldwork.

Barley received Opus (epoxiconazole) plus Amistar (azoxystrobin) at 0.5 1itres/ha and 0.6 litres/ha, respectively, plus 1.75 litres/ha of chlormequat at GS30/31, costing us £32/ha (£13/acre). The wheat T1 spray, 0.25 litres/ha of Opus plus chlormequat, was considerably cheaper.

Timings were not all optimal, with rain or strong winds hampering progress. But every opportunity was taken to get on, as experience has shown that even under poor spraying conditions it is vital to get on with T1 sprays to keep on top of Septoria tritici. Now, crops look well and even our wetter fields are better than usual.

Nitrogen applications were finished last week, topping wheats up to 180-210kg/ha (150-170 units/acre). Looking at the price of nitrogen this spring shows the benefit of early ordering when prices were in the low £80s/t.

Our 10ha (24 acres) of organic potatoes, Cara and Remarka, are through having been planted around Mar 24 in good conditions. I was keen to get them in, as I know the field is slow to dry out and rain could delay planting. As it has turned out there was no chance in April. Better in than out as the saying goes!

Also, with organic potatoes we have a limited ability to control blight. That means we must do all we can to promote early growth. Now, weed control is top priority as the soils dry out. We are using a rotary cultivator, which breaks down the sides of the ridges and then reforms them. Last year just one pass followed up with hand weeding did the trick, and Caras massive canopy helps to smother weeds. That is also an ideal environment for blight, but last year we were fortunate in not having a problem. As a result I enjoyed selling over 44t/ha (18t/acre) of potatoes for more than £200/t. &#42

Remember me? Former FW barometer grower Stewart Hayllor from Landscove, in Devon, joins the Farmer Focus team.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a few


AT last the sun is shining and we have just started applying T1 sprays.

We are in the nick of time to for using chlormequat, which is going on with Opus (epoxiconazole), mixed with Sportak (prochloraz) to combat eyespot on the second wheats. Cleavers will need tackling too, but I am undecided whether to do whole fields or headlands and patches.

As for April, it was a wash out. But it did mean my trip to Hants with my rusty old wife and Alfa Romeo – oops, that should read rusty old Alfa Romeo and wife – for the Alfa Clubs spring meeting at Beaulieu did not waste any spray days. April is meant to be the month of showers. We had just one shower, but it lasted all month.

At the end of March our Apex oilseed rape, grown from home-saved seed, received 0.6 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole). That is the only fungicide it is getting and the next time I hope to look at the crop will be as it empties from the trailers into the store.

We have attempted to cut all our costs on the crop this year. A large proportion of the seed-bed was prepared without the plough, a first for us. Stubble was disced twice and sown immediately with a 4m Lely combination drill. Twice over with the Cambridge rollers finished the job and the fields sown in this way needed no slug pellets. The whole farm is having a phosphate and potash holiday, so none of that was applied either.

Grass weed control was cut to a quarter rate of Falcon (propaquizafop) tank-mixed with a quarter rate of deltamethrin, followed a few weeks later by three-quarter rate Kerb (propizamide) and a further quarter rate of deltamethrin. Historically we have used a full-rate Kerb.

As I write, only 50kg/ha (40 units/acre) of nitrogen has gone on, applied as urea towards the end of March. Winter oats have had nothing and the potato field is still to be ploughed. Time to press on. &#42

April was one long shower in Northumberland, says new Farmer Focus writer Peter Hogg. At least no spray days were missed on a trip south with the old Alfa. The plough has figured little in preparing seed-beds this season.

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Archive Article: 2000/05/12

12 May 2000

NEARLY a million people visited the ASDA Food and Farming Festival in Londons Hyde Park. Many later said the event had improved their view of agriculture.

"Farmers and the Public can be Friends," declared a farmers weekly leader column.

"For too long," it went on, "farming has been the butt of food-scare stories and ill-informed attacks." But little did we know then, of course, about the devastating food-scare stories and ill-informed attacks that the 1990s would bring.

Glorious weather, meanwhile, helped West County folk enjoy the last-ever Devon County show at the Whipton site, before its move to the purpose-built showground at Clyst St Mary.

Dairy stock was the centre of attention elsewhere. Joylan Miss America 9th was sold for a post-milk quota record price of 24,000gns, when Lancashire breeder Alan Swale reduced his famous Joylan herd.

A hard-hitting report from Manchester University made "frightening" reading, concluding that family-type farms can stay in business only by subsidising traditional activities from private sources.

More than 6500 young farmers returned home – tired and hungover – from Blackpool and the annual Young Farmers Clubs convention. But the future of the movement was the subject of fierce debate.

"Unless the YFC movement finds itself a definite and purposeful identity it will face a very uncertain future," Helen Webb of Rugeley Staffs wrote. "It can hardly blame the general public for sometimes giving it an unfavourable image when the members themselves are unsure of their role in todays society."

A guest speaker was Radio 1 DJ Simon Bates. Thankfully the "Our Song" slot didnt feature in his address!

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