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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Just as the suckler cow quota trading was about to start, Newark

Market hosted a joint sale of stock for those looking to top up numbers

Owen Cunnington watches on as auctioneer Paul Gentry takes bids from an active crowd. "You couldnt fault the show of calves," said Mr Gentry.

Left: Waiting for the off… driver Ron Ford.

Right: Owen Cunnington was selling the younger end of his suckler herd based at Kings Lynn to allow more time for

other business interests.

Entries from the Hazelwood herd topped at £1360 for a Belgian Blue-cross third calver carrying a steer, bought by fatstock showman Barry Allsop of Cropwell Bishop, Notts.

Doug and Sheila Hazel were selling their herd to focus on breeding pedigree Belgian Blues and to expand their free-range poultry unit near Luton, Beds.

New tagging rules demanded that all young calves had to be on numerical tags.

Right: Overall, cows carrying bull or steer calves made between £750-£950; those with heifers at foot £600-£750. Potential show cattle sold well to £690 for a Belgian Blue-cross heifer in favour of Mrs Coy of Westborough, Notts.

Brace yourself… Measuring up the trade.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Freemen of the City of London drove a flock of Jacob sheep across London bridge for the last time this week before the age-old right is abolished later this summer.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Full of beans… These workers were certainly keen to fill up their boxes as they hand-picked a 6ha (16 acre) field of broad beans on a farm in Farnham, Hampshire last week. The crop of beans was destined for one of the farms supermarket customers.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Farmers For Action spokesman Dave Handley addressing a 400-strong group of protesters in Manchester. Mr Handley repeated the FFAs wish to arrange a meeting with the NFU to achieve a list of common goals for the two bodies. But later one group of protesters, who feel the NFU is not doing enough, fed an effigy of union president Ben Gill through a forage harvester and a model of the NFU tractor logo.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Prisma spring barley – all 25,000t of it – was loaded this week at Dundee. The Christiane Oldendorff is bound for South Africa, marking the second deal of the season between South African Breweries and Glencore Grain. The company has shipped a total of 60,000t this season to this new market. Scottish farmers produced a surplus of about 200,000t of malting barley last harvest. This Prisma had too high a nitrogen content for distilling, but was ideal for South African lager production, says Glencore.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

IN BRIEF

&#8226 HIGH yielding cows must be fed adequate oil to maintain butterfat levels at grass, according to nutrition company UFAC (UK). It adds that a compound today typically contains 4.5% oil and grass is only 7% fat, so a 45 litre cow may not receive enough oil from these ingredients and what she can mobilise from body fat. Fat sources fed should be in both rumen protected and slow release forms, advises the company.

&#8226 CONSIDER supplying trace minerals to dairy cows in water over the grazing period to secure milk hygiene bonuses and cow performance, says C&H Nutritions Alan Reeve. Failure to supply minerals in the summer months could be a false economy, he adds. "Grass is a poor source of trace minerals."

&#8226 MLC has published a new illustrated guide to sheep diseases and dealing with them, Sheep Health Matters – edition two. It is free to sheep farmers from Lindsay Tapp (01908-844173).

&#8226 BOARS which produce slaughter pigs with bigger and better loins could soon be available from Newsham Hybrid Pigs, says the company. CT scanning at the SACs unit in Edinburgh shows that measurements of spine length can be made to select the best loins for manufacturing requirements.

High repeatability for these measurements has been shown in CT scanned sheep, says Newsham. This should prove more accurate than measuring live pigs with conventional scanning equipment.

&#8226 IMPROVING poultry welfare through better vehicle design has netted two scientists RASEs technology award which will be presented at the Royal Show.

Malcolm Mitchell of Roslin Institute and Peter Kettlewell of Silsoe Institute have conducted studies which have led to improvements in vehicle design and transport practices allowing matching of commercial conditions to birds needs.

&#8226 CHEAP stockfeed potatoes, which come onto the market after first cut silage, can be used to feed purchased store cattle at low cost. In Signet Beef and Sheep Notes, SACs Mitch Lewis says that cattle bought at 450-500kg gained 1.6kg a head a day over two months on one farm feeding potatoes ad lib.

Potatoes were fed to cattle with a mix of rapeseed meal, vitamins and minerals.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Monday saw Kendal auctions centenary sale. Top price in the dairy section went to K and G Allison of Park House, Ravenstonedale for their heifer which sold for £630. In the lamb section honours went to J Howsons Texel cross lambs from Low Barrows Green, Kendal which made 102.4p/kg.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Jim Bullock

Jim Bullock farms 283ha

(700 acres) in partnership

with his parents and brother

at Mill Farm, Guarlford,

Malvern, Worcs. Two-thirds

is rented or contract farmed,

the rest owned. Cropping is

winter wheat, winter oilseed

rape and winter beans

JUNE has been spent making final plans for next seasons cropping. We will be sticking with a similar rotation, with just the addition of about 25ha (62 acres) of second wheat. Some of that will be no-till drilled into chopped straw – take note those who visited us last winter and wanted to see wheat established in this way. Despite the apparent lower profitability of oilseed rape and beans, their place here remains secure. Little of our land is suited to growing long runs of cereals and the average gross margin of a break crop and first wheat is better than a second wheat. Add in cultivation and storage costs and the wheat and break crop rotation wins hands down.

Looking at this years crops we will have to reduce the plant population of the beans and oilseed rape. Both are too thick as a result of the improved establishment using the Krause and Kuhn triple disc drills. Next autumn we will go for wider row-spacing, at 36cm (14ins), reduced seed rates and earlier drilling – mid-October for the winter beans. Wheat will probably get similar treatment as even where low seed rates were used we are still counting 600 ears/sq m, proving that 18cm (7in) row spacing does not detract from the crop yield potential.

At last the sprayer has been less active. Wheats had an Amistar/Silvacur (azoxystrobin/tebuconazole + triadimenol) earwash and most of the beans had a second chocolate spot and rust treatment of Folicur (tebuconazole) plus Bravo (chlorothalonil). The beans we left, taking a wait and see approach, now need spraying and at about 2.15m (7ft) tall a high clearance sprayer will be required to get through them.

Our spring beans have been treated for downy mildew and their growth over the past fortnight has been incredible with pods setting well. For once, weed control has been good, and the extra cost of Bullet (cyanazine + pendimethalin) added to a half rate of simazine has been money well spent.

Beans have been growing rapidly and pod-set seems good at Mill Farm, says Jim Bullock. Wider row-spacing and lower seed rates will be used next season.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Standing start… The inaugural show and sale for the South West Limousin Club at Exeter saw W E Quick & Sons heifer Loosebeare Orella (pictured) snap up the female champions title. She sold for 1010gns to F Tucker of Tiverton. Top bid on the day was secured for Messrs Dollops Sloughpool Otis at 2025gns. Cow and calf couples went to 1700gns with an entry from N & L Hill of Cheddar. (Exeter Market Auctioneers)

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

AUCTIONEERS

COMMENT

BILL KING

(Cheffins Grain & Comins)

Cambridge Machinery Sales

EXPORT trade for tractors and machinery has recovered considerably. Almost 500 tractors went under the hammer at this months Cambridge sale with the rising value of the k fuelling a noticeable increase in demand. Buyers have been quick to react to the change in exchange rates.

While the home market for later, high horse-powered tractors remains good especially for Ford, Case and John Deere, trade for older Massey Ferguson models to the Middle East was considerably better than in recent months, despite the problems that some countries are facing.

Massey Ferguson 135s are the desired marque of tractor and many of these will now be working in warmer climates. The sensitivity in the machinery market was highlighted by the fact that as the £ weakened further during the course of 3-4 days before the sale, exporters arranged flights and travel arrangements to ensure they were at the sales Sutton venue to take advantage of the currency movements.

Irish dealers were particularly stronger than they had been for some time purchasing later, better quality tractors.

The supply of used stock has been helped by the large number of on-site farm machinery auctions Cheffins has held over the past six months, as the trend for amalgamation and contract farming continues. Prices are strong for later high specification, low-houred tractors and for good cultivation equipment.

The offer of 0% finance has not always tempted farmers looking to replace it and consequently the demand has been good for this later machinery. Older and out of fashion tackle is more difficult to place and there is an ever widening gap between this and newer kit.

On a seasonal note, the trade for combine harvesters has also been difficult, although it was encouraging that three combines were sold on one day at a recent sale near Saffron Walden; a result of three farmers merging their farming interests. It is clearly a supply and demand factor, as farmers co-operate locally with high cost machinery, which often means that a larger combine will cover the land two outfits have previously covered. The combine is often the first item of machinery to go when looking at running and depreciation costs and it can also be worth considering the services of a contractor or hiring which is also becoming a popular alternative.

Nevertheless, many farmers prefer the flexibility of combining their crops rather than rely on a contractor. During the course of the spring and early summer sales the majority of the purchasers of combines at auction were farmers; an indication that many are expanding their farming operations and requiring either a bigger machine or extra capacity.

The cost of later combines at auction can reduce the number of potential bidders, as there are only so many farmers able or ready to pay cash on the day, as is required when purchasing at auction. However, buyers can arrange finance prior to the auction to purchase high cost items as long as the auctioneers are aware of pre-sale arrangements.

The export market for second-hand combines is clearly difficult in light of the £s strength. Traditionally, these combines consist of earlier, less expensive models; eg New Holland 8060/8070s would be exported to Eire. The demand is still strong but UK prices have not fallen enough to allow substantial numbers to be shipped.

As the £ has strengthened, the tendency has been for manufacturers of foreign machinery to reduce prices for machinery imported into the UK but this has had a knock-on effect on residual values of second-hand machinery.

If the £ dropped further, it would surely release large quantities of older second-hand machinery. A lot is required by second and third world countries and later machinery goes into Europe. Meanwhile, the problems facing British agriculture and manufacturers continue to stem from the strong £. &#42

A weaker £ has helped the export trade pick up quickly; combine sales are still difficult, says Bill King.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

John Jeffrey

John Jeffrey runs two

tenanted farms in

partnership with his father

from Kersknowe, near Kelso

in the Scottish Borders.

Two-thirds of the 730ha

(1800 acres) is arable,

growing seed potatoes, oilseed rape, wheat and

winter and spring barley

NATURE has a great way of compensating for itself and the humble potato is possibly the best exponent of that virtue.

Our late-planted potatoes hit the ground running and since emergence their development has been phenomenal. My recurring nightmare with the crop is a repeat of my mistake in 1993 when I missed a herbicide application. Then, three weeks of incessant rain, and no post-emergence spray available for seed potatoes meant we spent the whole summer hand roguing weeds. My neighbours joked that I was the pioneer of organic potatoes.

So this year, in between the gales, we made sure they were all sprayed with 1.0 litre/ha of Gramoxone (paraquat) and 2.0 litres/ha of linuron. A first fungicide of 0.3 litres/ha Shirlan (fluazinam) plus 1 litre/ha of Evidence (deltamethrin + pirimicarb) soon followed and they will now be sprayed at least every 10 days to prevent any risk of blight.

A fortnight ago we travelled south to meet the new Solanum potato growers and were hugely impressed with their commitment and approach to the industry. Looking from the train on the way down to Peterborough, it struck me how well the English countryside looked. In Lincs especially there appear to be wall-to-wall bountiful wheat crops and it is not hard to see why bumper yields are forecast. No wonder grain prices are at 60/t for harvest. If drying costs are added the crop is simply not viable.

That scenario makes my latest venture seem absolute folly. After months of haggling with my factor over a rent review, he finally agreed to contribute towards the cost of a grain store. Our local and original grain co-op had been on its last legs for the past couple of years and my own facilities could not cope with our harvest. We are therefore putting up a 1200t grain store with on-floor drier. I have been assured it will be ready for this years wheat harvest but as the steelwork is not yet up, I have my doubts.

New grain storage may seem like a folly at current prices, says Borders grower John Jeffrey. But that is exactly what has been agreed with the factor at Kersknowe, following a recent rent review.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Simon Thompson

Simon Thompson is farm

manager on John Nicholsons

Rectory Farm, Lower Benefield,

Northants. Soils are heavy

clays, growing 190ha

(460 acres) of wheat, beans

and oilseed rape, including

industrial crops on set-aside

THE agricultural show season is upon us and for me a day at Cereals 2000 and three days at the East of England shows clearly the direction that these events are taking. The East of England Agricultural Society is involved with both these events, Cereals 2000 supplying the latest technical advice and support to farmers as well as the chance to view the latest mechanical advances.

In contrast, the East of England Show promotes the benefits and excellence of British farming and the food it produces to the consumer. This sort of publicity initiative is of paramount importance as food safety and animal welfare are of increasing concern. Many farmers may feel that they are too far removed from the consumer and dont need to be involved in this kind of marketing initiative, but I believe it is essential that we play an active role.

Since completing the flag leaf spray, my own sprayer has hardly moved. An earwash of 0.25 litres/ha of Amistar (azoxysrobin) plus 0.35 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) was applied to the seed crop of Claire, which has passed its crop inspection so the promised premium should be realised.

A neighbours high clearance 24m sprayer has been busy on our Clipper beans, applying 0.75 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) and 2.0 litres/ha of Bravo (chlorothalonil). Seeing the light work that machine made, we both agreed that we should pool our resources more often. On the otherhand, we could wait until the other goes bankrupt and then take on their land!

Any spare time recently has been spent studying for my BASIS exam, which I sat earlier this week. The course, run by James Islett in Lincoln has been interesting and factual. If successful, I intend to do my own fieldwalking with an annual meeting and telephone advice with an agronomist. Chemical will be purchased at cash and carry price from the cheapest source thus continuing to drive down the cost of production.

Northants grower Simon Thompson aims to drive down input costs next season by doing his own crop-walking, after passing his BASIS exam that is.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Andrew Hebditch

Andrew Hebditch farms

285ha (700 acres) of

owned, tenanted and

share-farmed land at Coat,

Martock, Somerset. Silt

and clay soils support

winter wheat, barley and

oilseed rape, plus spring

peas, linseed and beans

IT hardly seems possible but harvest is now less than three weeks away. Barleys are turning and we should be combining by about July 20, weather permitting. We have fitted an RDS Ceres 2 monitor to the combine so yields reported this year should be accurate to within 3% and available on the day, provided we have correctly calibrated for specific weight and moisture content.

All crops have filled out extremely well in the past month, especially wheat. Given some good sunny weather for the next month that should give a useful tonnage. All crops are still standing and we have had only 11mm (0.4in) of rain so far this month. I would not worry unduly if we had no more until September.

Downy mildew in the Victor spring beans has been treated a second time with Folio (chlorothalonil + metalaxyl) and the problem now seems to be under control. Hallmark (lambda-cyhalothrin) was added to give some control of bruchid beetle, in case there is a premium human consumption market.

More worrying is downy mildew appearing in Solara combining peas. The variety is supposed to have good resistance but maybe it is breaking down, which would be a shame for such a reliable variety. Maybe it is a candidate for culling next year. In contrast, Nitouche peas are vigorous, waist high and disease free. However, I cannot see them standing at harvest.

We decided to go through the wheats again at flowering with 0.4 litres/ha of Folicur (tebuconazole) to control any fusarium and with blossom midges active an insecticide was added, also controlling the few aphids present.

Nozzle blockages have been a nightmare on our Cleanacres Airtec sprayer this season, but after a few phonecalls the problem was solved. Age and certain chemicals had started to degrade the inside of the hoses and small pieces of rubber were stripping off the internal walls, it seems. A change of all pipes downstream of the inline filters cured the immediate problem and the rest will be changed this winter.

Andrew Hebditch hopes to have instant and accurate yield information on his Somerset farm this harvest with a new meter fitted to the combine.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Now welfare must be our top priority

Its important that policy-makers know why farmers are supporting the small abattoir petition. Likewise, small abattoirs should know on what grounds they are being supported.

As a farmer, my reason for signing the petition is solely the argument that animal welfare should benefit. If we as an industry do not give first call to matters of animal welfare before profit and economic issues and consumer choice, if we do not reduce suffering when we have the opportunity to do so, we degrade ourselves as human beings.

The treatment of animals reflects directly on us.

I know as a farmer how easy and comfortable it is to shut oneself off from the plight of the animals in ones care. But we will bring further inevitable and terrible judgments on ourselves and our industry if we do not try to take off the blinkers and look at the bigger picture.

Small abattoirs should know that they are being championed on grounds of animal welfare far above other considerations. That knowledge will make them see their role in a fundamentally sound and responsible way. I have no doubt that if we were to treat animals fairly and behave as human beings, all the secondary issues, such as the organic sector, rare breeds and biodiversity, would benefit automatically.

Philip A Watson

Lidmoor Farm, Bransdale, York.

News a blow for organic farmers

I am dismayed at Icelands decision (News, June 16) to stock totally organic vegetables at the same price as their existing conventionally-produced produce. That is surely the death knell for organic producers.

We know that unit costs of production in organic systems are higher than under conventional systems. Inevitably, as other supermarkets respond to Icelands challenge, vast quantities of organic produce will be imported from other countries. But produced to what standards?

UK organic producers operate to far higher protocols than much of our competition. Its those protocols that give organic produce a reputation for quality it surely deserves. Not so for all imports that will now sell as organic, purchased by the housewife as if produced to UK protocols.

The commercial and exploitative nature of supermarkets will seek to drive down supplier prices, eroding the necessary margin required by organic producers as niche markets become commodity markets. It will, I fear, destroy the aspirations and livelihoods of those seeking to move towards organic production.

Simon Mountjoy

Farms department, Brown & Co, Granta Hall, Finkin Street, Grantham, Lincs. grantham@brown-co.com

Beef challenge at Royal Show

Mr Armstrong appears to suggest (Letters, June 16) that the NFU is beyond attack in all things.

The National Beef Association recognises that much of its work, such as its campaign against proposed changes to EU beef labelling rules, is often well targeted and effective.

But in the instance of the removal of the OTM weight limit, theres a fundamental contradiction between its declaration in May 2000 that an injustice against the owners of heavier cattle has been removed and its actions before the limit imposed in July 1997. It must be made to be more careful about this type of routine double-speak.

In 1997 when MAFF told the industry that the OTM budget would have to be capped, it offered a choice of either cutting payments per kg or paying only the existing level of compensation on the first 560kg.

The NFUs policy committee agreed to a proposal put forward by the chairman of its livestock committee that favoured the weight limit route. That was despite knowing that the £20m/year reduction in payments would be focused exclusively on the owners of heavier cattle.

Mr Armstrong confirmed that was the prevailing attitude within the union when he said that when faced with a choice between an all round price cut of 10% an animal, it chose to heap the damage on farmers culling out heavier cattle.

Our view is that this was unfair and unjust. The NBA has sustained a campaign to have the weight limit scrapped since autumn 1998. We are pleased it has at last been removed but also think that the NFUs claim that this was entirely due to the personal intervention of Mr Gill is more than a little exaggerated.

If Mr Armstrong would like to continue this debate, I suggest he joins us in front of farmers on an open platform at the Royal Show or a similar public venue.

Robert Robinson

National Beef Association, The Firs, Blackmore Park Road, Malvern, Worcs.

Time wasted on fox-hunting topic

On the fox-hunting issue, the appropriate response to this meddling by the obsessional control-freaks of an urban Labour government in minor rural affairs, is for rural organisations to advise their members to orchestrate a blanket ban on public access to all private land.

One does not need to have extreme views, or even to support hunting, to see the erosion of civil liberties, particularly those of unpopular minorities, by the present intolerant government as giving serious cause for concern. The British government already has the worst track-record of any state at the Court of Human Rights. It might do New Labour a salutary turn to get another bloody nose there.

Never mind about an ethical foreign policy, what about the abysmal ethics of government domestic policy?

After waiting more than 18 months, little old ladies are dying forgotten on hospital trolleys for the want of a short operation that should have been performed by the NHS consultant who is busy for most of the time lining his wallet at the private hospital across the road.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Scrooge is hoarding our money at the Treasury so that he can look forward to the highly unethical prospect of bribing us with our own money in the run-up to the next election.

Dont let us hear a government with such an unprincipled and hypocritical track-record talking about ethical policies, particularly in relation to a minor matter such as pest control.

A grown-up government would find something more important to do with parliamentary time such as arranging proper funding of welfare services that everyone has already paid for and been conned out of by the political fraud of blue rinse socialism.

Stuart Pattison

Church Lane, Calstock, Cornwall.

Charitable work in Scotland

In your article "UK farmers bare essentials" (News, June 16) the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution is described as "a leading charity dedicated to helping members of the farming community" and as supporting "farmers and farm workers who have fallen on hard times."

While that is an appropriate description of the work of the RABI (for farmers in England and Wales), the report is less than satisfactory for it omits to mention that the RABI does not help farmers and farm workers in Scotland.

That is the task of the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution established in 1897 to help Scottish farmers. Since 1990, it has modernised its constitution in order to be able to help anyone in difficulty who is, or has been, in farming, forestry, horticulture, fish farming and rural estate work in Scotland and their dependants.

Your readers, unless they happen to live in Scotland, could easily assume that RABI covers farmers throughout the UK. Like RABI, RSABI offers welfare support, advice and friendship as part of its service to the Scottish rural community and it too relies entirely for its resources on voluntary donations. In the year to 31 Mar 2000, RSABI made more than 600 grants which reached a total of nearly £350,000.

We strive to reach and support farmers, farm workers and others in rural occupations in Scotland who are in distress.

I.C. Purves-Hume,

Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Ingliston, Edinburgh.

Low fat spreads cant beat butter

John Jenkins Talking Point (June 16) should be reproduced in every magazine that runs a health/cookery section. He is right about the language and about the perception people have of diary foods. Forty years ago, skimmed milk was a scorned by-product of cream and butter.

It amazes me how many people claim to prefer it, along with low fat confectionery. Indeed, the low fat brigade preach that well get used to these "healthier" products and not notice any difference in taste. Personally, I would rather have one good cup of coffee with cream and one portion of a decent sweet than a dozen cups of instant coffee with skimmed milk and a whole packet of low-fat cookies. Think too of the foods improved by a knob of butter – new potatoes, mushrooms, freshly baked bread and scones. Compare that with low fat spread – urrgh.

Mrs Shirley Brown

Bishops Road, Trumpington, Cambridge. Stephen.j.brownO@talk21.com

Campaigns got NFU backing

The Rogation Sunday and green ribbon campaign (Letters, June 9) was a joint activity by the NFU and the Arthur Rank Centre and supported by farmers weekly.

farmers weekly covered the campaign in detail, as did the other farming Press as a result of an NFU Press release about it.

In April all regional and branch offices were sent leaflets about Rogation Sunday and the green ribbon campaign with instructions of how to get local churches involved. Several NFU regional journals also ran stories on the campaign.

Far from being ignorant of this important campaign to raise awareness of the plight of the farming community, the NFUs support for the green ribbon campaign and Rogation Sunday was well documented in farmers weekly and the other farming papers.

Diane Lamb,

Head of Public Affairs, NFU, Agriculture House, 164 Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

Touchy reaction to criticism

Why do the promoters of organic farming assume questioning of their beliefs must arise from those employed by multinationals? Mr Pattison (Letters, June 9) in response to my Talking Point (June 2) makes this assumption. I am a director of a small family-owned seed merchant and partner in my familys farm.

It is because I am concerned about the misinformation being spread by multinationals, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, that I wrote the article. This campaign is already increasing the costs of my business and the prices farmers will pay for seed in the future.

Mr S Foad (Letters, June 9) refers me to the various bibles of the organic movement. However, it is what people do that is important not what the rules say. As the Soil Association has set itself up as a promoter of organic farming and both sets the rules and enforces them, there are clear conflicts of interest. That is a similar scenario to the circumstances which have led to scandals in the pensions industry and more recently in the medical profession. I fear organic farming is a sector with a health scare waiting to happen.

Finally, for those without the time to check their dictionary "egregious piffle" means shocking nonsense. When your opponent resorts to such language it means your point has hit home.

James Wallace

23, Church Street, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs. churchst23@hotmail

BPC should only charge supporters

It is with interest that I note, as a contributing grower to the British Potato Council, it has managed to maintain its existence by some outrageous back door method of figure jumbling. The vote to ascertain grower support was lost by the British Potato Council, however, its continuity seems assured.

Surely, the correct thing to do under such circumstances where grower support is so obviously divided, would be for the non-supporters to pay no contributions. Supporters could pay whatever would be necessary to maintain British Potato Council activities.

If that were the case, current supporters would quickly review their opinions. Hopefully, that would lead to a quick demise of this archaic, vote-fixing, dictatorial bunch of quangos, otherwise known as the British Potato Council.

Lincs Farmer

Name and address supplied.

Stolen dogs not in research labs

The RSPCA was concerned at the article suggesting that farm dogs are being stolen and exported for use in laboratories (News, June 2). It is very unlikely that stolen dogs end up in research laboratories either in the UK or abroad. In the UK, laboratory dogs must be obtained from licensed breeders by law.

If a researcher used illegally purchased farm dogs, they would soon be found out and prosecuted, losing their licence to carry out research. It is highly unlikely that anyone would risk that and there is no evidence to support such claims.

It is unfortunately legal to use ex-companion and pound animals in the US and Japan. But that also means its highly unlikely that researchers would pay substantial amounts to import dogs when they would be able to use dogs obtained cheaply in their own countries.

I advise anyone whose dog has disappeared not to torment themselves further by imagining them suffering in a research laboratory. However, if anyone ever sees someone taking an animal in suspicious circumstances, they should immediately contact the RSPCA (0870-5555 999) or the police.

Penny Hawkins

Senior scientific officer, Research Animals Department, RSPCA HQ, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex.

Thanks to all, including NFU

I was concerned to read the letter (June 9) about the apparent ignorance of the green ribbon campaign and day of prayer for the farming community on the part of the NFU officers in Dorchester. From this, your correspondent concluded that this was representative of the whole organisation.

Can I put the record straight and express publicly my thanks to all those who were involved in supporting the campaign and making it such a success. From the start the NFU has been fully involved in the plans and arrangements both at national and regional level. NFU staff have generously given of their time and expertise, and the many thousands of leaflets that were circulated around the country were generously printed by farmers weekly sponsored by the NFU.

I understand that leaflets were sent to all NFU offices and I am grateful to Ben Gill for his endorsement of the initiative and for his public statements of support that were issued via Press releases from Shaftesbury Avenue.

Rather than being ignorant of the campaign, the NFU has been fully involved in it. It is unfortunate that some did nothing about it and chose to ignore the lead that the president gave.

Can I express the thanks of all at the Arthur Rank Centre for all the support and encouragement we have had concerning the campaign and make special mention of the contribution from farmers weekly. We have had many letters and phone calls at the centre appreciating all that it achieved. We hope the idea of the green ribbon will be used by others at agricultural shows, public demonstrations and rallies. If anyone wishes to do that we at the centre would be pleased to offer help and support.

Gordon Gatward

Director of the Arthur Rank Centre, National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwicks.

Pig men suffer in MAFF hands

MAFFs pig industry restructuring scheme, announced with great fanfare by Tony Blair and Ben Gill, might be worth £78m over three years. However, such is the uncertainty, it might be worth a great deal less, and it might be worth nothing whatsoever. Coincidentally, £78m is close to the annual cost to pig farmers of unilateral BSE control measures, although this is falling as their numbers diminish.

That comparison makes interesting background to the anonymous MAFF spokeswomans comments: "We are frustrated that we have had to devote so much time and effort to the judicial review that would have been better spent on other things, such as administering the pig industry restructuring scheme. It is noteworthy that a sector which is claiming to have gone through such a severe recession has managed to raise tens of thousands of £s."

Such impertinence is more suited to a politician than a civil servant. Pig farmers seem to be regarded with contempt by MAFF; is anyone likely to believe the implication that MAFF has been only too anxious to assist them?

We know that the threatened judicial review was one of the goads that prompted the restructuring scheme. Does that official not know there has been a recession? Does the minister not know?

If he doesnt, what is the quality of the advice he gets from his staff? Could they spot a wolf in a flock of sheep? Would they care?

Neil Datson

Glebe Farm, Spelsbury, Oxford. neil@coldronmeat.co.uk

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms with

his parents on an organic,

mixed 370ha (915 acre)

farm in Oxon. Main

enterprises are 230 milking

cows and followers, 270

Mule ewes, 50 beef cross

stores and 50 beef cross

calves. Winter wheat, barley,

oats and beans are grown

for the organic market

I PREDICTED that we would start silaging on May 25 in my last report. I was about 10 days out as the weather intervened and we started on June 5.

The crops had bulked out well and we only brought in 200t that was wetter than I would have liked, probably around 22% DM, the rest will be about 27% DM.

I reckon that we averaged 18t/ha (7.5t/acre) across the farm. The off lying fields have been round baled, and an 11ha (27 acre) field with a high proportion of red clover has been square baled as a high DM haylage for calves. The biggest problem with baled silage is the time it takes to clear a field compared with clamping it.

We recently hosted a farm walk and supper for the local magistrates association. It gave me a chance to explain one or two problems facing farmers at present.

The ear tag saga caused amusement and sympathy when I explained that ear tag numbers have been changed four times in the last six years. And now there is a check digit it will be hard to keep freeze brands and ear numbers the same.

I was also able to explain how important the local hunt is to us, particularly its role of collecting fallen stock. This is a point that should be raised in fox huntings

Miles Saunders farms with

his parents on an organic,

mixed 370ha (915 acre)

farm in Oxon. Main

enterprises are 230 milking

cows and followers, 270

Mule ewes, 50 beef cross

stores and 50 beef cross

calves. Winter wheat, barley,

oats and beans are grown

for the organic market

I PREDICTED that we would start silaging on May 25 in my last report. I was about 10 days out as the weather intervened and we started on June 5.

The crops had bulked out well and we only brought in 200t that was wetter than I would have liked, probably around 22% DM, the rest will be about 27% DM.

I reckon that we averaged 18t/ha (7.5t/acre) across the farm. The off lying fields have been round baled, and an 11ha (27 acre) field with a high proportion of red clover has been square baled as a high DM haylage for calves. The biggest problem with baled silage is the time it takes to clear a field compared with clamping it.

We recently hosted a farm walk and supper for the local magistrates association. It gave me a chance to explain one or two problems facing farmers at present.

The ear tag saga caused amusement and sympathy when I explained that ear tag numbers have been changed four times in the last six years. And now there is a check digit it will be hard to keep freeze brands and ear numbers the same.

I was also able to explain how important the local hunt is to us, particularly its role of collecting fallen stock. This is a point that should be raised in fox huntings defence, particularly if moves to ban carcass burial are to come into force.

June is the quietest month of the year, with silaging out of the way and hay not ready to cut until July. I have a management agreement with English Nature preventing me from cutting hay before July 1 on some meadows.

This quiet time, along with the fact I have taken on an extra member of staff, has allowed three others to take some holidays in the good weather.

One of our main tasks over the next six weeks is to clean out our main slurry lagoon and dirty water ponds. It can be arduous, as our dirty water irrigator is rather difficult to start and the lagoon has a soft bottom. This hampers movement with wheeled machines when pushing muck to the sides to be scooped out. &#42

Miles Saunders says grass crops have bulked out well this year and, despite silage making being a little later than planned, it yielded well.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

Top tups for 2001…this years Charollais Sire Reference Scheme selections were rams owned by Mary Tulloch (right to left) from Rutland, Stuart Dunkley from Northants, scheme newcomer Charles Sercombe, Leics and Roger Brewer, Cornwall. All four animals have high SRS indexes and good physical attributes, answering the critics who say that high index rams dont look the part, says chairman of Charollais Sires Jonathan Barber.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

IN mid to late June we harvested silage for young cattle and sheep. This is the first time we have used an additive – Powerstart, which the IGER boys tell me could increase growth rates by about one-third. The bulk cut will be taken in July for cows, without using an additive.

We are considering a small second cut to try to increase winter fodder stocks. We have managed to cut a few extra acres by sending cows and calves to the hill, but the wet weather has slowed hill grass growth and we will have to see how this affects calf growth weights.

Creep has been offered to single crossbred lambs since they went out to the hill. Although they are only eating 0.1kg/day/head it is obviously helping them through the monsoon conditions, as they seem to be doing well. I hope to have a few batches away before weaning – a first for us off the hill.

We have decided to try for Tir Gofal – the Welsh whole-farm environment scheme. Like many farms, we have many environmental jobs, such as hedgerow renovation that need doing, but cannot be justified in the current economic climate.

Even so, we arent holding out too much hope of being admitted into the scheme. We hear the politicians bragging about its success because it was over subscribed by about three times, but my idea of success would be if all those wishing to join the scheme could do so.

I feel there is still an important place for a part-farm scheme which would reach many more farmers and provide more wildlife corridors throughout the countryside.

Going back to jobs on the farm, one of our poorest fields has been sprayed with one litre/ha of fluroxypyr, and the aftermath will be sprayed with glyphosate before ploughing for a high yielding three to five-year ryegrass ley.

Two of the fields for later cutting have been split with a small control area untreated and the halves sprayed with two and four litres/ha of clopyralid. Some fields will have to be sprayed again as aftermaths due to heavy rain.

Weve thought of a use for two of our weeds. Chase people through the fields of nettles and then sell them dock leaves at the other end to rub the stings better. &#42

Deep in thought… John Yeomans has decided to try for Tir Gofal, the Welsh farm environment scheme.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

A monthly column remembering days

gone by

June 1960

PIPES – of smoking, rather than the drainage variety – were obviously all the rage at the time.

East Anglia farmer Oliver West appeared in a farmers weekly article about coypu problems, smoking a pipe and looking suitably concerned. "Some people think the coypu is a pet, but it is a pest," he declared of the giant, rat-like creatures. A Spillers breeding cubes advert featured a picture of a man smoking a pipe and looking suitably pensive asking: "Can I be sure that my breeding sows are getting all they need?" Even NFU president Harold Woolley appeared with a pipe in his mouth.

Tobacco, meanwhile, was advertised in the magazine with Condor Sliced tobacco – "The Flake With The Flavour – selling at 4s 31/2d.

Also reported was the Womens Institutes 39th annual general meeting. Delegates didnt, it should be pointed out, give the Prime Minister a verbal mauling as was to happen to Tony Blair 40 years later.

Another Blair – Blair MacNaughton – smashed the 150-year-old "Throckmorton Coat" record when the director of the Pitlochry Tweed Mill made a coat from raw wool in six hours and 10 minutes.

Cars were another hot topic of debate. farmers weekly included an advert for the Austin Gipsy – "Britains latest land car". It cost £755 for the diesel model. It also carried a review of vehicles suitable for the farmers wife, among them the Morris Minor 1000, the Austin Seven, and the Triumph Herald. The article began: "Choosing a car is rather like choosing a husband. You go for looks first then you find out about dependability, capacity for hard work and ease of handling." It had this to say about the Herald: "Safe, fast and flattering if you like to cut a dash."

Cut a dash – now theres an expression not heard nowadays.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

What simple lives tractor

drivers of the 1950s and

60s led. Getting your machine into action from a standing start generally took all of four steps – sit on seat (removing hen first), turn key, engage one of six or so gears on offer, drive off.

Compare that to the

sophisticated task that

awaits a turn-of-the-millennium tractor driver – open door,

sit on seat, adjust steering column, alter radio from Melody Radio to Radio 1

(or vice-versa), ensure gearstick/powershift/shuttle lever in neutral, turn key, push

air-con button, place mobile phone in handy holder, select one of up to 54 gears, drive off, find shuttle is in reverse rather than forward and that youve driven over attractive and expensive-to-replace

toolbox/welder/staff member.

With such a lot to think

about before either forward

or reverse motion can be achieved its no surprise that the position and setting of

the seat is given only

rudimentary attention.

But if thats the case, were all missing a bit of a trick.

For while comfort in the

armchair at home means

better dozing, comfort in the tractor seat should mean less backache and more

productivity. With that in

mind we show you what all those funny levers do.

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Archive Article: 2000/06/30

30 June 2000

So far irrigation demand has been less than last year, but is expected to swing into full use any day at Mere Farm, part of Ramsey Estates 890ha (2125-acre) Worlick Farm, Cambs. "Generally crops are looking very well, but as a businessman trying to make a profit things do not look quite so rosy," says manager Paul Drinkwater. Water for the two Briggs boom irrigators comes from the Old Nene river with 15m gallons of winter storage. The spring onions are destined for pre-packing.

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