Archive Article: 2000/09/29 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

The message Blairing out…this straw sculpture, calling on the Prime Minister and family – plus the rest of the country – to buy British food, has been built on David Ashcrofts farm at Selborne, Hants. Its one of the entries for the NFU/FARMERS WEEKLY Straw Sculpture Competition. Entries can be any shape or size, but should incorporate the British Farm Standard logo and be built with safety in mind. Send a colour photo of yours to Straw Sculpture Competition, FARMERS WEEKLY, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS. The closing date for the competition, which has a £250 first prize, has been extended to Oct 13 in view of the late harvest in some areas.


Wed, Oct 4, 7.30pm. Meeting at North East Farm, Eltisley, Cambs. Talk by Mrs Sue Winn on her experience as an air hostess in the 1950s. Raffle. Contact Nicola (01954 718635).


Tue, Oct 17, 12 for 12.30 pm. Meet for lunch at the Brace of Pheasants. To be followed by a talk Gardens and Chateaux of Normandy by Malcolm Merrifield. Send £11 to Bernice Hisock, Huish Trout House, Sydling St Nicholas, Dorchester DT2 9NS

by Oct 10.


Fri, Oct 20, 7.30 for 8pm. Meeting at the Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club. Harvest Supper £12, to be paid by Oct 11 to Ann Fairley, Park Farm, Great Bromley, Colchester, Essex CO7 7US (01206-250229).


Wed, Oct 11, 10.30am. Visit to Wilton House (A30). Meet for coffee at 10.30am. Entrance to house and grounds £6.75, over 60s £5.75. Grounds only £3.75. Lunch at

1pm in the shopping village by the carpet factory. Names by Oct 6 to

Pat Owens (02392-550887)


Thurs, Oct 12. Matinee of The Mystery of Father Brown by G K Chesterton at The Swan Theatre, Worcester. Meet at The Community Centre, Ledbury at 1.30pm or the theatre at 2.15pm. Contact Thelma Green (01989 567337).


Wed, Oct 11, 12 noon. Harvest lunch at Brimfield Village Hall. Contact Mary Davies (01584-711223) or

Sally Wright (01584-711229).


Mon, Oct 9, 10.45am. Meet at Leics Fire Service HQ, Glenfield, for talk on operations and workings of the fire station. Contact

Jean Mills (01509-880434).


Thur, Oct 26, 8.30am. Meet at Brockton for visit to Albert Dock, Liverpool and Speke House. Cost £10 for coach and dock. Contact Margaret Jones, (01746 36240) asap.


Fri, Oct 13, 7 for 7.30pm. Meeting at the Falcon Hotel, Stratford-on-Avon. Harvest supper – black tie, lounge suits. Speaker Dennis Stickley. Choice of menu and cheque by Oct 6. Friends welcome. Contact Pauline 01608 737733.


Wed, Oct 11, 12 noon. Meeting at Mrs B Glovers home, Church Road, Wretton. Talk by Margaret Freston. Feasts, High Days and Holidays. Contribution lunch. Contact Babs



Fri, Oct 13, 7.15pm. Harvest supper at Thurgarton Village Hall, bring your own drink, glasses provided. Names and deposits by Oct 6 to Rosalyn Sneath (01427-787247).


Tue Oct 10, Meeting at

Elizabeth Nobles home. A talk by Michael Kennelly Making a start on your family history. Contact Elizabeth Noble

(01778 344674).


Wed, Oct 4, Meeting at Abbey Row Centre, Kelso. Carole Lawson will give a demonstration of Christmas gifts. (Please note change of date). Contact Netta Harvey (01890 850227).


Wed, Oct 11, Meeting at Park Lane Farm, Shuckburgh. Coffee followed

by a circular walk from Park Lane Farm. Book by Oct 7 for ploughmans lunch

with Helen Foster. Contact

Helen (01327 702402).


Wed, Oct 4, 7.30pm. Meeting at the City Hotel, Dunfermline. Talk by Brian Steer, Detective Inspector, Glenrothes, Fife on

A Life of Crime. Contact Rina Stalker (01383-850777).


Thur, Oct 12, 11am. Skittles followed by lunch at The Fox Inn, Hawkesbury Upton. Contact Heather Robertson

(01453-844324) by Oct 9.


Wed, Oct 4, 2pm. Meet at Soroptomist Rooms, Otley Street, Skipton for talk on RNLI by Valerie Parker. Sales table.

Contact Betty Ellis (01943-831450).

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

A Grand gesture…south-east farmers drove 150 tractors up and down Brighton seafront as part of a peaceful protest outside the Labour Party Conference. After the parade, a delegation joined junior farm ministers Joyce Quin and Elliot Morley for a meeting that lasted an hour and a half.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Halloween is on its way …pumpkin picking at J Castles of Stoke, Isle of Grain, north Kent. Farm manager Brian Stone says the crop has been a regular on the farm for the past 12 years.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

One of the most important dates in the farming calendar…about 150,000 visitors attended Irelands National Ploughing Championship which is one of the biggest outdoor agricultural events in Europe. The show covered 283ha (700 acres) and had over 500 exhibitors on site.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Sugar beet factories opened this week and contractor Andrew Flatt was eager to put his new six-wheeled Agrifac harvester to the test at Barry Hearns Dexters Farm, Bardwell, Suffolk. Uncertainty still hangs over sugar beet growers, however, as Brussels this week went back to the drawing board on reforming the regime. Proposals from farm commissioner Franz Fischler, due on Wednesday, were dismissed as too lightweight.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Enough to make your eyes water… Storeman Frank Pepper admires 4440 tonnes of onions that are waiting to be packed at Waldersey Farms Martins Farm, Ten Mile Bank, Norfolk. The company finished harvesting its 89ha (220 acres) of onions at the start of the week.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Over 200 sheep went under the hammer at the pedigree and minority sheep breed sale at Bala in Wales this week. Among the breeds offered for sale was this pen of Balwen sheep.

Dai Grove-White (left).

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

At last… Foraging gets under way on Graham Heards Exeter farm, where the crop of Crescendo, sown on Apr 29, was cut on Sept 20. The 2.8m (9ft) high crop is expected to yield 50t/ha (20t/acre) at 30% dry matter. Throughout maize growing areas in the UK, harvest is well behind schedule, with cool, wet, cloudy weather having an adverse effect on crop maturity and harvest date.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

NEXT spring is the current focus for our grasswatch producers as they prepare for this years final grazing round.

"Preparing pastures for spring means achieving cover as close to 2100kg/ha as possible," says Sussex producer Christian Fox.

Recent high rainfall means grass growth is good at 51kg/ha a day on Roly Tavernors farm in Shropshire, but cows are also eating well. "We have had about six inches of rain in the past month and are aiming for a cover of more than 2700kg.

"However, cows are eating more than I expected, so it is taking a while to achieve this level. They are currently yielding 15 litres a day and fats and proteins have risen to 4.6% and 3.6% respectively."

The final grazing round will start on Richard Johns Pembrokeshire farm on Oct 5. "Grass growth is spot-on and our average cover is 2750kg," he says. "Reasonably long grass should minimise damage to pasture. Cows will stay out until Nov 30 but will be given silage from mid-November."

Recent rainfall means Richard Davies plate meter is giving readings that are less than the amount of grass in paddocks at his Anglesey unit. "Wet weather means grass bends over, making it more difficult to obtain an accurate reading, but the measurement is useful as a guide," he says. &#42


Anglesey 36kg DM/ha

Shropshire 51kg DM/ha

Northern Ireland 65kg DM/ha

Pembroke 64kg DM/ha

Sussex 50kg DM/ha

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Engine stopped! John Bedford, watched by Fred Gooding, safely clears a block while lifting Sante pre-packing potatoes from skirt land in Norfolk. Together, the two men have over 80 years service on Willow Tree Farm, Ten Mile Bank, says grower John Kisby. Halfway through his 82ha (203-acre) crop, yields are similar to last years with quality good. For more on potatoes, turn to our special focus on p66.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Why production costs must be spot-on

Knowing production costs is crucial if farmers are to get a proper return from the market.

Too often things get over-looked or under-estimated. Its a long list including: Rent on owned land, interest on working capital and wages for family labour.

But the same is true of some groups which compile industry costings. Universities and institutions also often fail to reflect full production costs in their reports and studies.

With more buyers and sellers trading on fixed price contracts, the importance of knowing break even values has never been greater.

Unless costings include every single element, farmers will find themselves short-changed.

Sow untreated wheat and take risky gamble

As good cereal margins become a fading memory, growers are trying hard to find ways to boost them.

Backed into the corner of near zero profitability, they are sowing untreated grain taken straight from store, much as nature intended.

But as most growers are only too well aware, nature often needs a helping hand. Using farm-saved, instead of certified, seed has always been an option. But sowing without proper cleaning, testing and appropriate treatment is a heavy gamble.

Quota prices too high in view of milk market

Why are milk quota leasing prices so high on the back of promises?

Although demand may have firmed slightly, quota prices rose before most producers heard about an increase. In addition, daily output of milk is still below prediction for most producer groups. Only in the past month has national supply matched quota prediction.

Although it is unlikely that milk production will be severely under quota, producers are good quota managers. Wheres the justification for higher quota prices?

So, before leasing or buying more quota this winter, it will pay to reach for the calculator.

Falling hop market oils wheels for mint

Failing to make a mint out of growing hops? Then perhaps it is time to try mint itself?

The novel crop could plug a hole in hop farmers incomes, thanks to an innovative scheme run English Hops and helped by 5b funding.

The group has set up a plant in Herefordshire for distilling oil on-farm from crops such as peppermint and spearmint. Both are proving attractive options compared with hops, the market for which is in terminal decline.

Britain imports big volumes of mint oil each year for use in everything from confectionery to cleaning products.

So these enterprising farmers are doing their bit for Britains balance of payments. And they are securing their own futures at the same time.

Deadly wheat disease strikes in UKagain

Wheat soil-borne mosaic virus has struck again. In addition to the original outbreak farm in Wilts, it has slashed yields on two farms in Kent.

Sadly, this notifiable pathogen is spreading and, once identified, there is no way of cleaning infected land.

Trials run on the Continent, where more than one-fifth of the crop area is infected, show some UK varieties are immune. But others are not and immunity could be overcome, warn experts.

So, if you suspect infection, dont be tempted to conceal your fears.

Hygiene measures may be imposed, but at least experts can help contain the disease and choose varieties for infected fields.

Putting self-interest first could hit national crop output hard.

Plain English absent from MAFFbooklet

Isnt the government supposed to be tackling gobbledegook in official language and reports? Pity it didnt read carefully MAFFs new booklet on forthcoming legislation governing identification for sheep and goats, which comes into force on Jan 1, 2001.

Not only is the booklet unclear, which prompts a phone call to MAFF HQ, but staff dealing with queries seem to be equally muddled.

Oh for a little clarity. At least two things seem clear: First, lambs sent for slaughter next year must carry a tag registering their holding of birth. Second, producers have a full year to comply with the new rules. So much for plain speaking.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Some saving… At £52,000, this NH TF76 Electra plus combine with 250 hours on the clock was a snip for a local buyer when Beaver Securities – the farming arm of the Prudential – sold tackle from Dewsall Farm near Hereford recently having sold the estate to the Duchy of Cornwall. The list price for a new TF76 with header is a cool £136,000, according to manufactures lists. Demand for cultivation kit was fair with a Kverneland 5f plough (right) making £3350, reports auctioneer Richard Hyde (pictured) (Sunderlands).

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Stewart Hayllor

Stewart Hayllor 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

WHEAT harvest was finally finished on Sept 14 and despite the lateness and amount of rain that had fallen on the crop, quality and yield were still good. The combine went straight on into the winter beans, which came off at 18% moisture with a good clean sample yielding 4.1 tonne/ha (1.7t/acre).

Winter lupins were next to be cut. These had received no inputs, as we were keen to see if we could grow them organically, and with no chance of sunshine ripening them off naturally in the field, we cut them at 35- 45% moisture. They combined easily enough and gave a pleasing yield of 5.2t/ha (2.1t/acre) when adjusted to 10% moisture. With plenty of other work to be getting on with, 14ha (35 acres) of linseed still to be cut will have to wait for some good sunshine.

Cropping for harvest 2001 will include a greatly increased area of lupins as a source of homegrown protein. Pronto and Gemini oilseed rape has been drilled into tine cultivated wheat stubble at a seed rate of 60 seeds/sq m, followed by the rolls and slug pellets. Savannah and Claire will be the main varieties of wheat with a smaller area of Soissons included because I always enjoy combining it. Beans, oats and barley will also be grown.

Potato harvesting has just started, with the first 2ha (5ac) of organic Cara yielding very well at 52t/ha (21t/acre). The bottom end of the field lies fairly wet so the sooner we get them safely in the barn the better.

In the same field we have 3.2ha (8 acres) of Remarka which will be next to be lifted but test digs show this to be yielding only 35t/ha (14t/acre), probably because it was hit with blight and defoliated earlier. This year is the first time we have used a flameweeder after topping off the potatoes. It has been very good in keeping the ridges clean and will certainly be used again next year. &#42

Stewart Hayllor has drilled next years oilseed rape and is lifting organic potatoes at Gullaford Farm, Devon.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

The future of dairy farming

and milk marketing, herd

health, cost-cutting and

breeding were hot topics at

last weeks European Dairy

Farming Event at Stoneleigh,

Warks. Although numbers

were down on last year,

hopes of a rising milk price

occupied the thoughts of

most visitors, as FARMERS

WEEKLYs livestock team

found out

&#8226 THIS years EDFE Prince Philip Award, for the stand offering the most practical and relevant technical demonstration, was won by SAS Kelvin Cave of Langport, Somerset. Its display and representatives gave advice on crimping grain for feeding to dairy cows and other livestock.

Certificates of merit for the runners-up in the competition were awarded to the Maize Growers Association and Cogent.

&#8226 SEXED semen is now recommended for use on cows as well as heifers, according to breeding company Cogent. It says that continuing work – mostly in Grosvenor Farms herds – has prompted the move.

The company also announced that sexed semen is now available from Painley Knightingale, Lucky and Figaro. While supplies of Painley Knightingale are freely available, and cost £31/straw, straws from Lucky and Figaro are limited and will cost £45/straw, says the company.

&#8226 WINNER of the NMR/RABDF Gold Cup for the second year running was Scottish producer Dean Anderson. Mr Andersons 200-cow Holstein herd, based at Mayne Farm, Elgin, Morayshire, averaged 12,149kg milk at 3.63% fat and 3.22% protein on three-times-a-day milking in the qualifying year. All milk produced by the herd goes into the familys retail operation which processes, packs and delivers 11,000 litres of milk a day.

&#8226 COMMERCIAL firms and individual producers have donated more than £6000 to the Gordon Newman Travel Awards fund, in the three months since it was launched.

Applications for scholarships which have been received for the awards are also being considered by its trustees. Contact MGA for further details on scholarships and to make donations (01189-761276, fax 01189-761451).

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 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


LAST month, you may remember, I asked for three damp days to get the newly sown oilseed rape off to a good start. Well, now it is definitely damp enough. Could it stop raining now? Please!

Harvest in Northumberland has become a source of pleasure only to those with masochistic tendencies. Hagbergs in the milling wheat have all but disappeared and trailers only half full of grain at 26% moisture are getting stuck in the mud. As of last weekend, we were about three-quarters of the way through the wheat, which is averaging 7.5t/ha (3t/acre).

It was grown from home-saved and home-dressed seed with varieties, Herewerd and Riband, that attract no royalties. The only purchased input applied in the autumn was a half dose of ipu and as all the fields had either received a covering of muck from the cattle sheds or had the previous harvests straw incorporated no P and K was applied either.

Spring nitrogen was spread as needed up to a maximum of 200kg/ha (160 units/acre) and a full rate of Duplosan (mecoprop-P) applied to complete the weed control. A half dose of chlormequat and one and a half doses of the better triazoles completed the programme. No expensive strobs were used.

Have I got it right? I am not sure, but with wheat at £60/t I am going to have to wait a bit longer for that new Alfa-Romeo.

The rain has done the trick on the min-till sown oilseed rape, which is up and growing without the need for slug pellets or an insecticide so far. I can only think that the large number of spiders surviving the min-till system have eaten all the flea beetles. Maybe there is a middle way between the blanket chemical treadmill and the silly extremes of the Soil Association.

At the two-leaf stage the crop was sprayed with a quarter rate of Falcon (propaquizafop) to take out cereal volunteers, but I have just spied cleavers in one field. Oh dear, more expense. &#42

"You know that rain I ordered… Well, could you turn the taps off now please?" says Northumberland grower Peter Hogg.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 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

A GREAT start to harvest has given way to very changeable weather and we still need three fine days to finish our wheat and beans. Unfortunately, that includes my seed wheat plots of Consort, Aardvark and Charger.

Yields have been exceptionally good. The only disappointment was a field of early-drilled Consort that appeared clean and was well established but only produced a yield of 7.7t/ha (3.1t/acre). Later drilled fields of Consort on less fertile land achieved better yields, and stem-base fusarium seems to be blame for the early crops poor performance.

Much of the oat stubble has been ploughed and pressed and a good flush of volunteers, especially where slurry was spread, will be tackled with glyphosate prior to drilling. Demand for oat straw is still very slow so most has been stacked; no doubt there will be a market later in the year for any not required for home use. Wheat straw will go to a local mushroom composter during the winter.

Low levels of blight infection in the potatoes have prompted a switch from Shirlan (fluazinam) to Super-Tin (fentin hydroxide) which has been applied at 0.33kg/ha. That should help check tops that are still very green. The tubers have been slow to come into size but I hope they will be ready to burn off this week. I will reserve judgement on skin finish until harvest.

With a 30p/litre difference between the price of derv in NI and the Republic of Ireland, I fill-up farm vehicles across the border as often as possible. However, last week my Isuzu Trooper demonstrated that this policy is not without hazards. After "chugging" around all day, investigation revealed a blocked fuel filter, two burnt out injectors and some very cloudy fuel in the tank. Not that that is going to persuade me to swell the Chancellors coffers by buying in the north. I will simply have be more selective about which garages I stop at. &#42

Fuel crisis? What crisis? John Best simply pops south of the border to fill up with derv at 30p/litre less than at garages in Northern Ireland.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

James Moldon

James Moldon manages the

220ha (550 acres) heavy

land Stanaway Farm, Otley,

Suffolk, for the Felix Thornley

Cobbold Agricultural Trust.

Crops include winter wheat,

barley, OSR, beans and

sugar beet

RAIN has finally fallen on this part of Suffolk allowing cultivation work to resume.

It is a difficult and stressful time of year here, as anyone who is experienced with trials work will understand. Not only are we trying to drill trials and commercial crops at the same time, but have to control the vermin and slugs which seem to home in on the trials area.

I am constantly aware that hundreds of farmers will walk the fields during the year, so there must be no mistakes. The wait for crops to emerge is agonising; Did the tramlining mechanism stick? Did a drill coulter block? Only time will tell.

After a slow start, Aug 30-sown wheat has started to move and should reach two leaves by the weekend. Increased management is essential on these crops as aphids are a problem and the volunteer oilseed rape is harbouring flea beetle, which is not good as the fields are surrounded by newly sown oilseed rape.

The positive side of early-sown wheat is the speed at which it can grow out of danger, but then so can the blackgrass. So far it has had 15kg/ha of Avadex Excel (tri-allate). Panther (ipu + dff) at 0.8 litres/ha and cypermethrin at 0.25 litres/ha with 2.5 litres/ha of liquid manganese will be next, followed by Hawk (clodinafop-propargyl + trifluralin) plus ipu once the blackgrass has emerged.

All oilseed rape established into stubble has received 30kg/ha of fertiliser and the Autocast looks promising, though a bit patchy in places. Fingers crossed it should be better than last year. Slug pellets continue to be applied where necessary, the problem is knowing when to stop.

Our first year of cultivation trials (Arable, Oct 29, May 12) is complete and we have some interesting results. Those will be reported in detail in FW later this autumn, but one message is clear: Your own farms costs and yield potential must be taken into account before considering changing your cultivation system. &#42

Drilling trials and crops that will be seen by hundreds of farmers is a stressful operation, says Stanaway Farm manager James Moldon (left).

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Liquid gold? Malcolm Wallace from Dynamic Events – responsible for building the MDCs Dairy Event stand – couldnt believe his ears when the NACs official caterers quoted a price of £20 plus VAT for a 24-pint box of milk. He eventually settled for the same quantity of milk, delivered, from the Co-op and costing £7. "The official caterers price was outrageous – especially for a dairy show," he told farmers weekly.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

John Glover

John Glover milks 140 cows

on his 52ha (130-acre)

county council holding near

Lutterworth, Leics. The

business is run in partnership

with neighbouring tenant

Mark Wilks, with dry cows

and youngstock kept at Mr

Wilks 32ha (80-acre) farm

WELL, thats it – winter is here. With heavy rain about we decided to open loose yards to cows, and although the gate to the field is left open, few cows choose to spend much time there.

As they are TMR fed all year, they only really go into the field for exercise and to save straw. So for us the only extra work is bedding down as cows are fed and scraping the feeding area daily.

We are hoping to cut some maize before the Dairy Event. The most forward crop is 4ha (10 acres) of Hudson which we buy as a standing crop from a neighbour.

Our own crops, mainly LG2185, Pretti and Ulla, are still a long way from harvest with many cobs still white. The 4ha (10 acres) should yield enough to feed cows for six weeks until our own crop is harvested. Last year we cut maize on Sept 25 and 26, but we could be two to three weeks later this year.

To make maize last all year, we have had to reduce the amount fed by about a third, and although the revised diet appears to work on paper, we saw milk yields fall. Despite the diet being nutritionally balanced, it was its physical characteristics that caused problems.

The main problem was that by reducing the amount of 30% DM maize silage and replacing it with 17-20% DM first cut grass silage, the whole nature of the mix changed.

Firstly, the DM dropped and the mix lost its loose friable nature and sat as a soggy lump in the trough. Secondly, acidity also increased and overall DM intakes dropped so much that cows would actually graze the loafing area – a clear indication that they did not like it. And the more they grazed, the lower milk yields dropped.

We have improved the situation by altering ratios of grass and maize silage, but also by including some good old fashioned hay.

We would ideally have chopped hay and mixed it in the mixer wagon, but this was not practical. So instead we spread it along the bottom of the trough, before putting TMR on top.

When we tried this before hay was left, but this time they are cleaning it up, which means we must be doing something right. &#42

Milk yields fell at John Glovers when he replaced high DM maize silage with lower DM grass silage, so he has changed his ration.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

New addition to the range of attachments available for Bobcat skid-steer loaders is this Tree Spade which can be used to remove and transplant trees. Available in a number of diameters to accommodate different tree sizes, the three or four-bladed implement could attract the biggest demand from landscapers, Christmas tree growers and work in parks and other municipal areas, says Bobcat.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 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

CALVING is now under way in our autumn herd and it is generally going according to plan. We always seem to start with a run of twins, which is usually bad news. The bonus of an extra calf doesnt outweigh the detrimental effect on cows.

This year we have fed dry cow minerals to cows through drinking water. The mineral is metered into water tanks using an electronic pump. This seems a more logical way to feed minerals compared with our old system of ad-lib dry cow mineral in tubs.

However, unless you do a detailed on-farm trial, it is difficult to prove whether it is actually any better. Although so far we have had less cases of milk fever.

Our maize is looking well at the moment and should produce a good yield. The main problem has been the delay in maturity this year due to the cool summer. Despite the dry matter improving recently due to warm sunny weather, our maize will be two weeks behind last years.

We are aiming to cut maize earlier at 28-30% DM as opposed to 33% DM last year. The lower DM will provide a better type of feed for our winter diet, where maize silage makes up 80% of the ration.

Earlier harvest should allow us to get more energy from leaves and stems as well as cobs, and thus produce a more balanced forage.

This year is the first time we have actually managed to carry some maize silage until September. It is a big bonus to be able to put fresh autumn calvers straight onto maize silage diets.

When we cut this years maize we will take the remaining 100t of old maize out of the clamp and re-clamp it in front of the grass silage. This will mean we can carry on feeding the old maize, while the new crop has two weeks to ferment before feeding.

Once autumn calving gets under way we split the herd into two groups: Fresh calvers are put on sacrifice paddocks and fed mainly maize silage and a midday feed of potatoes with a protein blend. Stale spring calvers will be offered just grazed grass and a big bale of silage. &#42

Richard Thompsons maize is looking well, but it is two weeks behind.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Peter Delbridge

Peter Delbridge farms 162ha

(400 acres) in the Exmoor

National Park, near South

Molton, Devon. The farm is

mostly permanent grass,

classed as less favoured and

environmentally sensitive,

and all above 300m

(1000ft). It is stocked with

800 ewes, replacement ewe

lambs, 60 spring calving

sucklers and their followers

well under way with rams having their second, and less severe pedicure along with five minutes in a zinc sulphate footbath.

To assist in easy care shepherding I have been looking at the possibility of putting in a large footbath, like they use in Australia. Then I can treat a large number of standing sheep at one time, instead of them hop, skip and jumping through my existing bath.

What a complete fiasco the HLCA/HFA reorganisation is turning out to be. Did no one in MAFF – the ministry against farming and fishing – have the nous to quiz the commission beforehand whether their proposals were acceptable?

Instead, as the deadline approaches I fear we will end up with a scheme that pleases few and redistributes funding from south west England to the north.

Apparently, our land will be classified by using a 10-year-old map that we arent allowed to see until after proposals are ratified, with no right to appeal.

On top of that, the entire scheme annually receives less funding than Tony Blairs Millennium Dome gets in additional money just to keep it open.

To be fair, this is the sort of thing the NFU is extremely good at sorting out for its members. However, where it fails miserably is standing up to supermarkets. And so it was no surprise that a Farmers For Action meeting at Filleigh, Devon, was packed to the rafters with disgruntled farmers.

The speeches delivered by Messrs Mead and Handley were of the type that I have waited to hear from successive NFU presidents for some time.

So it was with pride and privilege I took part, along with several farmers and local hauliers, in the peasants revolt on fuel tax.

Time will tell if it has done any good and I suppose any selfish farmers with an "Im all right jack" attitude, who didnt protest, will be the first to fill up with cheaper fuel. &#42

Protest… Peter Delbridge says he was privileged to take part in the peasants revolt on fuel tax.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

Please keep up the good work, FFA

The farming and rural communities of Britain are greatly indebted to the Farmers For Action and the haulage contractors for their magnificent actions. Their blockade of fuel supplies highlighted the obscene and unfair level of taxation imposed on all motorists and businesses by this socialist government. Hopefully, the Prime Minister will have the guts to overrule his tight-fisted friend in the Treasury and reduce this crippling burden before we lose our haulage industry and our rural businesses.

It was sad for lifelong NFU members, like myself, to realise that this once proud organisation was no where to be seen during the demonstrations. We expected, at least, to see our president, or some of his colleagues from headquarters, standing shoulder to shoulder on the picket line with the FFA and hauliers fighting for this just cause on our behalf. This action has obtained more publicity and public support, and will obtain more positive results, than any amount of cosy chats with the PM and Nick Brown.

I hope the FFA will keep up its good work on behalf of the ordinary farmers of Great Britain, who are weary of false promises and ministerial clap trap. Those businesses need support now if they are going to survive todays economic catastrophes.

Dick Lindley

Birkwood Farm, Altofts, Normanton, West Yorks.

NFU should work with us

I am tired of picking up farming publications only to read that NFU is constantly criticising Farmers For Action, particularly over the recent fuel blockades.

It is about time that NFU started to work with FFA in helping its members fight for their rights to survive. Surely, if we all tried to campaign for the same things and stuck up for one another we would become a much stronger force to bargain with, rather than suffer the continuous mud slinging and detachment shown by the NFU.

It is obvious to me which group is not afraid to do whatever it takes for our industrys survival. So it will not be a difficult choice as to which group I will subscribe to next year.

B R Tuck

Lower Stockley Farm, Bere Heath, Wareham, Dorset.

Supermarkets so vulnerable

The fuel crisis clearly demonstrates the vulnerability of the supermarkets national distribution system. Compare that with the robust and diverse local food economies that are being created by farmers markets, independent retailers and direct food links. Those rely on local sources of food, use less fuel in distribution and create less pollution. Also with shorter supply chains, they create closer links between producers and consumers.

Those are the 21st century businesses, which show that local, decentralised economies have multiple benefits. They are less exposed to external risk factors, and also begin to break down the barriers between farmers and consumers. The global economy works in the opposite way.

Higher fuel prices may become inevitable, in order to meet targets to reduce global climate change. But that will help the farmers, retailers and communities that are interested in creating local, less fuel intensive patterns of production and trade. It is these economic models that will hold the competitive advantage over the juggernaut fuelled, just-in-time economy.

Charles Couzen

Director, Foundation for Local Food Initiatives, PO box 1234,

Townees dont get countryside

I am very much against Mr Blair and his Party. They dont understand country life. Its a pleasure to have hunting in the countryside. We work in the country and are entitled to have something. They have their pleasure holidays and we have to help keep them. I read that hunting has been going on since 1066. I dont understand why they should dictate to us. Foxes causes problems in the lambing season and kill poultry.

They dont understand the businesses it will effect and put people out of work. Leave us country people alone and dont come to live in the country, stay in the towns.

Gwyneth Hyde

The Furlong, Little Hereford, Ludlow, Shrops.

New Labour is just as bad…

When New Labour came to power with their huge majority, Dr Jack Cunningham MP, the first farm minister said the government was for the countryside. Yet in this first year of the new millennium, the opposite is true.

To MPs and former Tory MPs who might read this letter, I invite them to comply, at the age of 59, with their jobseekers allowance scheme. I joined the Labour Party to be rid of the years of arrogance, deceit and rural incompetence after 18 years of the Conservatives. Now I have resigned as convenor of Rural Affairs for the Congleton Labour Party in protest against the continued victimisation and social exclusion.

John E Willett

Future of Rural Society, 14 Eastgate Road, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire.

Trust tenants struggle on…

Edward Leigh-Pembertons Talking Point (Sept 15) has struck a chord with us 700 or so farmers who are tenants of the National Trust. We struggle on in a farming crisis with the added hindrance of a landlord whose ideas of what the countryside is about seem to come from focus groups consisting largely of Allegro drivers, and who would really rather we didnt do any grown up farming at all.

But why is the NFU on the trusts council? Surely the Tenant Farmers Association would be more representative, with the added advantage that it is a lot cheaper to join, and therefore may have more members among the National Trusts tenants. It also, in my experience, tends to think more clearly. The NFU (dithering on hunting and the Euro) and the National Trust (just dithering) at the same table would be the Clash of the Woolly Minds.

Hants Farmer

Name and address supplied.

Compare milk with petrol

Your leader (Opinion, Sept 8) is most timely but a punch short of its necessary impact.

Raised on a mixed farm in Co Kildare, and for years a farmer in England and France, I joined Farmers For Action as an independent member of Countryside Alliance. That was because I do not believe the dairying sector should be annihilated by those representing the interests of corporate shareholders in the multiples where most milk is sold.

Milk and petrol have some similarities. The farmer and the refinery both happen to be paid 16.4p/litre; give or take a few small shavings. Each litre can cost the consumer 80p with equivalent give and take. The message to government, since hauliers and farmers joined forces, has been endorsed overwhelmingly by motorists.

The Chancellor is able to siphon off £32bn in petrol tax. But the public are tired of being taxed so highly on a daily commodity and it appears that they are likely to continue to support those worst afflicted by such high taxation.

The milk scenario is different and will be the next to implode on government policy. The media has informed the public that the farmers are in distress because production costs have risen. The latest MAFF report for the first quarter of this year shows farmers price has shrunk from 16.4p delivered to 15p/litre. Production costs have been verified by four independent authorities. They have established that a gap of at least 6p/litre is not sustainable.

There is no reason for farmers to be paid a third less than cost of production for a commodity that is sold at a profit along the rest of the supply line.

Supermarket strategists know that milk is on the shopping list of 95% of customers. So its placed far from the entrance in order that the maximum number of aisles must be passed on the way to milk. Likewise, its profitable to get shoppers to visit the store by offering cheap petrol.

We are left with a situation where two groups are making 20% and one is losing 25-33%, according to individual circumstances.

Nevertheless, I believe dairying will recover because of milk quality and those, like myself, intent on seeing that British agriculture also survives.

D McGillycuddy

Haselbech, Northants.

TFA seeks fair deal for its own

I am concerned that Edward Leigh-Pemberton (Talking Point, Sept 15) does not recognise that the only organisation dedicated to tenant farmers in this country is the Tenant Farmers Association. We are in regular contact with the National Trust on behalf of all its tenants and we work tirelessly to ensure that tenants everywhere have a fair deal from their landlords.

We are actively seeking the ability to nominate individuals for the National Trust Council. And, as a dedicated body for farm tenants, we are hopeful that the Trust will respond positively.

R G L Haydon

National chairman, Tenant Farmers Association, 7 Brewery Court, Theale, Reading.

Time to follow American lead

I read with interest your short article about the size of tractors (Opinion, Aug 18) and would like to offer a balanced opinion on farm equipment efficiency and capacity. I spent my first 25 years working on English farms, before moving to the USA to work for a farm/consulting company.

I spent last week in Oklahoma, watching growers begin wheat planting. I met one owner/operator who farmed about 3000 acres which included 2000 acres of wheat, in addition to another 1500 acres of contract wheat planted for neighbours. He does all the farm work himself, aided only by a part-time man to help with grain haulage.

US producers use large direct drills with seed carts bigger than grain trailers I drove as a teenager. Such units allow hundreds of acres to be planted before re-filling. It reminds me of the days I spent drilling with a 4m drill in Lincs working long hours to plant 100 acres in a day.

Things have not changed much in the UK over the past 10 years. Drills are a little bigger perhaps but the large-scale movement towards minimal tillage and 10m plus equipment will take time. With farm labour becoming more expensive, how long it will take UK growers to adopt US efficiency levels in their establishment techniques?

There will always be a place for a plough in the UK, perhaps ahead of potatoes or pasture. But with £69/t wheat prices, there is no profit to spend all of your money on fuel, ploughs, power harrows and other recreational tillage-systems. Direct drilled crops in the US have similar, or better yield potential on some soils thanks to better seeding and herbicide technology.

Many will comment that small field sizes in some areas of the UK are detrimental to big equipment but they may not be profitable with any sized equipment. Would Case and other manufacturers have introduced a 440hp tractor to the UK, if they saw a future in small equipment?

Phil Needham

Kentucky, USA

Dont blame me, it was Mrs T…

I was interested to read Mr. Dodds assertion (Letters, Sept 15) that my television series, Against the Grain, is the reason why British arable farmers have been denied agrimonetary compensation. If Mr Dodd has any hard evidence on which to base this ludicrous assertion, I have no doubt your readers would be interested to hear it.

I am afraid the real reason the Chancellor is so tight-fisted is not because he felt that every arable farmer in Britain was a clone of me (which I agree is a pretty ghastly thought) but simply because, unlike any of the other EU countries, the British government itself would have to provide £385m out of the available £450m earmarked for agrimonetary compensation.

Maybe Mr Dodd has forgotten the reason for that. It is not because an individual Cambridgeshore farmer made a television programme. It is because Mrs Thatcher agreed to that condition at Fontainebleau back in 1984. It was the price she was happy to pay in return for keeping the EUs rebate. I should also point out that at the time not a single farmer raised his voice to object.

But why should Mr Dodd be bothered by these boring details when it is so much more fun to blame all the troubles of arable farming on me? The tradition of finding scapegoats is, after all, as old as agriculture itself.

Oliver Walston

Thriplow Farm, Thriplow, Royston, Herts.

French exploit milk deficit

As milk producers are selling up every day, there is a national milk deficit. And that deficit is being supplemented by milk from France. As current labelling laws do not require retailers to make the public aware of this by labelling its source, the public remain in the dark. With a large amount of interest in dairy hygiene in Britain, I doubt whether this set of rules is also applied to French producers.

Once the Farm British Standard label is slapped on the front of cartons, people will ask where this milk is from. They will expect it to be British. They will not wish to drink milk that is at least three days old before it arrives in the country, especially if it has been mixed and treated with a fresher supply of British milk. Mr Blairs child may soon be drinking French milk, but my children will not.

Deb Pascoe


Foxes always attack poultry

A little knowledge is dangerous; no more so than in Jim Dimnocks letter (Aug 25). To state that foxes pose virtually no threat to farming smacks of ignorance.

In these days of diversify or die, can I relate the following story about a young farming couple who purchased 70 turkey chicks to rear for Christmas sale.

In July, the young farmer was combining well into darkness trying to beat the gathering rain clouds. With the barley field finished, it was only while locking up the combine store that he realised it was his turn to shut up the free ranging turkeys because his wife had taken the kids to the seaside.

Upon his return home, his worst fears were realised. Only in the morning did he discover the true extent of the carnage reynard had left in its wake. 34 mainly headless corpses left him gutted. Multiply that figure by £30 and you can see why. I could relate several local incidents of daylight raids on free range hens, so too, Im sure, could many of your readers.

To underestimate the full impact a visit from the fox can have on farming is a sin.

Kerry Johnson

5 The Folly, Longborough, Moreton in Marsh, Glos.

Environment balancing act

I read with frustration articles and letters that appear in FW and the national Press regarding farming, the environment, GMOs and organic farming. No one appears to acknowledge that farmers have brains, that they care for their farms and surroundings, but that they need to farm profitably.

It is too easy to criticise farming practice and claim that it will have a detrimental effect on the environment. Most critics fail to understand that by altering one facet, this will almost certainly have a knock-on effect on another.

Witness recent articles after the publication by Watkinson et al of a model to predict what might happen to skylark populations under various fat hen control scenarios in sugar beet. The paper concentrated on the use of herbicide tolerant beet, but provided a basis for all weed control systems. The model needs data to be used properly and, for GM herbicide tolerant beet, that information will be produced by the DETR Farmscale Evaluations. The paper barely mentioned other control systems.

The message in the Press from the Watkinson work suggests that if weeds are absent in sugar beet, skylark populations would decline even more. But if we have more weeds present and do not modify other aspects of crop management to overcome this, the beet crop could disappear. That would be disastrous.

It is not those who have a concern for farming and the environment, but rather those with short-term political or commercial interests that are dominating the debates. Both farming and the environment are suffering. Those seeking to improve the environment must adopt a positive approach and provide farmers, their advisers and other researchers with good information.

Sugar beet growers have an efficient education and advisory system that they pay for with their own levy. Environmental impact is important and, with factual information, researchers can usually produce a win-win scenario for the farmer and the environment. There are ways to solve the skylark "problem" although different systems may be required for conventional, GMO and organic cropping. Positive thinking is alive within the beet world.

Mike May

Senior liaison officer, IACR-Brooms Barn, Higham, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000


&#8226 HYBRID oilseed rape varieties will fill a quarter of the area sown with certified seed this season, according to CPB Twyford, Pronto accounting for 60% and Gemini 32%. That is an increase of about 2% on 1999/2000 against the background of a probable rise in farm-saved seed use, says the firm.

WHAT has an NPK analysis of 11-4-3, contains 7% calcium, and is entirely organic? Answer: Guano.

Namibian guano to be precise, and it could be on your farm for about £300/t, says Worcs-based grower Richard Tate, of Winterfold Farm, Chaddesley Corbett.

At that it is a non-starter for conventional cereal growers, he concedes. But horticultural or organic growers could find the foreign birdmuck very valuable, he says.

But there is one snag: The smell. "I have to keep the samples in my garage they smell so strong."

&#8226 THE Soil Management Initiative is publishing a booklet highlighting the advantages of conservation tillage. The full case for using such techniques is given, citing the results of research. Available from Dr Vic Jordan, SMI on 07970-407185.

&#8226 INTERNET marketing for farmers is the subject of a conference to be held at Ely on Nov 2 by East Anglia Food Link, in conjunction with Fenweb and Organics on Line. Practical advice on how to "farm the internet" will be given by farmers who have succeeded in developing local and national markets for organic and quality food products.

Cost is £55 including lunch or £15 for those in the East Anglia 5b area. Contact EAFL on 01953-889200 or e-mail

&#8226 WEED identification just got a whole lot easier with the introduction of a free on-line internet guide by Aventis Crop Science ( From Sept 23, Weed Spotter will offer information on 43 broad-leaved weeds, including images to aid recognition, plus details of germination, flowering and seed return. Grassweeds will be added next spring.

&#8226 PLANS are afoot to build a £1m specialist oil extraction facility at Driffield, East Yorks. Dutch oilseeds processor AL Boiler is investigating the viability of a plant near the town, reports the Driffield Times. The proposed plant would process a wide range of oilseeds from throughout Europe, including borage, evening primrose, novel rape and sunflower lines, flax, camelina and calendula for pharmaceutical and nutritional uses.

&#8226 BEET processing gets under way on Sept 21 when a new factory in Ipswich opens, closely followed by Bury, Cantley and Wissington on Sept 25, Bardney, Newark and York on Sept 27, Allscott on Oct 2 and Kidderminster on Oct 5. Root samples taken since early August suggest yield is below last year, but in line with the five-year average, says British Sugar.

&#8226 EYESPOT is coming under renewed scrutiny in a new HGCA-funded research project to develop an accurate way of determining which crops can be treated cost-effectively. Workers at the SAC, CSL, Scottish Agronomy Research and Velcourt will seek to devise a new risk-model to aid decision making.

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Archive Article: 2000/09/29

29 September 2000

A monthly column remembering days

gone by

September 1988

POTATOES were big. Big news, that is.

The Potato Marketing Board (remember that…) held its harvesting and handling demo at Oulton, Norfolk. But an Austrian salad potato with a strange name and a "yuppie" image was the main talking point in some circles. The first commercial samples of the second-early variety, Linzer Delikatess, was making £350/t, compared with a London wholesale price for white potatoes of £65/t.

"Their shape is as unusual as the name – as they are like long, squashed bananas," said one potato merchant of the variety.

Spuds also came under the spotlight in farmer weeklys Farmlife section. "Watching your weight need not make eating dull," a cookery piece insisted. "You dont have to live on a lettuce leaf and you certainly dont have to spurn the humble spud."

Barn conversions, meanwhile, were all the rage. But such projects, while sorting out the overdraft, werent without a risk and could bring trouble, warned the NFU.

Having paid large sums for the barn and its conversion buyers often think they can control their immediate environment – and farmers could find their new neighbours trying to call a halt to their everyday jobs.

Sheep farmers faced problems returning dipping forms on time in the wake of a postal dispute. The onus was on them, not the Post Office, to ensure forms arrived giving five days notice of intended dipping. The penalty for breaching the scab control regulations was a £2000 fine.

The strike may have been causing problems across the country, but FW readers were given a special hot-line on which to ring through their letters.

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