Archive Article: 2000/11/03 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

&#8226 CONFIDENCE in French beef took another knock this week as daily newspaper Le Parisien claimed cows which had eaten grass contaminated with lead, mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals had entered the human food chain. Many of the animals grazing the fields next to a polluted canal had died, it said, while others had changed colour.

&#8226 MEPs have thrown their weight behind commission plans for a new EU Food Safety Authority, voting by 461 to 12 in favour of such a body. While the EFSA would not have regulatory powers, it would play a key role in assessing food risks and giving scientific advice. The MEPs stressed the need for transparency and called for the Rapid Alert System for dealing with human food emergencies to be extended to animal feed.

&#8226 RURAL development plans for three more countries hoping to join the EU – Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia – have been approved by Brussels under the commissions SAPARD programme. The money is intended to modernise the countries agriculture and create alternative employment. The latest approvals mean that only Romania is now without a plan. Up to k520m (£300m) a year is available for all 10 candidate countries. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Hard work, was how Alan Mummery of Maidstone market, Kent, described last weekends Autumn Show, and Sale on behalf of the Sussex Cattle Society. Females – particularly heifers – were difficult to sell. The champion bull, the March 1998-born Elbridge Premier 14th made a respectable 2500gns. Pure-bred 14 month old steers on blue tickets sold to £480 for J C & C Lewis, Shepy (Lambert & Foster).

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Last of the wheat? Robert Robsons combine wrapped up Chris Martins Consort at West High House Farm, near Morpeth, Northumberland, last Friday. "The moisture was quite good, only 21%," says Mr Martin. But a neighbouring farmer still has beans to cut, and more spring crops and set-aside are now inevitable, says Mr Robson, who farms at nearby Pagswood Moor. "It has been a struggle from day one. It seems to rain every day." Turn to p54 for weather round-up.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

BBC Radio Scotland journalist Nancy Nicholson triumphed in the Grassland/Environmental class of the Guild of Agricultural Journalist writing awards sponsored by Hydro Agri. Nancy received an £800 cheque for her programme Farmyard Fears – Are School Children Safe? from financial guru John Nix. FWs livestock reporter Marianne Curtis was one of three runners up. Profis Andrew Faulkner won the arable section and Arable Farmings Alison Lea took the Environment Section prize.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

&#8226 AFTER 12 years in the chair, Philip Gilbert will step down as chief executive of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers from the end of November. Mr Gilbert intends to become involved in PR and marketing and wants to develop projects related to the training of youth for organisations linked to agriculture.

&#8226 THE Health and Safety Executive has produced its first ever enforcement report which lists the names of everyone convicted of health and safety crimes during 1999/2000. The report names 75 farmers or farm businesses. HSE director general, Timothy Walker, said he hoped the report would deter people who did not want to be named in this way.

&#8226 BUDDING inventors are being sought by the Three Counties Agricultural Society to enter its competition designed to encourage innovation in the farming, horticultural, forestry and livestock industries. Winning entries in the New Ideas competition, which is sponsored by the Country Landowners Association, will be displayed at the show from June 14-16. Details from the showground on 01684-584900. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Mark Ireland

Mark Ireland farms with

his father and brother at

Grange Farm, North

Rauceby, Lincs. Sugar beet

and barley are the core

crops on the 1004ha (2481

acres) heathland unit

THERE is not much fun in farming at the moment. Most things are conspiring against us and I cannot see much, if any, improvement in the coming months.

Increasing production costs coupled with further declining commodity prices make nearly every arable enterprise hard to justify on profit grounds. I urge you to write to your MP, the Ministry and Treasury citing your own situations and how you are being affected.

The 60-day fuel deadline draws nearer. Blockade protests were generally supported by the public originally but I believe it would be wrong to pursue that avenue again. There is no doubt that the haulage trade is greatly disadvantaged by the huge tax burden on fuel but as farmers we are privileged, receiving a rebate worth £350m. Fuel costs are hurting – our beet harvester costs have increased from £3.50/acre to £8.50/acre this year alone – but in my mind it would be disastrous to put our rebate at risk.

The weather is trying everyones patience at present but the quality of the weather forecasting is equally concerning. Too many times the actual weather has no resemblance to that forecast. Not a problem if you are sat in an office but when you have worked your heaviest 30ha (70 acres) down on the back of a good forecast you dont want or expect 25mm (1in) of rain on what should have been a sunny day. I blame some of it on the name of our local BBC weather lady, Sara Blizzard!

As a result wheat drilling is not finished and I am putting all faith in my uncles motto – maul it in and youll haul it in. However, I doubt that will apply to some of what we have left to drill and a change in cropping may be needed unless things change for the better soon. Drilling is so important and from my observations locally and nationally the solid foundation that agriculture needs for the forthcoming year is very fragile. &#42

Arable farming is in tough times, and Mark Ireland urges growers to write to their MPs, MAFF and the Treasury telling them how tough.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 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

GROUND conditions have changed dramatically since I last wrote. Rain in October is at 100mm (4 in) as I write and rising. That said, rainfall over the past 12 months is 60mm (2.4 in) below the 25-year average at Stanaway Farm.

We have some second wheats still to drill along with first wheat following sugar beet. Though it is late we have not reached panic stations yet. Where drilled, crop growth is slow, especially the oilseed rape. Some areas have had more seed broadcast on, mostly on headlands. That seems to be something you must accept when establishing crops cheaply under high slug pressure.

Our first lift of sugar beet yielded 55t/ha (22t/acre) adjusted with average sugars at 17.4%. The yield is only in line with the five-year average which is not surprising as the beet struggled to bulk up during a dry July and August. The crop showed signs of drought stress for most of that time.

With feed wheat starting to move off the farm the usual battle has begun as companies try to enforce deductions on loads, in this case due to high moisture contents.

Like most farmers, I will never just accept this and demand an independent sample is taken to see who is right! I am still awaiting the test result and do not want to count my chickens too soon, but it does seem amazing that our retained sample of the load can be have more than a 1% moisture difference with the end destinations analysis. Once any load leaves your yard you loose all control over it. In my opinion you must fight every discrepancy.

This is my last month of writing a Farmer Focus column. Many thanks to farmers weekly for giving me an opportunity to preach my words of wisdom, and to my wife Becky who has had the unenviable task of putting my draft articles into good English. And thanks to all who have taken the time to read them! &#42

James Moldon is fighting his corner with the grain merchants, in this his last Farmer Focus article.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280 acres)

of heather moorland near

Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders. Cropping is mainly

grass with 10ha (24 acres) of

spring barley. It is stocked

with 650 breeding ewes and

95 hoggs, 30 Luing catt

to bale, crops to sow and tatties to lift.

Ground conditions are so atrocious that I have put all our cows and calves onto the hill to save the lower fields from excessive poaching. Cows dont usually go to the hill until mid-November after weaning, but needs must. Despite the circumstances calves are looking surprisingly well.

But it is a different matter with the lambs as wet weather has not been conducive to their growth. Although they have had some decent clover swards in front of them, they are only really consuming enough for maintenance so I have started to feed them with barley to keep them moving forward.

The current finished lamb price is static so maybe I will sell some as stores as this looks to be a fairly healthy market at present.

I have sorted out ewes for tupping and as we are reducing ewe numbers to make way for the ever increasing cow herd, we have a good number of cast ewes to sell which are certainly going to realise more money than they have done for a year or two.

Two Hampshire tups have been out with unlambed gimmers for the past 14 days and appear to have worked well. These will be the only ewes lambing early with everything else lambing in May.

We have been modifying our cattle handling system following the purchase of a new crush.

Our cow numbers have risen quickly over the past four years and ease of handling is a major priority, so a lot of work has been put into getting it right. This work and fencing has kept me busy on wet days when little else could be done. &#42

Although lambs have some decent clover in front of them a little barley is providing a boost during current wet weather, says Giles Henry.

THOUGH we have had a few dry days in the last week, probably more than we have had in the last six weeks, the general situation for arable and livestock farmers alike is pretty dismal. As I sit down to write this article on Oct 20, we still have cereals to combine, straw to bale, crops to sow and tatties to lift.

Ground conditions are so atrocious that I have put all our cows and calves onto the hill to save the lower fields from excessive poaching. Cows dont usually go to the hill until mid-November after weaning, but needs must. Despite the circumstances calves are looking surprisingly well.

But it is a different matter with the lambs as wet weather has not been conducive to their growth. Although they have had some decent clover swards in front of them, they are only really consuming enough for maintenance so I have started to feed them with barley to keep them moving forward.

The current finished lamb price is static so maybe I will sell some as stores as this looks to be a fairly healthy market at present.

I have sorted out ewes for tupping and as we are reducing ewe numbers to make way for the ever increasing cow herd, we have a good number of cast ewes to sell which are certainly going to realise more money than they have done for a year or two.

Two Hampshire tups have been out with unlambed gimmers for the past 14 days and appear to have worked well. These will be the only ewes lambing early with everything else lambing in May.

We have been modifying our cattle handling system following the purchase of a new crush.

Our cow numbers have risen quickly over the past four years and ease of handling is a major priority, so a lot of work has been put into getting it right. This work and fencing has kept me busy on wet days when little else could be done. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Bill Metcalf

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

rent 89ha (220 acres) of

grassland, plus moorland

grazing, near Barnard Castle,

and own a further unit 12

miles away, both are

situated in the Less Favoured

Area of Teesdale. The farms

are stocked with 120

sucklers, including 20

pedigree Blonde dAquitaines,

and 1200 ewes with

200 replacements

FOLLOWING on from last months suckler breaking a leg, things have not improved. We took a young Blonde d Aquitaine bull to the Blonde 2000 show and sale at Carlisle. He had to arrive by 6pm the night before and was penned with another vendors bull so had to remain tied up overnight – in the past we have left our bulls loose.

The following morning we had a call to say our bull was distressed, followed by a request to shoot him after a vets inspection revealed he had broken his front leg.

Later that day, just after dark, we received a call saying some cattle had been hit on the A66 – the main trans-Pennine route – opposite a field where we have stock. When we arrived we found several heifers, not ours, in a yard next to our cows and managed to fasten them in a building for safety.

Two animals had been killed, one hit on each carriageway, luckily not by cars which often travel at high speeds at this point.

The following week we took some lambs to market and one managed to break a leg between being weighed and arriving in the ring seconds later. Hopefully this third broken leg will bring to an end our run of bad luck with fractures.

As well as all this I have been in the "doghouse" after leaving for a Blue Faced Leicester sale at Hawes at 7.30am one morning and not returning until 3am the next. This sale was described as being the highlight of the year by a friend, but by the time we had purchased two ewes the novelty had worn off and my wife was left wondering whether the invention of the telephone had reached Hawes.

We have just been told that our Countryside Stewardship application is likely to be accepted. However, considering we were told that to qualify we will not even be allowed to leave our moor sheep in an adjoining field overnight before bringing them down to clip, I wonder what we will be letting ourselves in for if we sign up. &#42

Breaking a leg may mean good luck in some circles, but Bill Metcalf (left) doesnt want to see any more of them after a run of very bad luck.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Cumbria-based Mobile Milking Services, which specialises in providing mobile parlours while on-farm units are being revamped, has developed a smaller version suitable for milking herds with up to 100 cows.

Designed to milk 35 to 45 cows/hr, the mobile milking parlour can be transported to the farm in two halves and then erected as a 10/10 herringbone format.

A key benefit with the parlour is said to be its lower hire cost compared with the larger models -£200/week rather than £350/week.

The 10/10 mobile parlour adopts the same specification as the larger units, including modern, direct-to-line milking equipment. The parlour takes half a day to set up on the farm, according to Mobile Milking Services.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Andrew Groom

Andrew Groom has managed

Purlieus Farm near Swindon,

Wilts, on contract since

1991. The 138ha (342-acre)

farm, owned by P&A

Crocker, is stocked with

200 dairy cows with

replacements reared on a

separate 26ha (65-acre)

farm. His interests include

whole-crop cereals and

cross-breeding cows using

a Brown Swiss bull

WE managed to cut our 19ha (48 acres) of maize during the first week of October, just before the monsoon season began, and with just over 900t clamped I am reasonably happy.

Of the two varieties we grew, the Renard cob was just about perfect to harvest and the Lincoln about two days behind. For both, the plant was a lot greener than usual, but as you grow it for the cob I decided to cut it.

I will drop Lincoln next season as it has become a little outclassed. Im pretty impressed by some Soldier grown by a neighbour. I will also have to reconsider our spray choice as one first-year field, despite being sprayed with atrazine and bromoxynil, was full of nightshade which caused me some sleepless nights.

The major problem for maize growers has to be birds feeding on the open clamp face and it is the same with whole-crop wheat. Ive tried most things including a plastic owl which worked for a year or so until one morning I found two crows chatting it up.

Bird scarers seem most effective but are noisy and expensive. However, since cutting the whole-crop a solution has moved into the neighbourhood. It comes in the form of a pair of nesting buzzards – there is no better site than a pile of black feathers and I just hope the crow cleansing continues.

I housed the last group of milking cows in the third week of October. Yields have held up nicely in both the high and low groups and we seem to be meeting our target of one litre a cow a day increase. Vet clinic days are nearly all PDs and with Giles help this season submission rates have improved.

With Express agreeing to pay 2p a litre more from October I am conscious that all of us in the life boat can see the shore. But there is a strong current and the water is shark infested, so we must all do some more rowing to achieve the 3p that the market could pay. &#42

At last, a solution to the scourge of birds at the clamp face… Nesting buzzards are doing the trick for Andrew Groom at Purlieus Farm.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Steve Brown

Steve Brown farms 200ha

(500 acres) in Co Durham, in

partnership with his parents.

The familys 125-cow herd is

run at Hopper House; with a

200 ewe flock and

replacements on grass at a

separate unit and the

remaining land as arable crops

WHEAT was harvested and straw baled in between downpours; land work, drilling and a third cut of silage depend on whether we can locate one of those redundant cross Channel hovercrafts.

We still have plenty of grass to graze, but access to it is proving a problem, both for the cows and myself. With no purpose-built cow tracks, gateways are a quagmire, and with half of the herd udder-deep in mud, I can appreciate one good reason why so many cattle breeders prefer tall cows.

From a personal point of view, my own trips to and from the fields are a struggle, not because of ATV or even Massey 35 breakdowns, but because Im plodging knee deep in clarts. With many cows needing a thorough clean prior to milking, Im still not convinced about the benefits of extended grazing in County Durham.

With grass quality in mind, however, we are keeping the high yielders in at night with wheat, sugar beet and rape-pro being fed on top of silage. The low yielders task is to clean up as much grass as possible before over-wintered sheep arrive to tackle what is left.

The wet autumn grass led to our first case of grass staggers for many years, but nothing fatal; the onset of housing reminded me that the two cows that reverse into cubicles are still with us, and once again the promise is made not to serve them next time around.

Filling in the registration of older cattle form was an eye opener; of our first 40 double tagged heifers in-milk or in-calf, about half need a replacement tag at this early stage in their lives. Couple with this the number of older cows that will ultimately require a like for like replacement at the end of their productive life and my belief is confirmed that the tag companies have friends in high places in the Ministry; cattle tracing legislation must have boosted their profits tremendously.

At last we have an upturn in the milk price to look forward to; as well as this theres agrimonetary compensation and OTMS slaughter premium due. Who knows, soon it might just be the weather thats worth grumbling about. &#42

Wheres the hovercraft, wonders Steve Brown, who is beginning to see the advantages of tall cows.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Marvellous though it may be in many ways, television does not offer much in the way of material for farm machinery fans. The odd

tractor may chug across the set in Emmerdale, perhaps, and whenever programme makers want to raise a scare about pesticides they show a sprayer doing its stuff.

That is about it.

But if you tune to Channel 4 at 6pm this Sunday you will be in for a bit of a treat. Scrapheap Challenge, the series that has teams of

people constructing quite complex bits of machinery, like mini-submarines and powered battering rams,

from bits and pieces found

in a scrapyard, has

agriculture on its mind.

Two teams of mechanically minded people had 10 hours to construct a machine that will cut, gather and transport whole-crop wheat from scrap. Once built, it went up to Silsoe Research Institute in Bedfordshire and was let loose on an actual crop.

Sounds difficult? Absolutely, especially when you

remember that the teams are not from an agricultural

background, though each had an agricultural adviser

to steer them through

the complexities of

crop harvesting.

Our article in this issue

outlines what was involved. To see who won you will need to watch the Channel 4 programme or see our

follow-up piece next week.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Countryside is one big doormat

I concur with much of what Neil Datson wrote about the Labour government (Talking Point, Oct 20).

Political issues are being driven by arrogance and vanity because those attributes are essential in todays politicians. In farming, there are two further factors that affect the picture.

First, ignorance. We have a farm minister who openly and unashamedly displays a stunning lack of knowledge of his subject and he is the best the government has on offer. Second, the failure to learn from history. If we do not maintain an indigenous food industry, we become dependent on third party supplies, or imports. We would not exist as an independent nation today if past governments had made such a profound error of judgement. History will repeat itself, it always does.

As a consequence of this abuse of political authority, we are seeing the emergence of something which is essentially un-British. That is a willingness to complain and to do so loudly if no notice is taken. This is probably a healthy development because if one is constantly affable and accommodating, one rapidly becomes used as a doormat. The countryside and all who live in it have, in recent years, begun to take on all the characteristics of the nations biggest and most well-used doormat.

We demand too little from politics. We grant access to the levers of power to people with negligible experience and so should not be unduly surprised when they fail. They have never been trained to succeed. Even running the Dome with unlimited resources and an army of spin doctors to mask the horrors has not avoided a fiasco. How could the same people be expected to run a nation?

A J T Carter

Kings Farm, Foxes Lane, West Wellow, Romsey, Hants.

More positive virtues of milk

The suggestion (Letters, Oct 20) that the way to promote milk sales is to concentrate on its fat freedom is disturbing. That it should be made by a responsible person in the milk industry is, Ibelieve, almost beyond belief.

Although it has been said that no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the public, that is unlikely to be so when food is under ever-increasing scrutiny. How long would it take for someone to recognise that if the water faction is excluded, milk is about 30% fat? Surely the industry and its advertising agents can come up with more positive virtues of milk than the spurious negative point suggested by your correspondent.

What about the proteins, the vitamins, calcium, the readily absorbed energy from the lactose? When so-called isotonic drinks are a big seller for firms such as the manufacturers of Lucozade, do we need to sink to the level of Arthur Daley to sell a wholesome product?

Edward Bromwell

Police avoid private trespass

There was a suggestion from one of your readers some time ago, that if there is another fuel tax demonstration, it should be directed to government office car parks and the like.

I presume that since this is all private land and not public highway, the police would have no powers to remove protesters. That is in the same way that they avoid getting involved with trespassers, travellers, gipsies, etc, on farm land.

John Williamson

Appleton, Warrington, Cheshire.

No wonder UK farms on knees

Having just watched Beef Encounter on Channel 4, its no wonder British agriculture is on its knees. The programme showed how the problem of BSE stemmed from political ignorance and the greed of slaughter houses. It showed that the farmer was faultless but carried the blame.

But the closing statement said that cows are still being fed a ration which contains cows blood, fat and GM maize. Does the public not realise they have been eating modified maize for years? Are there TV programmes which show the good side of farming including countryside management, village shows and young farmers?

Its about time we started to show what farming is all about – how much people put into it for such little return.

Mr &#42 Sumner

Bottlehouse Farm, Shenly Road, Whaddon.

Blair leading us the wrong way

Like many, I voted for Tony Blair during the last election. He was elected because we wanted change and someone who represented the wishes of the electorate. Sadly, he quickly forgot about that. His cronyism is now taking people down a road they do not want to go and the brake should be applied.

Parents, farmers, British pensioners and the Countryside Alliance should join forces to ensure we are listened to. We have common concerns about housing, transport, pensions, education, post offices, banks, hospitals and health care. But, more important, we have cultural links that have bound us together for centuries, links that are being eroded.

Perhaps we can find a way of buying British, eating British and being British still.

Dave James

Parents in Power, 7 Beachcroft Avenue, Kirby Cross, Essex.

CAP has failed on every count

Accountants Deloitte and Touche reported recently that farm incomes have fallen by 90% and are likely to fall further next year (Business, Oct 20).

As that could lead to the imminent collapse of much of UK agriculture, what can be done? Not much, provided we stay in the Common Agricultural Policy. You wouldnt think any rational government would knowingly jeopardise the nations ability to feed itself but that is what is happening.

Agriculture is run as a collective in Europe. Under the terms of the European treaties, decisions have to be made by the collective in Brussels. In the Russian republics, collectivisation of agriculture failed; in North Korea, to this day, people starve because of the failure of agricultural collectivisation.

CAP has failed on every count and has done so comprehensively. It has failed producers, consumers, taxpayers and the nation. We must repatriate control over agricultural policy urgently. If that also means we withdraw from the EU, so much the better. We pay about £11,000m annually to the EU from which it gives us back about half. So theres no such thing as EU aid. Some of this money would be better spent ensuring the nation can feed itself.

John S Pearson

Adderstone Mains, Belford, Northumberland.

Tesco director patronises us

I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I read about Tesco chilled food director, Jacqueline ONeills address to the dairy industry dinner at Shepton Mallet. Comments like "weve listened" and "supermarkets need suppliers to be profitable" will stick in the gullet of all dairy farmers. Such patronising comments are most offensive.

The supermarkets offer of a 2p/litre increase to processors (equating to, at most, a 1.5 p/litre increase in the ex-farm price) has nothing to do with farmer group pressure and "listening supermarkets". It has everything to do with the fact that, on the strength of the commodity market alone, the supermarkets know that the ex-farm price of milk should currently be 20p/litre. Given that the average dairy farmer has production costs of 22p/litre, recent price increases will still fail to halt the exodus of dairy farmers from the industry.

And milk processors have shown themselves in their true colours. The only real pressure that can be brought to bear on the likes of Express and Dairy Crest are for those farmers which supply them directly with milk, to hand their notice in immediately. That would be my understanding of Farmers For Action. What we currently have is Farmers For Talking Shops. Pickets outside dairy gates are nothing more than a minor irritation to the

dairies. Lets make the dairies source their milk from the real market.

N J & S. Smith

Breach Farm, Walton by Kimcote, Lutterworth,

When the truth is twisted

I have developed evidence over four years which contradicts the alleged "evidence" supporting the established view of both the BSE/CJD crisis and sheep dip syndrome.

The power of pseudo-scientific establishments with money misdirecting research to silence the truth and substitute interpretations that transfer liabilities to others is disturbing. Also it kills. Meanwhile, the political input is simply to treat the issues in terms of boys games. They blame the opposition and by implication rubbish the scientific issues. Moreover, the media pundits are Machiavellian simpletons. They fancy they can see through subterfuge, but in reality are incapable of independent thought.

Lord Walsingham

The Hassocks, Merton, Thetford, Norfolk.

Please, come and join NPA

Elections to the National Pig Association are taking place. I believe that not enough pig farmers have joined the NPA to make it financially sound or to convince the government or the supermarkets that it speaks for a majority. If the NPA fails, the NFU will once again speak for pig farmers after, of course, it has considered all other interests first.

Recently two big supermarkets have been seen to use misleading packets and labels on bacon. Asda had almost identical packets except for small indications of country of origin for British and Dutch bacon. Tesco (News, Oct 13) stated that Danish bacon: "Meets British and Tesco welfare codes of practice."

The NPA is doing its best with swine fever but it needs every pig farmers backing to get a fair deal for everyone affected. The government must take full financial responsibility to eradicate any notifiable disease or risk it becoming endemic.

If pig farmers do not support the NPA, supermarkets will continue to get away with their deceptions and the government will walk away from its responsibilities. Pig farmers if you have any get up and go left in you join the NPA and make a difference to your industry.

Fred Henley

Green Farm, Southfield Lane, Seaton Ross, Yorks.

Liquid-fed pigs look good bet

I read with interest the Easton Lodge pig unit cost review of liquid feeding (On Our Farms, Sept 29). In this day and age I am surprised to learn that anyone in agriculture can afford to reject a capital investment with a two-year pay back period.

I believe the projected savings are understated. Jasper Renold pointed out, rightly, there might well be a feed conversion rate improvement arising out of liquid feeding. Improved FCR from liquid feeding is well documented both here and within Europe. Mr Renold stated that he might save a further £7000/year bringing the total saving to £30,500 on the 8000 pigs fattened a year at saving of £4.38/pig sold.

Liquid fed pigs are generally healthier; due in part to the lack of dust and reduced respiratory problems.

Liquid diets utilising co-products are acidic and it is well known that the addition of organic acid to pig diets has a beneficial effect and with liquid feeding those benefits come for free.

With good quality, properly formulated diets I see little risk if any of poor gradings. However, there is a learning curve and feeding scales will have to be adjusted to allow for the healthier, faster growing pigs.

MLC recently stated that savings of up to 7p/kglwg were being made by liquid feeders; thats about £4.90/pig.

Higher savings could come from higher inclusion rates of the co-products than was envisaged at Easton Lodge.

Our European competitors and indeed some liquid feeders in the UK are getting more than 70% of the dry matter from co-products compared with the 30-45% envisaged at Easton Lodge.

Our European competitors clearly have the edge with a much higher percentage of their pig benefiting from being liquid feed.

Nigel Handscombe,

Woodview House, The Square, Ryhall, Stamford, Lincs.Nigel.Handscombe@Farmline.coml We also found the two-year pay back not unattractive, but there are too many ifs to risk the investment at present. Would the liquid fraction of this slurry flow readily to our dirty water lagoons for final land disposal leaving a stackable solid portion? Theres little evidence of the risks of poor carcass grading, particularly when using sensor controlled short troughs. Would the saving from making our own balancer rations, outweigh the loss of £15,000/year from milling seed quality cereal premiums? FWs Easton Lodge pig unit manager, Jasper Renold

Shotgun law is plain crazy

I recently received a letter from the Governments Home Office Firearms and Explosives Unit. The letter states that the government intends to apply the criteria required by law to licence a firearm to that of a shotgun. To the non-informed that may seem reasonable but in reality it is a nonsense like so much in todays British law which unfortunately has the exact opposite effect to what is intended. The trouble with gun licensing is that it has in everyday terms become an incitement to hold guns illegally.

The conditions required to hold and use a firearm have been altered during the past five years. When my firearm licence became due for renewal on September 26 this year I could not meet the criteria now required. Not only would I have to lose my shotguns if the goal-posts are moved to the same place that the firearms licence has been moved.

The police licensing dept. has left me holding and using a shotgun for nearly a month now due to, quite simply, its incompetence at reviewing my shotgun certificate. I have sent recorded delivery letters to police, home secretary and the home office but still have had no response from any department.

What a way to run a country and they intend to "Make Britain a Safer Place" according to Home Office notepaper.

Sam Millward

c/o Arbour Hill Pig Unit, Lincoln Hill, Hom Green Ross-on-Wye.

Taking issue on lime sourcing

I refer to the comment (Opinion, Oct 13) about sourcing of lime in high magnesium areas. Protagonists of cation exchange soil analysis appear to be claiming that this method of analysis is necessary to determine whether dolomitic lime is the most suitable product or whether obtaining supplies from further afield would be better.

That could involve paying more for lime and expensive soil analysis.

It is relatively simple to discover whether magnesium levels are too high. If a simple soil analysis for P, K and Mg indicates levels of magnesium of Index 4 or above, it is possible that further magnesium dressings will create a nutrient imbalance.

That is particularly so if soil potassium levels are Index 1 or below.

There is a further issue relating to animal nutrition if sodium or calcium levels are low.

Replicated trials carried out by our company 15 years ago, and monitored by ADAS scientific staff, showed that the application of dolomitic limestone had a very modest effect on measured soil magnesium concentration, and 12 months after application, no measurable increase in plant tissue magnesium content.

In other words, dolomitic limestone is a slowly available source of magnesium, and is unlikely to engender major plant nutrient imbalances unless existing soil levels are excessive.

Farmers should beware anecdotal evidence put forward to justify some of the claims being made as to expensive cation exchange analysis techniques.

Independent scientific evidence of the benefits of such techniques is hard to find.

Times are hard, and clutching at straws to try to turn round farm fortunes may be tempting. This country has a fine tradition of sound agricultural research that is relevant to our soils, our crops and our climate.

Most of the answers that farmers need about soil science are already provided in the libraries and archives of our scientific establishments. Before swallowing a new theory, hook, line and sinker, check it out with somebody who doesnt stand to make a killing from it.

Mark Gillingham

The Courtyard

National Trust bad for farming

With reference to the comments by a Cornish farmer about the National Trust (Letters, Oct 13), tenant farmers are not the only ones to criticise the National Trusts policy on the countryside and those who live in it.

It makes a bad neighbour, is predatory, arrogant and rides roughshod over neighbouring farmers, to expand its own interests.

In Pembrokeshire, it appears determined to acquire all coastland in the beautiful National Park, at any cost.

Its overall farming policy dictates to farmers the way they should live, a policy which destroys the way of life and the natural farming progression.

I will definitely not become a member of this less-than-charitable institution.

Pembrokeshire farmers wife

Name and address supplied.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000

Stephen Brandon

Stephen Brandon farms

100ha (250 acres) at New

Buildings Farm, Stafford,

with another 30ha (73

acres) of grazing taken

annually. He has 170

pedigree Holstein Friesians

and 110 replacements.

Recently he took on a

contract farming agreement

involving a further 160 cows

on 80ha (200 acres)

WET weather on the contract unit has brought forward the opening of the silage clamps, three weeks earlier than planned. We still have large amounts of grass available for grazing but until the tracks improve, access is proving very difficult. The new track we put in this spring gives us access to a field of new seeds sown in July but unless we have a drier spell of weather it is still a little soft under foot, although it is generally a dry field.

Grazing continues back at home. We have just sold 18 barren cows to ease the tight stocking but I think we shall probably have to open the silage clamp by the middle of October as grass cover starts to get low.

Two days in south Wales earlier this month with nine members of the Poachers discussion group has proved to be stimulating. We visited four dairy farms to look at different aspects of dairying and business management.

The first farm was to look at a new low cost high throughput parlour, the second was to see the management of a large 500-cow unit. The third was a unit some of us had visited two and a half years ago expanding to 300 cows next spring and the fourth was to see a new parlour and stand-off pad under construction.

All the dairy units were grass based and extremely interesting to look at and hear the thoughts for the future. Without exception they were all looking at expansion, either more cows on the home unit or possibly taking on another unit. Two farms were totally grass based, not feeding any concentrates to milking cows.

Despite the difficult times with low milk prices these four businesses were moving forward, the low cost simple systems were being run efficiently with a low labour requirement.

All four farms were fortunate to have track making materials on-farm, making track cheap to construct for good access in all weather conditions. It will be interesting to hear how the stand-off pad performs in the next few years. The site had been well chosen for its shelter and southerly aspect.

There might be a lot of doom and gloom in the industry at present but eight farmers and one consultant came home with a tremendous buzz! &#42

A way ahead? A recent discussion group trip to south Wales has given Stephen Brandon plenty to think about.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000


uMEMBERS of the Fertiliser Advisers Certification and Training Scheme (FACTS) are being asked to sign up to an annual register due to demands from assurance companies for a current list of members. Enrolment on "Annual FACTS" will be automatic for individuals on the BASIS professional register but FACTS-only qualified individuals will need to enrol for £20/year + VAT to secure an annual ID card, a place on the register and receive Fertiliser Update mailings. BASIS professional register members will also need to pay £20/year + VAT to receive the updates.

uSUPERMARKETS are paying leek growers less than the cost of production for produce for the second year running, despite strong indications there will be a shortfall in supply, says the Leek Growers Association. Growers need a delivered supermarket price of at least 92p/kg pre-Christmas for growers to cover their costs, says association chairman Nick Allpress. But despite 16% lower plantings, 15% lower yields, and uncompetitive import prices, growers have failed to achieve that threshold. If current price levels continue a further drop in plantings is likely in 2001, he predicts.

uNEWMAN Agrochemicals has changed its name to that of its American parent and will now trade as Loveland Industries Ltd. The Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambs based adjuvant specialist says that its business is increasingly global. It says it is currently the UKs largest adjuvant supplier with a turnover of £3.5million. &#42

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Archive Article: 2000/11/03

3 November 2000


Wed, Nov 8, 7.30pm. Meet at Carol Lawsons home, Lower St Johns Farm, Foulden for craft display, mulled wine and mince pies. Names will be taken for Dec 3 Sunday lunch. Contact Carol (01890-781777) by Nov 7.


Sat, Nov 18, 2pm. Meet at Victory Hall, Dalston for talk My Life as an Auctioneer by Mr Richard Morris. Contact Zanna Johnston (01228-523847).


Thu, Nov 9, 7.30pm. Meet at the London Inn, Morchard Bishop for a meal. Contact Carole Drake (01884-860892).


Thu, Nov 16, 10.30am. Meet at Glidden Farm, Hambledon for coffee and antiques valuation by Drewett and Neate (bring a small item for valuation, not jewellery). Lunch to follow, cost £10. Contact Monica Meeson (02392-632032) or Sue Silvester (02392-632707).


Wed, Nov 8, 11am. Meet at the Bowl Complex, Knights Park Centre, Longfield Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Contact Frances Miles 01892 822378.


Tue, Nov 14, 12 noon prompt. Meet at Earls Barton Bowling Club for a talk with slides by Anita Smith for Bansang Hospital Appeal. Programme planning, lunch and raffle. Contact Rita White

(01604-810351) by Nov 8.


Wed, Nov 15, 2.30pm. Meet at Comeytrowe Community Hall, Taunton for programme planning followed by tea. Contact Mary Lowe-Willetts



Tue, Nov 7, 11.30am. Meeting will be held at Chequers, Crowle to finalise programme for 2001 and choose charity. Contact Margaret Bowater

(01905 798708).

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