Archive Article: 2000/11/17 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Christmas wrapping takes on new meaning at Field Farm, Wrentham, Suffolk, where Kevin Oram, wraps one of 120,000 Norwegian Spruces. Mr Oram reckons demand for good trees will be high because many have been damaged by pests flourishing in the mild weather.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Getting ready for the off…Royal Smithfield Club president David Sinclair, from Abernyte, Inchture, Tayside, with some of the 17 cattle hes entered for Smithfield Show – the highest number from any exhibitor. While cattle entries for the event total 385 – up 43 on 1998 levels – there are 20 fewer sheep being exhibited compared with two years ago, with total sheep entries of 186. More on Smithfield in this weeks pull-out supplement.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Welshpool was a successful venue for Charolais bulls last week, continuing their good sale results this season. Escob Piccolo from the Bala-based herd of Gareth Jones, stood champion and reached 2400gns in the sale. Top price of 4000gns went to reserve champ Coley Peter from the Baggots herd in Stafford. See Business, p35.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

GRASS growth, which peaked at 120kg DM a day at home, had dropped to the mid-30s by late October.

Meanwhile growth on the hill has dropped from a peak of 78kg DM a day to 11.

The silage analyses have been a little disappointing (see table). It will be interesting to see whether the silage additive, Powerstart, used on June and August cuts produces the promised one-third increase in liveweight gains; if it does will our sheds be big enough to cope?

The July silage cut will be mainly for cows and the rest for sheep and young cattle. At least this year it looks as though we should have enough.

Cattle were all housed by Oct 31. Cows were scanned, weighed, condition scored, vaccinated against lepto and given mineral boluses. Removing bulls earlier than last year has cost us dearly in barren cows. Five have been sold and three will be bulled to calve in Jan 2002.

The gain has been reducing our calving period by two months in two years, which we feel has been worthwhile and will mean stronger calves for sale in the May Bishops Castle sale.

Ewes have been in individual tupping groups for one cycle, before returning to the hill blocks in larger groups. Beulah rams used have indexes from 155-239 and scrapie types of 4 x R1, 1 x R2 and 2 x R3. Blue Faced Leicester rams have indexes from 100-183 and two are from crossing lines. Charollais rams will catch repeats as well as being used on ewe lambs.

Beulah replacement ewe lambs and ram lambs for breeding have now been individually muck sampled by Welsh Institute of Rural Studies HND student, Peter Webster. They were wormed with a white wormer after sampling and will be retested in a month to record worm counts, the intention being to use more resistant sheep for pure breeding. I was careful not to shake Peters hand when he left and noticed that he did not stir his tea with his sampling finger even though he had worn gloves. &#42

Breeding sheep that are more resistant to worms is one of John Yeomans objectives this year.

Grass silage analysis

Cutting date

June 16 July 16 Aug 22

DM 31% 56% 28%

D value 61 54 67

ME 9.8 8.6 10.8

CP 14.5% 11% 13.6%

pH 4.1 5.3 3.9


g/kg DM 99 40 48

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Christian Fox

Christian Fox manages 130

spring-calving cows and

followers, on a 200ha

(500 acre) mixed farm in

West Sussex, with 150ha

(380 acres) of arable crops.

He is aiming for high profits

and low costs by maximising

use of grazed grass

I AM definitely not going to mention the weather; suffice to say that I have not had to scrape the collecting yard recently thanks to the automatic sprinkler system that nature has provided.

We also have a lake forming in the valley where the springs usually rise in about January. Another 22.5cm (9in) and I will have to milk in a wet suit and waders.

The herd is still grazing day and night. I have switched to once-a-day milking and we are feeding 1998 vintage silage and 1kg of gluten to improve condition score. Given the elemental conditions – see, I did not mention it – we should have dried off already, but I am keen to finish some of our ancient silage and tightly graze some of the more remote paddocks before we finish.

The cows are managing eight litres each on once-a-day milking, packing in a mean 5.4% fat and 3.65% protein. Cell counts are still clinging to band A plus.

I had intended to out-winter calves, but have recently brought them inside. The monsoon has not helped them gain condition – vital for calving at two years old – and it will actually be less work to feed them inside. If ground conditions improve they can run out for some fresh air, but they are enjoying the former cowshed, which is too small for a herd of cows, but perfect for 35 heifers.

The list of winter jobs for when cows are dry was taking shape nicely when the new cattle movement certificates arrived. Checking those looks like keeping me in the office for some time. If we ever get any post-diluvian peace, I have some fencing to do on the forage rape fields before grazing dry cows.

As the rigours of the season increase so the workload for both man and cow decreases here at Cucumber Farm. This means that while most are struggling with poor quality grass silage, wet grazing conditions and an abysmal maize harvest, I am left wondering whether the new lake will support a windsurfer. If we get a dry day I might give it a go. &#42

Fencing forage rape for dry cow feeding will be Christian Foxs next job, just as soon as he has finished checking cattle movement certificates.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

LOOKING out of the kitchen window here at Vimer it is wet, grey and sad. The bulls and heifers in the field opposite make their way down the bank and stand knee-high in mud while they wait to come in for feeding.

The milking cows are in the cowshed, which has been repaired after last winters storms and the first this summer.

Life goes on as normal.

I am comparing the view from the window with that of the lady farming in north Wales I have just been listening to who can see only water from hers. Her husband is battling to keep his cows from succumbing to fatigue and the rising water. With the prospect of more rain on the way, my heart goes out to them. It defeats the imagination.

The storms, which swept France in December, were devastating but they were not as relentless as this terrible weather which is hitting the UK, nor are we suffering as much at the moment from the rain.

On a brighter note, we found ourselves one weekend in October before the "weather", in a café drinking hot chocolate after walking around a Brittany market as it came to life in the early morning. We were heading for Guernsey at Andrew Casebows invitation, where Tim gave a talk.

It is a joy for us to visit from the moment we get on the 16-seater plan for the half-hour flight, to the warm welcome we get on the island.

After the talk we had the weekend to visit and we spent Saturday on Sark. First stop was the bike hire shop (tractors and bikes are the only form of transport on the island). As we wobbled out of the village to explore – it is a long time since either of us have ridden a bike – we saw a lady holding her granddaughters hand and singing, but as we got closer she called out: "Tim Green… I was just coming to look for you." We nearly fell off our bikes, we had not discussed our plans with anyone, apparently someone had seen us waiting for the boat.

Whatever, it was very opportune that Evelyn Nightingale should greet us so we met her husband, Chris, and daughter, Mary, and visited their dairy where they make icecream, and pasteurise milk for island inhabitants. A winner of the Young Businesswoman of the Year award, Mary gave an account of the machinations of living and working on the island. It is another world.

I quite took to the idea of living somewhere like that until I realised I would have to slip my dancing shoes in my pocket and don wellies, mac and rain hat, climb on my bike and pedal to every local do. We had a super day, and surprisingly did not suffer stiff legs or sore derrières.

The next day we visited David Cowleys dairy farm and potato business before lunch and the flight home, which left earlier than scheduled due to the fact that the pilot and us, the only passengers, were ready to go.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Andrew Kerr

Andrew Kerr farms 344ha

(850 acres) in partnership

with his parents and brother

at Wyldingtree Farm, North

Weald, Essex. Cropping is

potatoes, including some

on rented ground, plus

cereals, herbage seed and

oilseed rape

HAVING recovered from the surprise of being asked to write a regular column for the Farmer Focus series, here is my first attempt to produce a frank account of our activities at Wyldingtree.

Do not believe any rubbish you may have read elsewhere about Essex being the driest part of the country – we have received our fair share of rain recently, averaging 50mm (2in) a week since mid-September.

Consequently the heavy clay soils around here have acquired the consistency of chocolate blancmange, making cereal drilling and potato harvesting virtually impossible. Despite much fettling of mach-inery on wet days and long hours on the occasional dry ones, we still have nearly half our wheat to drill and a quarter of our spuds to lift.

I have watched with interest the progress made locally by farms with shared machinery, and although current conditions must test patience somewhat I believe most of us will have to spread costs in similar ways if long-term survival is the aim. Surely if ever there was a climate designed to bankrupt UK Farming Plc then this is it!

On farm, the Escort and Pronto oilseed rape and Greengold herbage seed are looking reasonably well, despite being established in the presence of poorly chopped straw (another problem to sort at the Smithfield Show!). The use of slug pellets has been minimised by using a heavy flat roll after drilling.

Falcon (propaquizafop) or Fusilade (fluazifop-p-butyl) has been sprayed on all the rape, depending on weed spectrum present, whilst the Pronto also merited phoma control with Punch C (flusilazole + mbc).

By the time you read this we will all have a better idea of the governments reaction to the fuel protest deadline. Personally, I hope Blair and Co receive a lesson where it hurts. But then reasoned debate might just allow us to complete our delayed autumn schedule without jeopardising potentially fragile public support and fuel supplies all at once.

Perhaps the time is right for us to produce our own biodiesel? &#42

New Farmer Focus Andrew Kerr writer is caught between backing fuel protests and getting autumn work finished.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Jim Bullock

Jim Bullock farms 283ha

(700 acres) in partnership

with his parents and brother

at Mill Farm, Guarlford,

Malvern, Worcs. Two-thirds

is rented or contract farmed,

the rest owned. Cropping is

winter wheat, winter oilseed

rape and winter beans

GOOD news! I have discovered a new method of straw disposal – float it off onto your neighbours fields. Flooding also drowns slugs and rots blackgrass seeds. But sadly the wheat dies as well.

Fortunately, we have probably lost only about 4-6ha (10-15 acres)

Continued on page 63

Continued from page 62

as a result of flooding. However, it is not all in the same field, so patching up next spring is going to be a nuisance. So will spraying and harvesting. Going back for the odd bit here and there is a pain. The easiest option would be set-aside.

The wheat crops that have not been flooded have established reasonably well, except for where we made a mess on the headlands. The best emergence has without doubt been where we direct-drilled after just a pass with our Lo-Till rake.

Wherever the land was disced too deep, or worse still sub-soiled, it has been impossible to do a decent job of drilling. Although the surfaced dried, it seemed to form a skin, leaving mud underneath.

To date we have only managed to drill 5.5ha (13.5 acres) of winter beans. Unless it stops raining soon we will have about 48ha (120 acres) of spring beans to drill next spring.

The legacy of this wet autumn will not be known until next harvest, probably with reduced yields and increased costs. It will be yet another catalyst in the rush to re-structure our businesses.

I do worry about the pundits who advocate the only way forward is to expand – there are other ways, as my travels in the US have illustrated. The most successful farms in the mid-west are the family units that have cut their costs and borrowings to a bare minimum and have expanded as and when the opportunity arose.

The "Big Boys" who came in had to pay high rents to secure land, then borrowed heavily to farm it. They soon came unstuck. As the locals said: "We see them come and we see them go." The way forward is to co-operate with your neighbour not compete with him. &#42

What prospect good yields for harvest 2001? The omens are not good after this saturated autumn, says Jim Bullock.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

John Jeffrey

John Jeffrey runs two

tenanted farms in

partnership with his father

from Kersknowe, near Kelso

in the Scottish Borders.

Two-thirds of the 730ha

(1800 acres) is arable,

growing seed potatoes, oilseed rape, wheat and

winter and spring barley

AS though the weather wasnt bad enough, the phone call I was dreading duly arrived. It only consisted of one sentence: "Your overdraft has reached its limit, you had better come in and see me."

Armed with some freshly prepared budgets, that even I had difficulty believing, I went to see the bank manager. He cast an eye over them and whimsically enquired: "Will these be any more accurate than last years?"

Thankfully, my bank manager is not cocooned in some skyscraper, but actually lives in the locality and does understand the problems we are all facing at the moment.

After some phone calls to the Scottish Office – or Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department to give them their proper name – I was assured that 95% of IACS payments would be made on Nov 14. On this premise the bank manager agreed to extend my facility. So, by the time you read this, the bank manager and I will hopefully be pals.

While the cattlemen were at the October bull sales, I was left to feed the housed cattle with the forage feeder. Unfortunately, I tried to engage the pto with the foot clutch, rather than the hand clutch, the result being that I sheared the pto off at the gearbox.

I dread the bill for the repairs. I have just received one for a gearbox problem on one of my larger tractors that came to £5000, for a tractor (surprisingly!) just out of warranty. Needless to say, I am in negotiations with Massey Ferguson for a considerable rebate.

After a very long and trying harvest I was thoroughly looking forward to a day at the races courtesy of But like most of our drilling it was also cancelled due to flooding. It is one thing when the weather interferes with your business, but when it interferes with your social life it has definitely gone too far. &#42

Time to key into some positive thinking. John Jeffrey managed to win his bank manager around after some IACS phone calls.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Simon Thompson

Simon Thompson is farm

manager on John Nicholsons

Rectory Farm, Lower Benefield,

Northants. Soils are heavy

clays, growing 190ha

(460 acres) of wheat, beans

and oilseed rape, including

industrial crops on set-aside

DRILLING has at last finished here. But that is not to say the whole farm is drilled up. Although there is still 6ha (15 acres) under a wood to drill, it is pretty obvious by now that it will not be drilled in suitable conditions or in sufficient time to produce a respectable yield of wheat. So the set-aside option is being taken.

Having already taken out an industrial rape contract on my set-aside I now have a bit of restructuring to do, as well as paperwork to fill in for the Intervention Board, so I can convert some of the rape back to a commercially-grown crop.

Many people still have a lot of drilling to do and I have heard a quote of 30% of wheat still left to drill. Combined with a lack of pressure on the k that has seen the new-crop wheat price take-off like something from a NASA launch pad. That does bring renewed hope for the following year.

This year there can only be an increased area of spring break crops or set-aside. The knock-on effect, however, is going to be a higher level of wheat production the following year, due to the increased area of first wheats.

The autumn herbicide progam is progressing well on the early drilled land. Avadex (tri-allate) was applied shortly after drilling, followed by 20g/ha Lexus (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) and 2.5 litres/ha of Stomp (pendimethelin) when the blackgrass reached two leaves. The total cost is around £48/ha (£19/acre).

Levels of phoma in the rape are just starting to edge towards the 10% threshold, so a treatment of Plover (difenoconazole) is planned when conditions permit.

On a slightly different note, I am very grateful for being able to spend three most interesting and informative days in Andover last week, attending the John Edgar Memorial Trust Managing Development Scheme. The scheme runs for three days a month for five months and covers topics like managing people, business practice and planning. I look forward to explaining how I am applying the lessons learned in future. &#42

Drilling is done, cereal spraying is on-going and phoma control in rape is needed before long, says Simon Thompson.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

Bit slow on groundwork, but economical on fuel consumption…This was one of the many excellent entries for this years NFU/farmers weekly Straw Sculpture competition. It came from Tim Box at Holt Vale Farm, Wimborne, Dorset. See Farmlife for the winner.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

EMIGRATING might not be a panacea for all problems. But with the right approach opportunities do exist, says George Lidbury of French Farm Service.

Better value land and a substantial aid package in France can help young farmers get on their feet in a country that still supports agriculture, says Mr Lidbury.

Subsidised loans of up to £60,500 (620,000F) at 2% interest are available to farmers under 40 who have not farmed in their own right, dependent on having an appropriate agricultural diploma.

For those who have previously farmed subsidised loans at 3% are available and subject to certain criteria aid of £7800-19,500 (80,000-200,000F) may be available on a regional basis. Aid may also be available for farmers moving to larger units.

Land lets of 9-18 years are guaranteed at a fixed rate equivalent to the UK county council rent, adjusted with inflation.

Government and public opinion of farmers is much higher, says Mr Lidbury. But the significance of the language and the need to farm appropriately should not be overlooked.

"Also be aware of the different climate. Drier conditions will need careful and appropriate management. Take note of local advice, especially initially."

Market requirements will also need reconsidering. "Investigate markets and grow accordingly, dont assume what you currently produce in England will also be desired in France." A mixed enterprise is likely to be more viable.

"There is bureaucracy to overcome, but there are also opportunities. In France everyone helps each other out. You are a farmer first before you are a foreigner," Mr Lidbury concludes.

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Archive Article: 2000/11/17

17 November 2000

"We had the opportunity to give any name to our farm as it was newly built on a greenfield site in 1982," Philip Charlesworth says of this place at Silkstone, Barnsley. "But this proved a much more onerous task than it first appeared.

"We went through several options, one of mine being Brackeny Bottom Farm as a small corner at the lowest part of the farm was covered with bracken. I am relieved that my wife, Carolyn, put me off this option."

The Charlesworths asked Carolyns father, a retired librarian, to find the name of the field on which the farm was built from old tithe maps. A visit to Barnsley Library resulted in the name Broad Close. The Broad part is self-explanatory, while Close is a shortened form of enclosure. It was pronounced "cloise" in the dialect of the area. "That along with many other local words of my youth have now almost completely disappeared," says Philip.

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