Archive Article: 2001/01/05 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Battling on with the work…snow between Christmas and the New Year brought many parts of the country to a halt. But it was not enough to stop contractor Ben Stretton of B &#42 Stretton Contracting from trimming Alan Tizzards hedges and verges at Milborne Port in Somerset.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Comparison demo for cultivation drilling

Whether you favour minimum tillage or ploughing, the chances are your land is just as saturated as your neighbours fields. Thats not all they have in common. Both will need to be drilled quickly when drier weather arrives.

So, full marks to a former FW barometer farmer for giving south-western growers a chance to compare reduced cultivation drills.

As Richard Payne points out, growers in mainly livestock areas often have to travel far to see such demonstrations. And the results may carry little significance for their own farming situation.

Visitors to his farm near Taunton are getting the opportunity to follow the progress of crops sown by five different machines right through to harvest. And the initiative is also earning extra cash for his local cancer care charity.

Sheep dip collection move is welcome

Fancy a dip? Not if its used sheep dip. So its welcome news to hear that Severn Trent Water is to collect used sheep dip from its tenants and store it before incineration.

What about other areas of the country? Hopefully, more water companies will consider working with groups of producers to develop dip collection schemes.

Glimmers of hope in

a tough Challenge

It makes unpleasant reading: From a wheat margin of nearly £50/t in 1995, the top performance in the Lloyds TSB Farmer Group Challenge fell to £6/t last year.

Its a bleak return by any standards. But at least if producers can survive in the short-term on such meagre returns by trimming costs, they are well placed to profit when the upturn finally arrives.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the winning team which relied on marketing expertise, as well as the technical skill, to triumph.

Planning winner has valuable expertise

Judging FW competitions is seldom easy. But selecting the winner of the 2000 Farm Planner of the Year competition was even more difficult than usual.

But a clear winner of the challenge run by the Institute of Agricultural Management, in conjunction with HSBC Bank and Farmplan, was Tom Main.

A graduate in agricultural business management from Wye, he managed to achieve what must be a tough task for even the most experienced of consultants: To draw up a realistic five-year development plan for a Glos Estate.

As farming struggles through its worst crisis in living memory, its heartening to see a new generation with fresh thinking.

Going over the top on expensive gadgetry

Stepless transmissions, front-axle suspension, electro hydraulic controls, self-diagnostic computer aided systems. Tractor makers continue to pile in the technology.

Impressive stuff but, as the costs of these developments continue to escalate, do manufacturers consider there may be a sector of the industry which requires little more than a basic machine?

Farm attractions…day would be well spent

Considering a farm attraction? If so, this years National Farm Attractions Network Conference at the NAC on Feb 8 should prove an attractive day out.

Its a popular event reflecting the urgent need to find new sources of income to boost meagre returns from mainstream crops and livestock.

Opening up your farm to the paying public also helps to get farmings message to consumers. It could also provide a return on capital and effort that conventional farming is failing to offer.

So why not spend a day at the NAC on Feb 8?

Clever Irish move to counter BSEscare

Ireland exports most of the beef it produces and the latest BSE scare has dealt its industry a crippling blow. But a joint venture between beef producers, a feeder wagon manufacturer and a beef processor is helping to minimise the impact of the crisis. The scheme, aimed at finishing cattle before 18 months, is helping to retain specialist Italian export markets.

Finishing cattle to exact specifications at a younger age, using nutritional advice from Keenan, helps beef producer Kepak meet market needs.

Its a system, which works and benefits everyone in the chain. What better proof that co-operation can pay?

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

&#8226 ENLARGEMENT, environment and employment are the three main priorities for Sweden, which took over the six-month presidency of the EU this week. As one of the more liberal member states, the Swedes are also likely to push for continued change in the CAP. They have already highlighted the sheep regime as a strong candidate for reform.

&#8226 GERMANY was warned nine months ago that its herd was probably carrying BSE, EU food commissioner, David Byrne, told a German Sunday newspaper last weekend. The commissioner had sent the Berlin government a detailed report last March, but the warning had gone unheeded. Germany has recently confirmed its seventh BSE case. A government spokesman described the report as "highly theoretical".

&#8226 ANOTHER eight BSE casualties were reported by the French government in the last days of 2000, bringing the total for the year to 153, a fivefold rise on the previous year. About 100 of these cases emerged as a result of conventional reporting by vets, with the rest picked up under the governments post-mortem testing programme.

&#8226 ALLOWING unrestricted access to the EUs sugar market for the worlds 48 poorest nations, (as suggested in the commissions Everything But Arms proposal), would cost the sector over k1bn (£630m) in surplus disposal, according to the commissions agriculture directorate. &#42

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Hoggets could meet good prices this season, with higher than usual export demand and tighter supplies. But processors only want clean dry lambs, so it may be worth clipping bellies and tails before selling finished sheep.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Beating the freeze…frost between Christmas and New Year allowed Bartlow Estates machinery to lift the first sugar beet on MG & RA Ramseys heavy land at Slate Hall, near Haverhill, Suffolk. "Normally we lift there in the first few days of the campaign but it rained and we had not been able to get on since," says Bartlow farm manager John Goodchild. Prompt delivery to the Bury St Edmunds factory prevented frost damage causing clamping problems.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Springs not far away…four-week-old lambs enjoying New Year games at the Royal Veterinary College, Herts. Ewes are synchronised to lamb to coincide with student practical groups and kept in polypen housing, which provides a low-cost shelter and well-ventilated environment for lambing.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Producers must make a stand

Have we removed the infectious materials from our government as well as our beef and sheep? Our local authorities, the Army and half the population would rather eat foreign beef, which is still fed meat and bonemeal, is over 30 months old and has a growing incidence of BSE.

The French banned our beef at the earliest possible stage, and still do, but we are not prepared to ban theirs. Is this a bad dream or is the UK agricultural industry already worse off than the miners? One show of what we can do, courtesy of the Farmers For Action group, restored my flagging faith. The government offered a pittance and round two went to them.

Meanwhile, the hardest workers in the country commit suicide at an alarming rate and the surviving farmers are represented by the captain of the Titanic. The industry is now left with consumers so confused and scared that they trust nobody. Milk is surely made in the supermarket as is all food and BSE is farmers fault. Why is farming letting this happen?

P Fletcher

4 Northlands, Harthill, Sheffield.

Hes detected an opportunity

In these days where every penny of income is precious, I have long thought about the following opportunity that many farmers have on their doorstep. The sport/hobby of metal detecting has recently begun to expand and many good detecting sites are found on farms.

Ancient footpaths and track-ways are nearly always close to fields and farms and from reading recent metal detecting magazines, it is obvious that this sort of site is much sought after. Would it not be an idea for landowners to agree to allow enthusiasts to search their land on a profit-sharing basis if anything valuable is found?

Why not advertise or arrange days for groups of them to hold a rally on your farm? You could charge an entry fee and organise food stands. Such events are held regularly and are well organised. The vast majority of detectors voluntarily agree to a 50-50 share of any find proceeds.

P Foster

PO Box 2169, King George St, Yeovil, Somerset.

Do farmers get M&S premium?

For the third time I have felt compelled to write to farmers weekly, but I wont be complaining about the government. I have a job in The Link in Dorchester, Dorset as well as on the farm and recently was sent to buy some milk.

Since it was raining, instead of going to Waitrose I visited Marks & Spencer. The milk was 95p for 2.27 litres compared with 83p at Waitrose. Does that mean M&S charges customers for the brand name or does the firm pay more to farmers for their milk? If the latter is true I will certainly be visiting M&S for milk more often.

Tim Burden

6 Milborne Wood, Dewlish, Dorchester.

Let MDC exist for levy payers

In reply to Peter Martins letter (Dec 8) concerning payment of MDC levy, I feel he is right not to pay the levy and I have not done so. Before my decision, I made enquiries as to the advantages of the council. I believe that some MDC policies are superfluous to requirements.

Education in dairy husbandry comes from many areas: Veterinary surgeons, feed, seed, chemical and fertiliser companies who are always on hand, often free of charge, to provide advice. Although MDC was heavily promoted, resulting in a poor "yes" vote, I believe farmers support for MDC has fallen considerably since its creation. I believe that MDC should exist only for those who wish to pay for the organisation.

Richard Robinson

Northfield Farm, Aggs Hill, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, Glos.

BSE tax killing our pig industry

For nearly three years the British pig industry has laboured under a BSE "tax" estimated at £5.26/pig. This tax is a cost that is imposed by the UK government because of a ban on the use of meat and bonemeal in the UK. The BSE "tax" is one of the major reasons why nearly 25% of the British pig industry has disappeared recently.

France has just announced a ban on the use of meat and bonemeal in French pig rations. Will the French pig farmer pay his £5.26 BSE tax or will the French government pay those costs? We all know the answer.

What will happen to the mountains of meat and bonemeal in France? They will be scattered across Europe, especially eastern Europe, converted into pig and poultry meat and continue to end up on UK plates.

Food labelling regulations in the UK are a farce. The catering trade can source from anywhere. If you eat in a restaurant or a canteen, you have to shut your eyes and hope.

Robert Persey

Upcott, Broadhembury, Honiton, Devon.

GM firms, not crops are danger

Further to Alan Gueberts article (FW Dec 8), and as one who believes GM may offer new types of crops that can produce tremendous benefit to mankind, I do not believe that it is essential to have test sites throughout the UK. Millions of acres are already being grown in North and South America. Why do many of these crops have a requirement to be sprayed with glyphosate and, in some cases, offer no yield benefit?

Do Third World countries which often lose many of their crops to climatic conditions need to be tied to technology fees to obtain their seeds each year? The danger of GM may not be the crops, but the motives of the giant companies that control the growing of these crops.

Novartis, as one of the worlds largest providers of GM seed, food and pharmaceuticals, confirmed on Aug 3, 2000 that it had banned GM modified ingredients from all its food brands worldwide from the end of June last year.

I also note that in December 1999 Novartis rival Monsanto banned GM foods from its own staff canteen run by an independent caterer at one of its British offices. I assume that if one of the GM multinationals acquires ownership of one of the worldwide grain traders and controls the growing of seed to the marketing of crops, it will have UK arable agriculture under firm control.

Gordon Day,

The Pheasantry, Panton, Market Rasen, Lincs.

Spud growers in retailers hands

Mr Walker, who wrote the letter (Dec 15) about the rise in price of potatoes and British farmers keeping them in store, must have his head buried in the sand. The same goes for others who might share the same thought.

I grow pre-pack potatoes in Herefordshire and last year my average price was £70/t while my cost of production was £90/t. So when Mr Walker remarks about foreign imports coming into our country and suggests that the farmers should sell their potatoes at the current levels and move a greater quantity, how long will we remain in business? Foreign imports increase when our prices are high and when they are low, potatoes stop in their own countries.

The British Potato Committee cannot understand that supermarkets want crop assured potatoes and Tesco requires Natures Choice potatoes. On my farm, I invested about £30,000 to meet these requirements. After being audited two years ago, I was able to sell my potatoes to them. Traceability, what a joke? I would like to see the paperwork on the traceability of some of these foreign imports. If the supermarkets drop all their standards that we have achieved, theres no loyalty whatsoever to British farmers. When we have a better year selling our potatoes, which compensates for a fall the previous year, BPC should not knock potato growers otherwise it may not be in business for long.

Mr Walker should get behind UK farmers instead of allowing himself to be dictated to by supermarkets and packers. If there are no UK potatoes because growers have gone bust, Mr Walker will have no job and the supermarkets will be selling dust.

PD Vaughan

Oakfields Farm, Kingsland, Leominster.

NBA has bias for live selling

I write regarding your report "Call for more transparency in beef prices" (Stock and Sales Update, Dec 15). It is stated that the average live market price for cattle w/e Dec 9 was 90.1p/kg up 5.5p/kg on the previous week. I agree with MLCs Duncan Sinclair that this rise was due to an abundance of primestock shows held at live markets during the week.

Robert Forster claims that in order to reflect this price rise, D/W base price for R4L animals should be 190-195p/kg. Mr Forster is way off the mark. It would be worthwhile for him to obtain from the MLC a "Liveweight/deadweight conversion table". This table shows that the equivalent D/W price of an animal sold at live auction for 91p/kg which kills out at 56% (average for R4L animals) would be 162.5p/kg.

That is below the average base price of the two meat companies referred to by Mr Forster in the above report for w/e Dec 16.

On the other hand, if according to Mr Forsters calculations, D/W base prices should be 190p/kg then the equivalent live auction average should be 106p/kg. It is no secret that the National Beef Association is biased towards the live auction method of selling finished beef cattle. But I am surprised that Mr Forster, its chief executive, seems to manipulate figures to such an extent in order to scare producers away from selling D/W direct to meat companies.

FJ Williams

Berthlwyd Uchaf Farm, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire.

No threat from composting

I write with regard to the letter (Nov 17) from A R Horton regarding composting. There are several inaccuracies in the content of this letter.

First, no extra journeys are created during the transportation of green waste. It would all have to be transported irrespective of whether its final destination is to landfill or a centralised composting facility.

Second, all effluents arising at composting sites are also created within landfill sites. Also in a landfill site the gas formed from the rotting material is methane, a far more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Third, composting is a carbon neutral process because all the carbon dioxide released during the process has previously been taken from the atmosphere by the growing plants.

Fourth, pathogens are destroyed by the high temperatures achieved during the composting process. Composting is a safe and sustainable alternative to landfill, which is a benefit not a threat to agriculture. The final product can be successfully applied to agricultural land as a soil conditioner and long-term nutrient addition. Our recent studies at the University of Liverpool showed that yields of spring barley were equal on trial plots receiving compost as the sole source of fertiliser to those grown under the farm standard fertiliser regime.

Philip Putwain

Nicholson Building, School Of Biological Sciences, Liverpool University, Liverpool.

Insatiable greed at root of ills

The recent presidential election in the US should remind us, particularly in farming, that we have to tolerate the influence of politicians who are in office only by default. Even more important in farming are the large number of scientists who extract financial gain from agriculture without giving true value in return.

Insatiable greed is eating away at British agriculture and is the main factor involved in the industrys problems over the past few years. In fact, they threaten the industrys very existence.

Farming capital is being drained away at an alarming rate just like the blood that flows from a slaughtered animal in an abattoir. We have acquired a large number of theoretically qualified people who extract unrealistic financial gain from the blood that flows in abattoirs and from efficient farmers. This financial gain is backed by laws made by politicians.

Time is running out to take a truthful look at the realistic qualifications and abilities of our scientists, vets and inspectors. That is before they kill off the real experts in agriculture who are the generations of farming families who live and labour as guardians of not only food production but, more importantly, guardians of the countrysides future.

Sam Millward

36 Scalby Road, Burniston, Nr Scarborough, North Yorks.

CLA and NFU back members

John Hardmans letter (Dec 15) makes allegations about our two organisations that we feel demand an answer.

Our respective files show that in March 2000, Notts County Council advised Mr Hardman that, as the result of evidence submitted to them, they intended to issue a modification order to upgrade parts of a footpath to bridleway and to add a further bridleway to the definitive map.

Mr Hardman asked our organisations for advice since the order affected part of his land. Both CLA and NFU reviewed the evidence, discussed the proposal with the rights of way officer and made submissions to the county council on behalf of Mr Hardman.

As a consequence of these submissions, the county council agreed that the status of the route to be inserted should be footpath only and not bridleway, a result that favoured Mr Hardman.

Unfortunately, it will always be the case that some members feel that not enough was achieved on their behalf, or that the advice they received was not what they hoped to hear. In this case, the evidence for minimum status of the footpath was, in our opinion, incontrovertible.

As most of your readers will appreciate, Mr Hardmans suggestion that CLA and NFU are unduly influenced by our interests in the British Horse Society and the Ramblers Association is entirely fanciful. That is much though we respect both those organisations and seek to work with, rather than against them.

Peter Geldart

Regional director CLA, Goodbodys Mill, Albert Road, Retford, Notts.Jack WardRegional director NFU.

Lessons to be learned on TB

As a former member of the governments Badger and Bovine TB Panel, I was not in the least surprised to hear that the Phillips BSE Report found widespread selective partial half-truths, as orchestrated by the "Sir Humphreys" within MAFF.

Many civil scientists have been, and are still, avoiding the obvious robust scientific answers already available that could help recover lost ground on worsening TB. And, as with BSE, government scientific experts seem to have been chosen more because they wouldnt rock boats than through any basic understanding of TB.

To take just two examples, Britains textbook TB scheme into the 1970s included movement bans of stock into TB-free areas, and annual tests of all cattle. Relaxing those measures is why TB is spiralling out of control both geographically and in doubling in some areas every one to two years. But sadly, MAFF seems unwilling to alter testing procedures or test frequency other than in triplet study areas. The comparative skin test uses both bovine and avian tuberculins, but hence produces more than 50% false positive cases. Elsewhere in Europe they achieved eradication using only bovine tuberculin, and this ought to be considered here. Also, MAFF has very belatedly decided on a trial of gamma interferon, with no results until summer 2001. And yet, this has been very extensively trialled in New Zealand, Australia, the Americas and Ireland in the past decade or so.

And the commercially available Bovigam TM has major advantages in terms of sensitivity, and de-restricting herds faster. It presumably comes down to the old chestnut – who pays?

But many farmers would probably be delighted to foot the bill if it meant getting back in production sooner. This should not be necessary though, the government are the ones signed up to meeting EU directives.

As to the restriction on movements. It is absurd that some record of TB test history isnt included on cattle passports, giving traceability – witness the debacle over swine fever. Lessons ought to be learnt, some are blindingly obvious.

M Hancox

29 St Peters Street, Tiverton, Devon.

Must play with a straight bat

The food manufacturers (supermarket controlled) and the government (supermarket influenced) want the right to forage the dustbins of the world for their raw material to feed the British public. I expect they say it is uncontaminated with little Red Tractor bits.

But the foreign food they prefer, wrapped in a fancy wrapper with a dubious country of origin and organic stamp, is a complete mystery.

After all, BSE from Britain appears to be more dangerous than BSE from France. Is it the effect on health or on bottom lines that stimulates "scientific decisions".

It might be something to do with the fact that the French and other Europeans never did learn to play cricket. Perhaps the government and its paymaster (the supermarkets) should have more practice in the nets, to brush up on the established rules.

Then at least, they might learn the benefits of a level playing field.

John E C Lawrence

West Hall Farm, Longburton, Sherborne, Dorset.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Desperate times call for desperate solutions. To enable Midhurst-based contractor Keith Parks to harvest potatoes in testing conditions, his son Darren made up an A-frame which allowed a 200hp Fendt to join the fray. Used in reverse drive mode and hooked up to the rear of the Grimme DL 1700 harvester, some of the weight of the harvester is taken on the tractors lift arms – increasing traction and reducing draft. Inset: A-frame detail.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

A major exhibition of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings, the eccentric artist with a passion for horses and the countryside, opens in London today (Jan 5). Born the son of a miller in East Anglia in 1878, Munnings has been described by many art historians as "the greatest horse painter since Stubbs". The exhibition, which runs until Jan 25

in Sothebys Bond Street Galleries, is the largest of its kind since the

Royal Academy retrospective in 1956 (020-7293 5000).

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Mike Allwood

Mike Allwood is owner-

occupier of 82ha (200-

acres) near Nantwich,

Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy

herd block calves during

May and June. Besides

converting to organic

production, he is also

planning to produce

unpasteurised cheese

JANUARY is a time for reflection, so how did we do in the year 2000?

On the farm, we passed our final Soil Association inspection and started selling organic milk in June. The conversion has gone well with few real problems apart from the endless niggling paperwork.

We set about minimising the financial benefits of our new milk price by not producing enough of the stuff during summer – a mistake we will not be making this year. Would anybody like to lease in some quota at a very reasonable price?

We instigated a pence/litre approach to our costs, and sadly shed a valued employee who had been with us for many years. Our remaining farm staff – one full-time and two part-time – have coped extremely well with the workload, supporting the old adage that work expands to fit the people available.

Our move to contract silage making has been far more effective at reducing stress than squeezy putty. It is so comforting to know that the whole job can be finished and sheeted within a day.

The cheese business has managed to soak up most of the farm profits all year, at times seeming like a profession best suited to masochists. What end product we did make, which wasnt mouldy, dry, too soft or past its sell-by date, suffered the extra problem of me trying to sell it.

However, we did win six medals at the British Cheese Awards, and recently things have started to get exciting. We can now foresee a time when the dairy will be at its capacity and we will need to spend more of the banks money to expand.

Our new organic shop opened – before Tony and Pat Archers – in July. We have achieved a small but regular clientele and have learned all about throwing stock away when it goes past its sell-by date.

We look forward to another year with excitement. We now have three businesses and a great team of employees. The main challenge for Sandy and me is how best to use our own time to really push forward without spreading ourselves too thinly.

I wish all farmers weekly readers a prosperous 2001. &#42

Making cheese has soaked up profits on Mike Allwoods farm, but it is now becoming exciting.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Slurry spreading in the big league. This Vredo 25,000 litre-capacity unit comprises the tanker attached by a fifth wheel coupling to a tractor unit powered by a 330hp Deutz engine. Rolling equipment comprises 1050/50 R32 tyres – six of them. Slurry is soil injected via an 8m unit fixed to the rear of the tanker.

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Archive Article: 2001/01/05

5 January 2001

Getting ahead… Leslie Law, silver medal winner in the equestrian three-day eventing competition at this years Olympics, has had a carved head dedicated to him at Hereford Cathedral. Leslie, who was raised at Eardisley, now runs his

own stables at Inkberrow, near Worcester. Installation of the "corbel", which depicts a young crowned king, forms part of the restoration work under

way in the cathedral.

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