Archive Article: 2001/08/24 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

REVISIONSUPSETPILOT

PRODUCER

HERTFORDSHIRE farmer Robert Law, who took part in the East Anglian pilot of the Arable Stewardship Scheme, is frustrated and disillusioned by DEFRAs decision to take all the under-sowing options out of the revised scheme.

With 630ha (1550 acres) of arable crops at Thrift Farm, near Royston, and a sheep enterprise, he was attracted by the flexibility of the original programme when it was first unveiled in 1998.

"I initially entered the scheme because the under-sowing options allowed me to take conservation around the whole farm, rather than just restricting it to certain corners and field edges," he says.

Spring barley was under-sown with a grass/clover mix, changing the grazing system for the farms 1800 breeding ewes.

"It allowed us to make sweeping changes by compensating us for the income forgone.

"Although it is technically still possible to establish a grass ley with the revised proposals, it would be madness to introduce rotational grazing on IACS registered land."

As well as under-sowing spring barley, he also created beetle banks, 6m grass margins, wildlife seed areas and conservation headlands under the terms of Arable Stewardship. But he is adamant that the under-sowing options were the biggest change and committed him to a certain farming system.

"Entering the scheme tied us into sheep production for five years, but it also committed us to a farming system which had far greater biodiversity benefits.

"We switched from winter barley to spring barley, and introduced grassland back to areas which were initially ploughed up nearly 10 years ago."

The result has been a big rise in wildlife across the entire farm and a better grazing system. Under-sowing spring barley typically had a 0.75t/ha yield penalty, but it helped establish an integrated farming system.

"If growers want to continue to receive support, this type of scheme is the way they will have to go. But unfortunately, the proposed changes mean that the Arable Stewardship scheme is virtually finished for us.

"We cant make use of over wintered stubbles, as we grow stubble turnips for the sheep. There is very little to keep this farm in the initiative."

He is also critical of the need to sign up for 10 years.

"The farming industry is going through so much change at the moment that few farmers are going to be willing to commit themselves for such a long period of time."

Having contacted DEFRA for an explanation of the reasoning behind the changes he was told that the under-sowing options had been discontinued because they were unpopular.

"There does not seem to have been much consultation with the pilot scheme participants when the changes were made. Since joining the scheme our payments have been revised downwards and another review is due in three years," he adds. &#42

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

SHOP TALK

Do you have a farm shop?

Would you like to improve it but dont know how? Does your shop have some plus-points you are keen to capitalise on but are not sure how to go about it? Or maybe some problems you

cant quite seem to solve?

Well farmers weekly would like to help. We are teaming up with farm shop guru John Stanley and plan to provide one lucky farm shop manager/owner with some suggestions on improving their business free of charge.

It could be you.

You would get the benefit of free advice from one of the worlds leading retail consultants – all we ask is that we can spend a day at your shop (Oct 2) and that we can feature the advice in farmers weekly so other farm shop owners will be able to draw some pointers from your experiences.

So, if you fancy taking part, write and tell us a little bit about you and your shop. Tell us what you do well and maybe not quite so well. Tell us a little, too, about the background (how long the shop has been open, how big it is, if you run it in conjunction with a farm, etc).

Send to: Shop Talk, Farmlife, farmers weekly, Quadrant House, Sutton, Surrey. SM2 5AS.

Or e-mail tim.relf@rbi.co.uk. To arrive no later than Fri, Sept 7.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Food production wont grow money

Farming for food has become a loss-making exercise, according to latest figures from a leading southern accountant. Producers only kept incomes in the black through diversification…….p24

More beef, but…

Caterers supplying schools and hospitals are using more beef, but few care where it comes from. It is disappointing, says the Meat and Livestock Commission, which is busy putting the case for UK meat…………………..p26

Cheaper assurance

Competition is hotting up in the farm assurance sector, with Assured Combinable Crops announcing its prices for arable and livestock farms this week. Farmers will find a simpler structure and cheaper prices………………………page 27

Help em diversify

Government must cut red tape to encourage farmers to diversify, says a report from the Country Land and Business Association. Unless ministers act soon, it could be too late for many farmers, the document warns………..p28

Oilseed on the slide

Oilseed rape yield and price were disappointing at Hoe Hall, our adopted farm in the East. Owner, James Keith, is kicking himself for selling some of the crop too early, but wheat output and sales look much more promising………………p29

Orkneys a lively place

Orkney was the venue this week for the first livestock market to take place since foot-and-mouth hit the UK. The event was a great boost to the island, and drew a good turnout of stock. Trade resumed where it left off six months ago……………………p33

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

&#8226 THE Countryside Restoration Trust has described growers who cut hedges in August as hooligans. It is dismayed to see how many hedges are being cut because it destroys food and shelter for wildlife through the winter. Tim Scott, tenant on the CRTs model farm in Cambs, said: "There is no farming reason to flail out ditches and hack away at hedges at this time of year. It is bad farming and often it is simply peer pressure – farmers copying their neighbours."

&#8226 THE Country Land and Business Association has warned farmers who have received foot-and-mouth compensation cheques to be on the alert for unscrupulous salespeople. Producers who have been culled out have reported an increase in cold callers offering them investment opportunities. The suspicion is salespeople are using the DEFRA web-site to target farmers because they have seen stories about large compensation cheques. The CLA is advising producers to take professional advice before investing.

&#8226 ANTHONY Gibson, NFU regional director for south-west England, sent a postcard to Tony Blair thanking him for holidaying in Cornwall. But he added: "You could do even more if you gave us in the south-west as much support for F&M recovery and tourism marketing as the Welsh get." The Welsh Assembly has made £65m available for a rural recovery package compared to the south-wests £11.5m. &#42

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Still thriving trade in illegal meat imports

Peckish? How about a tasty fillet of decomposing bushrat? Perhaps rotting antelope meat? Maybe even monkey brains?

All three are readily available at metropolitan markets throughout the land. Anyone can make money by stuffing whatever filth he or she likes into a suitcase before walking through HM customs at ports and airports with little risk of detection.

With their suitcases arrive the risk of devastating human diseases, such as ebola, and animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth. As FW highlighted in March, Britain needs tough action to send suspect meat packing. All credit for the publicity given by the BBCs recent 4×4 programme and the NFUs small demonstration at Gatwick airport. Britain needs more, far more, to halt this stomach-churning threat.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Machinery rings can still pay dividends

Running a machinery ring can be a thankless merry-go-round. What started as a simple pooling of labour and machinery has become a testing management exercise.

Encouraging farmers to take part seems to call for a high level of sales skill by ring managers. More than one ring has collapsed due to lack of interest. Foot-and-mouth, falling farm incomes and an acute shortage of skilled labour have all taken their toll.

So what is their long-term future? How ironic that farmers are fiercely independent yet now, more than ever before, could benefit from the machinery and labour savings a ring can provide.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

SOUTH

WHEAT was halfway home Tuesday and given good weather most will be in the bin by the bank holiday.

Many yields have been a pleasant surprise, but late-drilled crops and cuckoo corn are still to come.

"It is almost impossible to say what the trend is," says Soufflets James Marshall. "Yields have ranged from 2t/acre to 5t." Before last weekends rain quality was generally OK, though Malaccas specific weight is low, he adds. Bill Harbours experience at Gosmere Farm, near Faversham, Kent, supports that.

"It has done 11.7t/ha off 40ha, but the bushel weight is borderline at 74-75kg. Hagbergs 278-350 and proteins 14.2 and 13.7," he adds.

Barometer grower Tim Lock had a third of his wheat cut at Houghton Farm, near Arundel, West Sussex, when rain struck last Saturday. Charger yields off the top of chalk hills are above the norm, but Consort on river ground about average.

"Given a fine week we will finish wheat and spring barley – it will be just the beans left."

The end is in sight for Hants grower Brian Totman too. On Monday he had just 16ha (40 acres) of spring barley and January drilled wheat left at Portway Farm, near Andover.

Optic spring barley yielded a "good average" 6.2-6.8t/ha (2.5-2.75t/acre), Gerald oats about 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) and Malacca close to 10t/ha (4t/acre). "We are pleased with things if a bit surprised," he says.

Nitrogens on spring barley are generally in the malting range and screenings and specific weights good, says Mr Marshall.

"But the cuckoo corn has not been cut yet. Growers are going for the wheat first because they know [the barley] will only be feed."

Few pea samples have been seen, but at Gosmere Farm Mr Harbour reports quality good but yield poor at 4.6t/ha (38cwt/acre) with the variety Bunting. Also in Kent, but near Ashford, Martin Boulden reports one-off Nitouche doing 3t/ha (1.25t/acre).

"This is the first time we have grown peas for a while. Considering they were drilled in April that is not bad."

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Answers wanted for worried spud men

When a producer growing 10,000t of crisping potatoes suggests it may be more profitable to grow the crop in Eastern Europe and ship it back to UK buyers, its time for serious thinking.

The farmer blames government policy and market conditions for this latest look at exporting our industry.

Currency pressure is forcing ever-lower prices and strict production protocols seem irrelevant for imports. High labour costs and cumbersome environmental legislation also hinder home production.

So what can be done? That will be a key question at the BPC Potato 2001 event at Newark, Notts on Tue 4 and Wed 5 Sept. Lets hope helpful answers are forthcoming.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Comparing yourself with top arable units

How does your arable business compare with the top 25%? Thats the question the government-funded Agriknowledge project urges growers to consider, as a first step to improving farm management.

Its a sensible approach. Unless you know where you stand now, how can you decide what to do next?

Less clear is whether the HGCAs decision to spend £40,000 on an interactive computer CD to support the project is worthwhile.

The free CD provides a wealth of valuable information, in a novel format. But will 20,000 growers sit down at their computers to benefit from it? In the interests of efficient spending of levy funds, we hope so.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Helping to make most of your farm shop

Its time to talk shop. Yes, FARMERS WEEKLY is teaming up with a leading retail consultant to offer free farm shop advice to one lucky reader.

All youve got to do is tell us a little about your shop, as Farmlife explains. Tell us what it does well and what it doesnt do quite so well. Well make a flying visit and provide a few pointers as to possible improvements. This is, after all, an ideal time for making the most of your farm shop, with falling incomes from farming.

So whether its a few simple alterations or a major review, lets think better retailing. Lets all get talking shop.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

ITS Tims birthday, its roasting hot and theres no time to celebrate. Birthday boy is fetching in the last of the straw to be stacked and sheeted over while he waits for the combine to arrive. It looks as if that will not be here until after milking now – just as long as it gets done before the forecast storms tomorrow.

Cherry went up to her newly decorated bedroom, (fuschia pink walls and carpet) to

prepare lessons for her first official post in September, but when I put my head around the door to see if she wanted some tea, she was sleeping like a baby. Well its been a busy weekend. Vimoutiers has had its annual vide grenier/brocante a sort of French-style car boot sale without the car. For a mere 20 francs/metre you can set up a stand along the pavement and sell what you like for a day or two. The town is closed off to traffic and open to locals and tourists alike and everyones ready to bargain. Cherry was selling a pair of earrings for 2 francs (about 20p) and a chap tried to knock her down to one franc. Still, she and Abi were pleased with the contents of their little petty cash tin at the end of the weekend, and there is a little less bazaar in the attic now.

There is somewhat more of a mess elsewhere. As a family we seem to be incapable of doing anything in the house without creating havoc everywhere. For two weeks, while we did Cherrys room, all upstairs was affected and just as that was tidied we took it into our heads to change our bedroom carpet, so back to square one – everything out. Bit by bit, its going back but we have inherited a huge wardrobe out of Cherrys room,

originally from the chateau, which took four strong men and a tractor to lift in through the upstairs

window. Tim, in his wisdom, wanted to move it out of her room himself and discovered that the whole thing was held together by wooden pegs which just slipped out so he could take it all apart. Between milkings (Jacques is on hols), straw loading and carpet laying, he has

re-assembled it on the new carpet. My hero.

Beth isnt here to celebrate her Dads birthday today, shes somewhere in a

caravan headed up towards Bergen in Norway with her boyfriend Pierre and his

parents. The two of them are going to do their masters degree in English, in Norway! They opted for this northern sphere as they hoped there would be less demand, they wanted to go together, but also Beth couldnt go to England as a foreign student being English. As it is they have both got a place and it should be good experience for a year. We are hoping she will be home for Christmas.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Securing just enough straw… Winter barley straw bales are loaded in sunshine before being transported to Jeremy Flints beef unit in Lincs. Barley straw will be included in the home-grown winter ration fed to 80 pedigree purebred Charolais and Blonde dAquitaine cows and followers. This season, Mr Flint will have just enough straw even though yields are down due to higher spring cereal areas. Everything is being baled this year, including pea straw, which is normally ploughed in.

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Archive Article: 2001/08/24

24 August 2001

Theyre full of bales but, build one, and you might

not be baleful looking.

Yes, heres your chance to win £250 in this years

NFU/farmers weekly Straw Sculpture competition. The only criteria are that theyre built with safety in mind and feature a British Farm Standard tractor logo or banner (which you can get

free of charge from your regional NFU office).

Last years competition saw entries in all shapes and sizes including machines, animals, ships, petrol pumps, politicians and pigs.

In addition to the first prize, five runners-up will each get a pair of tickets to AgriVision, RASEs new event on Dec 5-6 at Stoneleigh.

So, if you fancy a bit of fun and the chance to have your creation featured in Farmlife, send a colour photo of your sculpture by

Oct 12 to Straw Sculpture Competition, farmers weekly,

Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.

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