Archive Article: 2001/10/26 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Champion beet grower Tim Stokes of Wyndmere Farm, Royston, Herts, (second left) receives his £1000 prize, trophy and certificate in the farmers weekly Sugar Beet Grower Challenge from Craig Chisholm of sponsor Du Pont. The judges, which included Simon Fisher of British Sugar (back left), 2000 winner Mark Ireland (back right) and FW arable editor Charles Abel (right), were impressed with his keen desire to improve the crops performance. Runners-up were David Saltmarsh of Trinity Hall Farm, Newmarket, Suffolk, (left) and Alistair Wright of Church Farm, Stalham, Norfolk (not present).

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Lifting Desiree potatoes at Russell Smith Farms College Farm, Duxford, Cambs. Over 8cm (3.7in) of rain last weekend halted harvesting until Wednesday. Despite the wet weather, UK lifting is ahead of last year, with only parts of the south-east and East Anglia in danger of losing some spuds if it continues raining. Prices remain unaffected averaging just over £80/t, says the BPC.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Free DEFRAguide to help the confused

Earlier this week, a regional DEFRA official telephoned the office of farmers weekly to ask how often we publish our magazine. Every week, we told him.

To help this puzzled individual and his scientist colleagues, who cannot tell the difference between the brains of cattle and sheep, FW and our website FWi are providing a free guide (see p85 and We hope our handy hints will help them distinguish between the key farm animal and plant species commonly found in the British countryside.

But why not give DEFRA a helping hand yourself and post or fax our guide to its regional offices throughout the country? The department obviously needs all the help it can get.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Lets shout louder than the knockers

What do animal welfare groups, supermarkets and so-called food safety experts have in common? They are excellent at getting their messages across to government.

All too often that seems to result in extra, often ill-thought out legislation and codes of practice for an already overburdened industry.

British farmers produce to some of the highest welfare and quality standards in the world. So lets tell more people about farmings achievements. If not we could remain victim to other peoples agendas.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Howkins & Harrisons auctioneer Stuart Long found straw a big draw at Ron Wyatts retirement sale at Populars Farm, Barton-in-the-Beans, Warks, last Saturday (Oct 20). A stack of 76 round barley straw bales attracted strong bidding making £14 each, while hay bales made about £17 each. Small bales of barley straw sold for £1.30 apiece.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Danger lurks beneath farmings surface

Farms can be dangerous places. Despite the industrys urban image of providing fresh air and plenty of healthy, physical exercise, farming continues to top the league for injuries and death.

Now there is the increasing threat of occupational asthma which affects up to 300,000 people a year in farming and ancillary industries, warns the Health and Safety Executive. The campaign to cut the incidence of this debilitating condition deserves full support.

During these difficult times, when minds can become distracted by bank balances, its even more important to put health and safety advice into practice.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Veg pests dont like

a whiff of garlic

Garlic is likely to be in extra demand to ward off vampires, ghosts and other nasties this Halloween. But who would have thought it could ward off pests of vegetable farming too?

As the approved use of organo-phosphate insecticides in brassicas draws to a close, growers are turning to a novel garlic preparation instead. In field tests it offers comparable control and retailers like the idea.

But, while it awaits approval from the Pesticides Safety Directorate, the product can be used only as a nutrient. The granting of full approval should receive top priority to ensure growers are not prevented from controlling pests next season.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Vital to contain threat of rising rhizo disease

Rhizomania disease can devastate sugar beet yields. So, despite this years jump in new cases, it is imperative that the containment policy continues.

The 69 new cases are no surprise since late drilling and wet weather favour the disease. But they are no reason to end the successful policy of containment that has kept the disease to just 1% of the beet area.

That is in stark contrast to countries with no such policy, which are riddled with the disease.

DEFRA may want to curtail monitoring costs. But it is a small price to pay to preserve the efficiency of British beet production. Everything should be done to ensure government continues supporting the efforts of growers and the industry to contain this damaging disease.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Finding out what our farming youth wants

Are young people being lured away from the countryside by the cities bright lights and rich pickings? Or are they as determined as ever to forge careers in farming and the ancillary industries?

FARMERS WEEKLY wants to find the answer. We want to separate the fact from the fiction. We want our Next Generation Survey to be the most comprehensive look ever at the work and career plans of the under-30s in rural areas.

We hope youll take part by spending a few minutes answering the simple questions in Farmlife.

Doing so could win you a cash prize, itll be a chance to have your voice heard and, rest assured, well use the results to fight on behalf of the countrysides next generation.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

OLYMPIAN Jasper, said to be one of the only two bulls in the world to combine type scores above 2 and a PIN of more than £40, has been added to Cogents stud.

He is a Jabot son, out of the Spibys Dixie family, with a 93% reliability production proof of £50 PLI and £41 PIN, says the company.

Jasper is said to have an 81% reliability type proof of 2.06 for type merit, 2.38 for legs and feet and 2.01 for mammary system.

According to Cogent geneticist Marco Winters, Jasper is one of the most complete dairy bulls in the business and can be used to produce long-lasting productive cows.

Semen is available at £11/straw (0800-7837258, fax 01244-620373).

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

ONE of the many good things about our annual farm inventions competition is that it spans all types of farming. So we are as likely to receive a picture and details of a cider apple harvester as a new piece of cultivation kit.

Vegetable production, in particular, seems to yield a crop of new inventions each year and the lettuce planter featured this month is a good example of the ingenuity of one person who has taken an existing off-the-shelf design and improved on it to a dramatic extent.

This month we also turn our attention to ways of combating the seemingly unstoppable rise in thefts from farms, particularly of small, high-value items like ATVs, chainsaws and power tools. An interesting new way of marking kit has been introduced in Sussex that provides an invisible and permanent record of the owner. So far it is limited to the county but the hope is that it will spread to the rest of the country.

Finally we look at a high-power 1/2in impact wrench from Universal Air Tools that could be just the ticket for those looking for a piece of equipment to speed up maintenance and repair chores in the farm workshop.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Lunacy of unnecessary imports

I am old-fashioned enough to grow runner beans and usually have to give some away. Many allotment owners nearby produce rather more. One weekend recently I found Zambian and Kenyan runner beans in two local supermarkets.

British farming was doing badly even before foot-and-mouth and that sort of lunacy helps to explain why. Impoverished countries have their best land used to grow crops for western consumption in the name of cheap, convenient food and wide consumer choice. If they had the money and infrastructure to support western surpluses, that might not matter; needless to say, they have neither. Worse still, these surpluses are going to waste, as shown by the US Freedom to Farm fiasco.

Supermarkets and consumers may point the finger at each other, but both should do more to change this unforgivable situation. The Think Global, Buy Local brigade have a point, at least when it comes to food.

Iain Climie

4 Charlcot, Whitchurch, Hants.

Country of origin is a priority

Your headline "Country of origin low priority for shoppers" (News, Oct 5) tells only part of the story. True, only 3% of those questioned in the Food Standards Agency survey cited country of origin as one of the most important factors when they purchase food. But to the same question only 5% of consumers deemed brand name important while clearly, when it comes to purchasing, a large proportion buy on brand.

Perhaps more revealing is that in the same survey when asked: "How important is it when you buy food that it is produced in the UK," nearly 60% said it was very or fairly important. An even higher percentage wanted their meat products produced at home.

A detailed understanding of such factors, and an incisive and professional analysis of survey results, whether our own or other organisations, is vital to our industry if we are to market ourselves successfully.

Our Little Red Tractor is still only a logo and it is crucial at this stage that substantial funding is found to develop the brand that the logo represents. When that is done, it is clear that country of origin, along with environment and welfare concerns, are central messages the brand must convey.

David Holman

Burton Overy Grange, Burton Overy, Leics.

Origin does not assure quality

I was interested to read the comments made by the NFU about the Little Red Tractor symbol and the question of whether country of origin is important to customers (News, Oct 5). I was under the impression that the Little Red Tractor had never been intended as a symbol of the country of origin, merely of a nebulous British farm standard, and is open to producers of other countries.

I assumed that under single market rules it is not possible to use country of origin as a symbol of quality. In other words, the NFU could not have chosen to use the Union Jack as a symbol even if it had wanted to. Is that correct?

Dr Helen Szamuely

Director, Honest Food,

Beckett stunt a no-brainer

After a short spell in hospital I thought it might be useful to pass on to farmers the benefits of my experience. Although traumatic, it was revealing.

As a result of £bns spent on the National Health Service, the hospital was able to conduct impressive diagnostic tests. These ranged from a simple, old-fashioned electro cardiogram test to ultrasonic investigations and impressive 22nd century nuclear radiology tests.

All failed to reveal any faults, apart from the head scan which failed to detect the presence of a brain. That did not alarm the hospital staff. On being told I was farmer they were unruffled. Apparently a certain Mrs Beckett had contacted hospitals. She told them that after many years of being subsidy junkies, farmers brain cells have gradually dripped away.

I am glad to say I am now out of hospital, perfectly content to know what is wrong with me. It is not the weather, Europe or American globalisation. Being brainless I can carry on producing food for Mrs Beckett ever more cheaply. The scan also revealed a tongue in my cheek.

Jack Caley

Glebe House, East Newton, Aldbrough, Hull.

Tractor limits will hit poorest

EU plans to limit the number of hours farmers are allowed to use tractors confirms our worst suspicions that those running this so-called superstate are indeed completely mad.

The effect of this crazy directive (Machinery, Oct 12) will be to reduce the total amount of food produced, at a time when a large percentage of the worlds population is teetering on the brink of starvation. It may not matter to the fat cats in Brussels that they are effectively condemning the poorest peoples of the world to an even leaner diet. But to the starving it is a matter of life or death.

Now would be an excellent time for Britain to leave the EU. We should return power to our own elected politicians, under the sovereignty of our own dear Queen, and wave goodbye to these idiotic and insane directives foisted on us by unelected and unelectable foreign bureaucrats.

Dick Lindley

Birkwood Farm, Altofts, Normanton, West Yorks.

Being a danger to yourself

I suppose if we colonials here in the Antipodes borrow an idea from Mother England we may be looked upon as cunning thieves. Thank you for your account (Livestock, Sept 21) about the silly prices paid for round bale feeders and their uses.

The idea of filling the base with soil, plus compost in my case, is brilliant. I now have one of our feeders set up in the vegetable garden with a couple of happy looking pumpkins in the middle. They can spread at will out of the sides as they grow. I also have planted some scarlet runner beans around the perimeter ready to climb up the dividing rails for a trellis. A marvellous set up.

The article is also right about farmer madness at auctions. Reality and common sense appear to go out of the window so often. We have a saying in New Zealand: "The most dangerous animal in a saleyard is a farmer with too much grass. He is more of a danger to himself and his bank account than anyone else. This disease is endemic worldwide.

Gerald Gunther

Spring Terrace Farm, Wallacetown, 4RD, Invercargill, New Zealand.

Telehandler design tips

It is good to read that telescopic handlers are being improved, even though they still lag behind the standards of comfort and ease of use expected by most ploughmen (Machinery, Oct 12).

What craziness led to the design of cabs too small for easy of stowing a coat let alone a bait bag and flask or a bucket of tools and the dog? Carrying a spade and a fork is often a struggle. A pick-up hitch is great, but where do I strap a can of diesel and a tool box?

The search for improved visibility has greatly increased stability and safety. How often is a low cab height needed? An independently supported cab which could be raised 2ft would help most users. It would also keep the operator cooler as it would be further away from the engine.

However high I am stacking and loading materials, I do not want the sun directly on my head for 12 hours a day. Roof lights can be too large, as in the JCB 532-120.

A digger driver lifts up his rear window to improve visibility. Why can I not do the same on a forklift when visibility is equally critical? There is too much fixed glass. Recently, I sweated buckets wearing just shorts in a JCB 520-50 despite removing the door. That is a pity because it is a very manoeuvrable little machine.

While working a 16m Manitou inside a building I was acutely aware that the fork carriage on most telescopics could do with redesigning to bring it more into the machine so that it does not protrude so far.

Could I also please have windscreen wipers that shed water from where I am looking.

I can buy a bale grab to clamp round bales, so why can I not control pallet tine width from the cab? Continual jumping out of the cab to change or reset tine width is hardly economic. Colleagues can vouch for the effect on my temper.

John W Morgan

13 Balaclava Road, Fishponds, Bristol.

Paper reinforces need for inquiry

A recent paper published by Alan Richardson, a former senior MAFF vet who worked through the 1967-68 foot-and-mouth epidemic and left retirement to help in Cumbria, adds weight to your campaign for a public inquiry. It shows how the benign influence of the EU is responsible for changing the recommendations of the Northumberland Report because of various directives.

Mr Richardson concludes: "It is not enough for the government to claim it has eradicated the disease by October 2001, as if that were the sole criterion of success. The cost has been enormous, the waste has been enormous and the suffering, both animal and human, has been enormous. Much of it was unnecessary. It is hoped that those charged with inquiring into the various aspects of the 2001 epidemic will not shrink from challenging their terms of reference which will almost certainly be couched so as to preclude criticism of the MAFF/DEFRA mandarins who have been responsible for this catastrophe."

The full text of this report is available on and is well worth reading.

John S Pearson

Adderstone Mains, Belford, Northumberland.

A lesson for Mr Morley

Your readers may be interested to know I recently received a telephone call from Mr Elliot Morleys constituency office, advising me that the Phillips report on BSE had exonerated organo phosphorous chemicals as the cause.

Mr Morley is now better informed since I faxed him the scientific data on cruformate plus an entry from Blacks Veterinary Dictionary 1973. I am indebted to the Royal Society of Chemistry and the New Jersey Department of Health for their assistance.

Brenda Sutcliffe

Sheep Bank Farm, Littleborough, Lancs.

Inquiry support of little use

While supporting the principle of your campaign for a full public inquiry into foot-and-mouth, I have reservations as to its real value.

We had a full and open inquiry after the 1967-68 outbreak. After much work, the results confirmed the basic requirements of immediate slaughter, disposal and the rapid deployment of the army. When the present outbreak began almost all farmers knew what was needed but relied, unfortunately, on a castrated and ineffective MAFF. The department seemed to remember nothing of the earlier outbreak. All we heard within 10 days was the minister and the chief vet saying complacently that it was under control.

None of the earlier public inquiry recommendations was, in fact, implemented until the damage was almost irreparable. It was not until electoral needs became the priority that the necessary actions were taken and we gained the upper hand over the disease.

How often do we hear in the media calls for similar inquiries, judicial reviews and legislative changes? Yet sensible people know that whatever it is will happen again.

Whether it is F&M, train crashes or child murders, we know that within a short time the authorities will manage to create circumstances which lead to a recurrence. Although the generation involved usually learns its lessons, the advantage of hindsight is lost. Either the authorities lose interest or the new generation of bureaucrats are unprepared to accept that previous generations might have anything to teach them. So they begin again from scratch.

If the government, against its wishes, allows another inquiry, the results be largely forgotten. Because government is besotted with the implementation of, and is encumbered by, euro law – nothing that should be done will, or could, be done next time.

Perhaps the only effective remedies, despite official resistance at government and NFU level, would be to prepare for vaccination and stop the import of illegal food products. The irresponsibility of the present arrangements at border control points verges on criminal negligence. Pressure against that scandalous situation would be of more long-term value than yet another inquiry into F&M.

Nick Adames

Chessels Farm, Flansham, Bognor, Sussex.

Action plan for organic area

The Organic Targets Campaign is as concerned as Mr Paske with "the idea that the production comes first and the market comes later" for the organic sector (News, Oct 5). That is why the campaign suggests an action plan must be developed for the organic sector so that infrastructure and marketing barriers are addressed before a major expansion in organic production takes place.

NFU vice-president Michael Paske also suggested that organic targets have led to the "huge disaster" of surpluses in some countries. However, the campaign believes there is an alternative explanation in Denmark.

In terms of eggs, the Danish organic organisation explains that a major supermarket caused the surplus by changing from a large supplier (who subsequently ended up with a surplus) to a smaller new supplier who therefore had to increase its production.

In milk Mr Paske suggests targets caused over-production. In fact, it was caused by a food manufacturer wanting to protect its dominant market position by encouraging more farmers to convert to organic milk production. It offered higher conversion payments to farmers so that it could supply the growing market. That led to a surplus.

Finally, the Danes believe that there may be under-supply of organic pork next year. That is a complex area and apparent surpluses in organic produce cannot simply be blamed on targets. A growing body of opinion believes that an organic action plan with a target is one of the few lights on a gloomy horizon for farming.

Catherine Fookes

Organic Targets Campaign co-ordinator, C/o Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, 94 White Lion St, London.

Maturity key to maize harvest

Mr Schofield questions why "researchers continue to advocate cob maturity as the crucial factor in deciding when to harvest maize" (Letters, Oct 5). The answer is simple: The research evidence is indisputable.

In MDC-funded studies at CEDAR, Hudson maize harvested at 32-34% dry matter had over 30% starch compared with 11% in earlier harvested material. Metabolisable energy contents, measured with dairy cows, were unaffected by harvest date. The more mature crop ensiled well and stimulated feed intake at the rate of plus 2kg dry matter/day. Milk yield was plus 3.5 litres/day with a 10% increase in milk protein yield compared with the earlier harvested crop. Similar work funded by MAFF and agribusinesses confirmed these responses with beef cattle.

What Mr Schofield fails to say is that forage maize is grown for its starch content and that is found only in the cob, the last part of the plant to mature. Cutting early ends cob development, resulting in reduced starch contents. Early cut crops ensile well but will only marginally outperform wet grass silage, with all its associated intake problems. At 32-34% DM, clamp consolidation of maize is not a problem and aerobic spoilage does not occur until crops approach 40%. Hard grains are not a problem either as most harvesters have grain crackers, resulting in no reduction in ME content of the crop, while maximising ME yield/acre.

But his assertions that earlier harvested materials promote a more balanced energy supply to the rumen cause most concern. That is not true. CEDARs evidence is clear, as published in three research papers in Animal Science last year and contained in an MDC fact sheet.

I concede the 2000 maize harvest was difficult and being able to harvest a less mature crop is always to be preferred to harvesting no crop at all. But to recommend harvesting of green, wet maize will do little to enhance the value of maize compared with what can be achieved with careful management at the time of harvest.

For those in doubt, remember the true value of maize is in the cob and balance the research evidence with the weather before getting the contractors in.

David Beever

CEDAR director, Dept of Agriculture, University of Reading.

Welfare support is invaluable

Thank you everyone who has given support to Control of Fireworks for Animal Welfare. At least 15,000 signatures have been collected so far. Please continue to support us by sending a letter to your MP and the RSPCA.

Only by everyone protesting together can we make a difference to the lives of our animals. For copies of letters to send please post an SAE to the address below. Please state if you need all the information on COFFAW.

Helen Andrew

67 Gardiner Street, Market Harborough, Leics.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

WEANER housing boxes made from recycled lorry containers are proving a popular, cost effective means of expanding or updating flat-deck housing for weaner pigs.

Two recycled container weaner boxes were recently installed at Harper Adams University College farm, says Alan Stewart, who manages the 110-sow pig unit. "They were about half the cost of putting up a new flat deck building."

The aluminium-clad walls of the converted container are well insulated and coated with fibreglass on the inside to eliminate crevices and allow easy cleaning. Floors are slatted with a built-in 0.5m (1.5ft) deep tank underneath to hold slurry.

Boxes have electric heating and adequate ventilation systems, including windows, to allow air temperature and ventilation rates to be controlled automatically, adds Mr Stewart.

Each unit is normally available with two rooms providing space for up to 100 weaner pigs and they are easily installed on top of concrete blocks. They only require connection for water and electricity.

The boxes installed at the college were designed with seven pens holding about seven pigs each, which is ideal for trial work, explains Mr Stewart.

Have you a tip that could save time or money to share with fellow dairy, sheep, beef or pig producers?

If so, write a brief description and send it to Livestock Tips at farmers weekly, Quadrant House, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5AS, and you could receive £50, if it is printed in this column.

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Archive Article: 2001/10/26

26 October 2001

Lynx Engineerings range of Lynxpaka packers for use with power harrows and power harrow drill combinations now employ a new type of tyre. The new Otico packer tyre incorporates three steel braids moulded into the carcass which run around the tyre shoulder and central tread. This is claimed to result in a stronger build which prevents individual tyres losing shape as they soften at the higher temperatures generated by faster operation. Price of packers employing the new tyres remains the same as last year – £2190 for a 3m version and £2610 for the 4m.

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