Take me to your breeder: This giant turkey and his more edible friends were spotted near junction 15 of the M40. The big bird was attracting attention to
a hoarding advertising Kelly Bronze Turkeys from Heart of England Farmers.
Joint skills deliver top quality Cumbrian beef
Top quality suckled beef from Cumbria, produced when the market wants it. Thats the aim of a bold new scheme to cut supply chain costs and boost farm-gate prices.
Up to 10,000 cattle a year, produced to a tight specification on 50 farms, will be delivered direct to processors according to a strict timetable.
Surprisingly, its the brainchild of two potential rivals – deadweight marketing co-op Meadow Quality and local auctioneer Penrith Farmers and Kidds.
But, by combining their skills, they have made the tricky task of stock selection, production and marketing to a tight specification all the more possible.
Such co-operation, which should benefit producer, marketer and processor alike, could help the UK livestock sector put 2001 well and truly behind it. We wish it well.
Why equipment check makes festive sense
Holiday may not be an apt description of Christmas for livestock producers. Coping with housed animals, temperamental machinery and frost-bite can take the fun out of the festive season.
After all, theres no one to fix the automatic scraper system or mend the generator or feeder wagon. The rest of the world is on holiday.
So as Christmas and New Year approaches, why not take a few minutes to check essential equipment, lag water pipes and order key supplies.
Then perhaps the festivities will not be marred by mishaps and the turkey can be eaten in peace.
Farm engineering axe is severe body blow
News that Writtle College has axed its degree and HND courses in agricultural engineering is another body blow to the UK machinery industry.
Despite an 8% rise in total student numbers at the college, the popularity of engineering courses has continued to drop.
But UK agricultural engineering needs new blood if it is to remain as innovative and competitive as our European counterparts.
Other sectors of the industry are also short of high calibre recruits. Perhaps training agencies could co-operate more with machinery rings to supply labour through their extensive database of members?
Reassuring words on GMbeet volunteers
Do we worry too much about genetically modified crop volunteers?
Reassurance came this season in the form of field-scale sugar beet trials. Despite GM volunteers, from an earlier trial crop tolerant to the same total herbicide, they proved no problem to control.
Volunteers and weeds were sprayed off with a mix of total and selective herbicides, applied at lower rates and later than usual.
That meant less risk of environmental damage and more plant cover for wildlife food and shelter in early spring. Lets not forget what benefits GM science could deliver – given half a chance.
Barometer growers learn tough lessons
After such a tough year most producers would rather forget 2001. But at least coping with the most challenging drilling and growing conditions in living memory provided valuable pointers for the future.
FARMERS WEEKLY barometer farmers were quick to learn the lessons of 2001. Find out how they battled with flood and storm to harvest tolerable yields and quality on page 53.
Also, dont miss their insights into arable cropping in 2002 in our special report next week.
FWcompetition cash only part of story
Heres a happy £101,000 Christmas from FARMERS WEEKLY and our web-site FWi to all our readers.
But that figure is only part of the total value our competitions have delivered to UK farming over the past year.
Even more important are the technical, business and health and safety tips we have passed on to farmers throughout the country. Who can put a value on those?
So why not try your hand at one of our competitions next year? The chances of success are far better than the national lottery or the football pools.
And when it comes to learning the lessons they teach, everyone can be a winner.
CIRENCESTER has a magnificent parish church and at the beginning of advent more than 200 people flocked there for what has become our annual FWC carol service.
They came from as far away as Lincolnshire and Herefordshire, it was a joy to hear the singing and listen to Farm Womens Club members read the lessons to remind us what Christmas is really about.
In the true spirit of Christmas, the parishioners and local FWC members made us all very welcome and after the service there was a chance for the congregation to meet and chat to one another and to the Farmlife team of Tessa Gates, Tim Relf and myself. It never ceases to amaze me what arrangements are made at these national gatherings – meetings spring up all over the place, spreading the goodwill and friendship of Farm Womens Club throughout the country.
Those who had time to linger must have enjoyed their visit to the capital of the Cotswolds. There is so much to see there, I am sure many will return to visit in the spring.
Wed, Jan 9, 12 noon. Meet at Barbara Tickners home, Frilsham for planning meeting and lunch. Please bring ideas, cutlery and subscriptions. Contact Hilda Gore (01488-685348).
Wed, Jan 9, 12 noon. Meet at New College Farm for contribution lunch and a swim. Contact Marion (01366-501390).
Tue, Jan 8, 10.30am. Meet at White Post Farm, Farnsfield for agm. No need to reply, just turn up with ideas. Coffee and lunch available.
WE ARE keeping our fingers crossed that the French air traffic controllers are not going out on strike again because Beth is flying home from Norway for Christmas tomorrow. She has already missed some of the fun – she always likes to go with her Dad to man the phones at the French Telethon, a little like the British Comic Relief idea where all sorts of activities are organised and sponsored to collect money for children in need. Tims job was converting the francs offered into ks, a very good way of picking up the new system. I regret not doing that myself, but I was at the local mairie serving cider and orange to the cyclists making one of their many stops on their circuit, so many in fact the vision of them wobbling their way down to town or dashing behind a nearby tree kept me smiling all day, my own comic relief.
Weve had the Christmas dinner organised by the Lions in the local retirement home, and weve had our end of session rocknroll "do" in Le Country Club which has a cowhide bar front. Cherry was in on that one, suitably impressed by her Mum and Dads progress since September. Our big advantage there is knowing the words, it sort of compensated for what was lacking in the footwork – but give us time.
Of course the rocknroll night was just a warm-up for the marathon to come. I, along with 18 other ladies, abandoned husband and family for a girls night out at a discotheque. With ages ranging from the teens (two daughters) to – dare I say it, the late 40s – there were some of us extremely gratified to be jigging about in mostly subdued lighting, but it was all good fun and I crawled into bed as Tim was washing up for milking. It wasnt only the lighting that was subdued the next day, and all this at the beginning of December.
All the girls will be home to help Tim find a tree in the wood and to go carol-singing at Michael and Marys. It is funny how they like tradition and we wouldnt have it any other way.
We have a large pumpkin sitting in the corner of the kitchen waiting for Yvette to come tomorrow morning (she cleans for me one morning a week). She makes a wonderful creamy, peppery pumpkin soup and, as we will have a houseful for 10 days, I thought it would make a tasty starter one night – it freezes extremely well.
Everyone has been hoping that the restrictions on what food can be brought into France following foot-and-mouth would be lifted before Christmas. It is such a long time since we tasted bacon and British beef and pork sausages, and Christmas wouldnt be right without Stilton cheese and some tasty cheddar and pickles. With Marks and Spencer in Paris closing down we wont have a second option.
Never mind, as the French teenagers and some not so young were singing in the discotheque the other night -"We will survive" and have a Merry Christmas.
Good ideas can pay £50
Ever had an idea which makes a farm task much easier or quicker? In a new Tip of the Week series, farmers weeklys machinery section is seeking out those practical ideas which can save time and money.
It could be a new, cleaner way to fill a grease gun, an easier way of changing a tine on a cultivator or finding new uses for old tyres…
Whatever tip you have for the industry, we want to hear from you. And for every tip published we offer £50.
Please send your ideas to: Tip of the Week, farmers weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS. No correspondence will be entered into and the editors decision is final.
53 years on and still no change
While looking for something in our attic, I came across some pages from a 53-year-old copy of farmers weekly in the bottom of a packing case. The pages fell apart with age when I moved them, but one piece may be of interest.
It was the answers to a survey asking the role of a farmers wife. "Farmers wives should provide help, tea, sympathy, equanimity-in-emergency, children, glamour, sex and meals at all times."
On showing this to my wife Barbara, her only remark was: "Just goes to show mens thinking hasnt changed in the past 53 years."
23 Saxons Close, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.
From democracy to tyranny
We appear to be living in a country that is experiencing a metamorphosis from our cherished form of democracy into the most deceptive form of tyranny imaginable. If the government succeeds in bringing forth a Bill that will empower officials to enter anyones property to destroy their animals at will, it will be an attack on our fundamental rights and freedoms. Everyone should write to their MP to voice their protest at this outrageous attempt to destroy our human rights in this country.
It is widely known that the hideous contiguous cull of farm animals during the foot-and-mouth outbreak was completely unnecessary, and also that the firebreak policy was unlawful. Now, however, there is an indecent forcing through of a Bill that will take away any vestage of rights that farmers have to prevent trespass on their property and destruction of their healthy animals. Not only will farm animals be at risk but all animals, including pet dogs and cats. We shall all be at risk of trespass by government officials.
This act of terrorism in our own country by our own government is nothing short of evil. This despotic regime must be removed and our freedom regained.
Ms Janet Hughes
Laurels Cottage, Churchstoke, Montgomery, Powys.
Explanation for BSE unsound
BSE seems to stand for bungled scientific explanations. The epidemic was said to have built up over many years before the mid-1980s. Yet no evidence from vets, farmers or tissue samples has been produced.
The increase of BSE after the meatmeal ban was blamed on the continued illegal use of meatmeal by some farmers. Yet cases in every county in England, Scotland and Wales peaked at the same time. Although cows eat communally, most herds suffered only a few cases. Proof of the possible is not evidence of the inevitable. Not a single farm pig caught BSE.
If scientists can study prions for four years and not realise that they are not sheep prions but cows prions, is it not safe to say there are prion specialists but not prion experts?
9 Manor Farm Close, Oakington, Cambridge.
Brain mix-up no mistake…
Further to your articles regarding DEFRAs mistakes regarding cow and sheep brains (Opinion and News, Oct 26). It is my belief this waste of time and taxpayers money on DEFRAs part was not a mistake.
Look at the facts. Someone somewhere was collecting brains either at an over-30-month-scheme slaughterhouse or knacker as no cows are killed elsewhere. These brains would be put in a container and labelled to differentiate them from other offal such as spinal cords. Then the containers would have been sent on a daily basis to a lab somewhere for testing, whereupon the lab technicians would have labelled the samples and so on. Because they had a fair guess they were wasting their time looking for BSE in sheep, someone swapped the labels.
What a brilliant scam to give the government a grade one excuse to dispose of the entire national sheep flock. Why not give these farmers another kicking while they are nearly dead and cant fight back?
Alas for DEFRA. Someone got cold feet and let the cat out of the bag just in time. Granted the mistake has now been made public. But think of the consequences if the facts had become known after DEFRA had disposed of all the sheep on this island?
A Neil Davies
Glyn yr Odyn, Coed Y Bryn, Llandysul, Ceredigion, Wales.
The politics of dishonest spin
After attending the Armistice service last month, I cogitated upon the words about the fallen of two world wars having given their today for ours. It does not escape my notice that we are in the midst of an era of dishonesty, deception and deceit that is too frequently described as spin.
Many old soldiers would proverbially spin in their beautifully tended war graves at the thought that they had given their lives so that some politicians should be free to feather their nests. Scotland cannot be proud of the antics of its former Assembly leader in failing to declare rental earnings. Little surprise that the Scots in Westminster seek to reduce the numbers of Assembly members before the next election. The worst aspect of the affair is that the English taxpayer must fund Mr McLeishs £34,000 annual pension.
There is no doubt in my mind that in refusing to hold a public inquiry, our Scottish Westminster Assembly leader intends the truth about his handling of foot-and-mouth disease to remain buried. The sooner the UK Rural Business Campaign presses ahead with its action to force £500m of compensation from the government the better.
Our elected leaders are too short-sighted to visualise that this country might again need to be self-sufficient in good food.
Henbank House, Haselbech, Northamptonshire.
Together we are all in farming
I enjoy reading David Richardsons comments because he portrays a realistic and balanced perspective on the farming industry in the context of the outside world. But when he focuses on organic farming, it appears to be with the view that there are two mutually exclusive clubs – conventional and organic. They are different sectors of the same industry, which may have something to learn from each other.
Farming conventions move on, adapt and change in response to advances made in different fields of development such as genetics, mechanisation and technology. There is no such thing as conventional farming as every farmer is different and will engage different strategies to suit their own particular circumstances and outlook.
Organic farmers are no different, and are willing to embrace and adapt new technologies and ideas. The fundamental difference between conventional and organic farming is in the management of resources – particularly the soil.
Management of the soil should be fundamental to the successful production of crops and livestock whichever system of farming is operated. Soil that is managed to be a living and breathing entity provides the perfect medium for productive use. But compacted, poorly drained, nutrient deficient soils are the death knell to a profitable business.
Similarly, the welfare and productivity of livestock is as much to do with management and understanding the preconditions to disease and poor performance, as it is to resorting to remedies.
For arable farmers organic management can present more problems. Successful strategies can be evolved around the use of grain legumes, set-aside, green manuring and rotation design, to fill what is, and is likely to remain, an under supplied market offering good prices and decent margins.
Why do organic farmers do this? The reasons might include deep convictions such as organic farming is more interesting and satisfying. Or that organic farming offers a potentionally lucrative alternative to conventional farming. Whatever the reason, organic farming offers consumers choice which many choose to exercise.
There is certainly scope to maintain and improve premiums paid for organic produce. I believe these can be sustained given the dynamics of the market – not withstanding foreign competition. I do not share David Richardsons pessimism about organic farming or agree to what the distinction is between organic farmers, and conventional farmers. We are all farmers together who choose to farm in different ways for our own reasons.
Chatford Farm, Bayston Hall, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
Out with all this paperwork
I write concerning your recent article (Arable, Nov 16) on grain assurance and the hectoring tone of ACCS crops director Robin Pirie. The combinable crops scheme has recently been beefed up with even more ridiculous and unnecessary questions. Now we also have to suffer annual inspections.
Mr Pirie surely realises, as do the rest of us, that ACCS is solely an exercise in paperwork. It brings few tangible benefits to anyone especially farmers who are being undercut by non-assured grain from the Baltic States.
It insists on rules that have no practical or scientific value to producer, merchant, end-user or consumer. The questions become ever more complex.
As for the assurance schemes being cheaper, I dont think so. After three years it is still beyond the schemes organisers to agree single verification for a farm in order to combine all the various schemes into one inspection that should be half the cost it is now. As for the verifiers themselves, most of them are less competent and less highly trained and qualified than the farmers they are verifying.
If Mr Pirie wants a scheme with teeth then he should go back to the drawing board and produce something short and simple. It should be a farmer-friendly scheme that will not require most of us to invent paperwork, lie to verifiers and ignore the bulk of the rules.
North Yorks farmers
Name and address supplied.
Assess if hunts affect farming
The fact that no hunting has been able to take place since February provides the ideal opportunity for the value of hunting to be properly assessed.
Before hunting resumes, research should be done into the effect the lack of hunting has had and whether there has been an increase in fox populations. It would also be helpful to know what the impact has been on farming. This is the best opportunity we will ever have to show whether hunting is necessary to control foxes or whether it can be safely banned without detriment to the livelihood of farmers.
1 Bath Road, Wells, Somerset.
Experience with stock essential
More than 50 years of working with farm livestock has taught me how dangerous it is to have people without practical experience being associated with animal welfare.
The recent BSE and foot-and-mouth fiascos have highlighted this fact. The government has imposed people, unqualified by experience, in the role of vets, scientists and supporting staff. It is those individuals who are charged with policing and administering British livestock handling and husbandry.
For anyone to oversee and be associated with jobs they cannot do themselves is fundamentally wrong. It is also cruel and destructive where livestock are involved. I have worked on farms from Scotland to southern England since giving up my own farm and producer-retailing businesses after over 40 years. So I know, from my wealth of experience, that all farm assurance schemes together with the BSE and F&M fiascos are totally false in terms of the input from government, vets and other scientists. A great many untruths and over-the-top practices, perpetuated by modern capitalism, are causing untold cruelty to genuine farmers and their livestock.
The world is becoming increasingly short of fair minded people.
36 Scalby Road, Burniston, North Yorks.
Real lowdown on lupin seed
I must write to offer balance to the opinions of those selling lupin seed. Over the past nine years I have been paid by independent funding bodies (principally DEFRA) to research and introduce lupins to UK agriculture. I would be letting down those funding bodies and UK farmers if I did not offer balanced independent advice to counter the sales talk.
Recently, we have seen sales material and quotations within articles which are misleading and dangerous. Those considering growing lupins should seek independent advice.
First, there are three different species of lupin. Even within each species there are large differences between varieties. NIAB has begun testing lupin varieties with PGRO support, but it is early days.
There is everything on sale from old and poor performing varieties to new varieties that offer excellent opportunities to produce high quality protein at low cost relative to other sources.
Site selection is vital; soils must have a pH of less than 7 in order to grow todays varieties. Heavy clays, particularly in combination with heavy rain, can produce short plants that could be difficult to harvest. Light sands can produce tall plants at risk of lodging. Most soils are intermediate in texture and height differences do not cause problems.
The addition of lupins to the list of eligible crops for AAPs in Scotland is concerning. I have done five years trials in Scotland and producing dry seed is difficult. Few varieties can achieve a seed moisture content less than 30% in Scotland, and in some seasons they may be difficult to harvest. In England AAPs are available only after the seed has fallen below 30% moisture content.
There should be only two harvesting options for lupins; harvest the seed for storage dry (15% moisture content), or harvest the seed damp (about 35% moisture content) and crimp (and treat) for storage. Harvesting the whole crop for silage is risky, as a disease called Phomopsis may be present on the stems. This fungus produces a toxin that can kill sheep and cattle. It is unclear if any current varieties are resistant to Phomopsis and if silage additives can protect animals from the toxin.
I hope no one is discouraged from growing lupins by my warning. There is no doubt that the crop has tremendous potential for UK farmers.
IACR Rothamsted, Harpenden, Herts.Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org
Rich grocers rob poor farmer
The Pay List 2001 published by The Sunday Times last month was most illuminating. It lists the earnings for the year to April of the UKs top 500 earners.
At number 38 with £10.96m, we have Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, while at number nine with a whopping £37m, we have his cousin, David, known at Lord Sainsbury of Turville, who is the governments science minister. These are the two main beneficiaries of the private Sainsbury grocery business. Both were awarded titles for their massive financial contributions to Labour Party funds. David gave £20m towards Blairs first election victory.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the scale, according to the report in The Sunday Times, we have the average British farmer earning a princely £2500 in the past year – way below the national minimum wage. "Ive never seen a poor farmer!" What a joke.
Clearly, the people who produce the nations food are being robbed by a handful of powerful monopolistic grocers who merely put that food on the counter. But since those grocers give the government millions, they are allowed to get away with it.
Clyn-yr-Ynys, Cwbert, Cardigan, Ceredigion.
More money than sense
Hardly a week passes without some mention in farmers weekly about the crisis in agriculture and rightly so. David Richardson recently highlighted the folly of driving down ex-farm prices so small-scale and inefficient farms would be driven out of business in favour of larger farms because they have better economies of scale (Oct 26). He pointed out that the larger the farm, the greater the loss. He then went on to suggest that we could see a situation where large areas of land became abandoned, as was the case in the 1930s.
In the same issue it was reported that near Rugby four local farmers slogged it out for a 90-acre block of arable land pushing the price up to £4471/acre (Land and Farms). Other farms were also reported to have sold well to commercial farmers in this and previous issues.
Those farmers must either have more confidence than Mr Richardson, or have more money than sense. Either way, so long as there are plenty of land hungry farmers who are willing to pay high prices for land, we will not see land abandoned. Neither will the public believe that agriculture is in the dire straights that we try to suggest.
Worden Farm, Bradworthy, Holsworthy, Devon.