Archive Article: 2001/12/28 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2001/12/28

28 December 2001

A versatile verge mower and hedgecutter suitable for compact tractors up to 40hp, is how Reco describes this ZME machine which can be operated in an in-line or offset position. In 1.25m and 1.55m cutting widths, the flailhead can be hydraulically rotated through 140deg. Cutting is performed by Y-shaped hardened steel flails, while height can be set by an adjustable rear roller. Equipped with a mechanical breakaway device, the ZME machine is priced from £2650.

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Archive Article: 2001/12/28

28 December 2001

Four new engines are now available from Kawasaki – the 21hp FH721V and 25hp FH721V twin cylinder engines designed for use in a broad range of applications, and the twin cylinder, liquid-cooled FD711 and the FD750 which offer 25hp and 27hp outputs respectively. The introduction of these new engines is said to be part of a plan by Kawasaki to strengthen its position in the UK engine market.

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Archive Article: 2001/12/28

28 December 2001

Still no let-up in flow of new inventions

After 11 years of running the UKs foremost farm inventions competition, you could be forgiven for expecting us to report that FARMERS WEEKLY readers might be running out of ideas.

Not a bit of it. Despite foot-and-mouth, a largely unsympathetic government and farm prices that refuse to rise, Britains farm workshops are still alive with the sounds of truly ingenious metal-bashing.

Congratulations to the nine excellent winners of this years competition. The inventions spanned everything from an automatic lubricating system for tractor pick-up hooks to a swivelling slurry stirrer. And look out for next years competition, which will start in August.

Wanted:Listed types for spring cropping

Despite the surge in spring cropping last season, only four of the 15 new varieties in the recently issued UK Recommended Lists for 2002 are spring crops.

The government, egged on by conservationists, wants to see more spring cropping to encourage farmers to leave over-winter stubbles.

And the prospect of a wider selection of good new spring varieties would have done more to turn DEFRAs hopes into reality.

But plant breeding, particularly in the absence of GM techniques, is a long-term business. Proof that once again quick-fix solutions are rare in farming.

Welcome breakthrough on dairy rations front

At last, a new dairy rationing system for UK producers. For many years, our dairy industry has limped along relying on a flawed ration model.

A model which was years behind that available to our US and French competitors.

But from next month UK dairy producers will have access to low-cost ration programmes. All credit to them for funding a major part of its development through the milk levy.

Would it have been much cheaper to adapt an existing ration model to UK conditions? We will soon find out.

Few will regret the passing of 2001

For many 2001 will be a year to forget. Depressed by the horrors of foot-and-mouth, incomes continued to bump along the bottom of a deep trough.

Sheep and beef prices were put under the cosh after the disease erupted. Pig prices were also hit hard.

Cereal and other crop prices have improved, but poor yields mean few growers are better off. Dairy was the brightest spot, with milk prices rising significantly, though much of the gain was eroded by higher input costs.

But what does 2002 hold? For a glimpse of the future, turn to our Business Section.

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Archive Article: 2001/12/28

28 December 2001

The k is here to stay, like it or not…

Few subjects fill our post-bag as quickly as letters about the k.

Love it or loathe it, the new notes and coins will hit the streets of Europe next week, raising questions about the UKs continued isolation.

Many issues are at stake. On the plus side, joining the k would lead to reduced borrowing charges, greater price transparency, cheaper farm inputs and reduced business transaction costs.

But joining now would lock us in at an unfavourable exchange rate. It would also deny us the right to set our own interest rates.

Of course, there are risks involved. But, once the exchange rate improves, FW believes they are risks worth taking. Our number one market is Europe and we should aim to be at the heart of it.

Is that the postman coming?

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Archive Article: 2001/12/28

28 December 2001

Sheeparoos would have pouches

John Yeomans (Livestock, Nov 23) wishes to breed his sheep with four ears to take all the required tags. It might solve his problem if he crossed his sheep with kangaroos. Then, they would have a pouch in which to keep all their details. Of course, he may need to increase the height of his fences.

Ian Crisp

The Cottage, Green End, Weston, Hitchin, Herts.

WI supports F&M inquiry

May I congratulate you on your achievement in collecting all those signatures in support of a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth and the high quality of your reporting.

I would like you to know the Womens Institutive is also lending its support. We too have collected hundreds of signatures, from all over the country, and sent them off to the Prime Minister. More will follow to Sir Don Curry.

We are todays women for tomorrows world and feel strongly that nothing less than a full public inquiry will do, especially with the appalling fiasco of the cows brains turning into sheep. It beggars belief.

Keep up the good work. I am a livestock farmers wife of 42 years and avid WI supporter.

Mrs Julia Portus

President Goxhill WI, New Green Farm, Eastmarch Road, Goxhill, Barrow on Humber, Lincs.

Hunting silence speaks volumes

The decision to lift many of the restrictions imposed by DEFRA, as a result of foot-and-mouth is one that has to be welcomed throughout the rural community.

Those now in government constantly tell us that things are going to be back to normal in the countryside. But that seems to depend on the activities themselves or more notably, the people who practise them. Shooting, fishing, riding, walking, biking are all taking place across farmland.

Hunting, which is an intricate part of the rural fabric, was voluntarily suspended in February and has remained so. The governments reluctance to come to a decision regarding the resumption of hunting is seen by some in the rural community as sinister at best and, at worst, uncaring and incompetent.

A veterinary risk assessment was completed in September and passed to DEFRA.

The time that has elapsed in publishing the report and the silence from the minister of state is sending a loud message to us, not only of incompetence but of intolerance and victimisation.

With the absence of the call-out service for victims of lamb-worrying provided by hunts last spring, increasing pressure is being felt by upland sheep farmers who are already experiencing untold welfare problems due to restrictions. It is imperative that hunting is resumed in its entirety and as soon as possible so that a massive predatation problem is not allowed to become another setback in breeding replacement flock next spring.

It would be a pleasant change to see the government department which supposedly has our interests at heart to allow us who live and derive our living from the countryside the same rights as those seek recreation in it.

Mrs Kate Nicholson

Huntmans Bungalow, Nook Lane, Ambleside, Cumbria.

Cut seed cost first, BS…

I see Karl Carter from British Sugar wants growers to cut costs by 20% (Arable, Oct 26). As seed is the biggest single cost, I hope Mr Carter can assure growers that British Sugar, as the monopoly supplier of seed, will cut the cost of their seed to growers next year by 20%.

Martin Casswell

Springthorpe Grange, Gainsborough, Lincs.

Thats the point of vaccination

I heard Ben Gill of the National Farmers Union commenting on the BBC Radio 4 programme You and Yours. He said regarding vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease: "You have to be careful when you vaccinate that some are not already infected." Surely that is true of all vaccination programmes? That is precisely why the medical profession cannot understand the logic being applied to the control of F&M.

Smallpox, the scourge of the human race for centuries has been eradicated from the world by vaccination. In India the World Health Organisation ring vaccinated whenever there was an outbreak. Of course, in that ring there could have been someone incubating the virus. But, the symptoms of the disease would be seen in a short time. Also, the chances of this are so small – 1 in 100,000 – that it does not matter because as you ring vaccinate out with these sparse cases, the ratios grow bigger and bigger.

Mr Gill finished by saying the government had not spent enough on research into vaccines. But it has 5m doses of the Type O vaccine on standby. He omitted to say that he was asked by Tony Blair to support vaccination but he declined on two occasions, saying it would set farmer against farmer, according to my MP who was present.

F Wakefield

Parlour Farm, Bilsby, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Tractor brakes need upgrading

With the ever increasing size of farm trailers, up to 14t or more, and the higher speeds of tractors, now is the time to consider improving tractor brakes. On long downhill runs, with continual use the inboard brakes over-heat. Sometimes they seize with catastrophic results.

Outboard disc brakes, as on the Fastrac, would not heat up and provide better braking. Tractors of over 100hp should be fitted with exhaust brakes to ease the load on the conventional brake system.

E R Edwards

Felton Court, Felton, Herefordshire.

Surveyors are urging caution

We note that another leading firm of chartered surveyors has recently issued a publication in which it advises farmers to give the renewal of their countryside stewardship schemes "careful consideration". The article does not highlight a major loophole in the renewal contracts which should certainly form part of any such consideration.

Farmers agreeing to renew their contracts this year will find that the standard agreement bars them from preventing informal access. This can accrue prescriptive public rights of way over time, so owners will lose capital value and tenants will probably be in breach of their tenancy agreements if they comply with the stewardship terms.

On behalf of FPDSavills clients, I have discussed this matter at length with DEFRA which has agreed to modify the wording of the standard renewals as from next year to prevent any damage to landowners or farmers interests.

On a separate point, farmers seeking to encourage regeneration of heathland or extensive downland through countryside stewardship schemes should be made aware that by doing so they are probably qualifying the land as access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 or right to roam.

David Pardoe

FPDSavills, Rolfes House, 60 Milford Street, Salisbury.

Imprisoned by tied property

Are you affected by the dreaded agricultural occupancy condition? I was not aware it could be such a burden. The tie has literally stopped us from moving house, owing to the limited sector we are allowed to sell to.

Essex is renowned for being one of the most buoyant counties in the property market and houses with land, with quick access to the M25 and A12, totally unoverlooked, and adjoining bridlepaths are usually snapped up. Although we meet all the criteria we have only had two viewers in more than six months of advertising locally and nationally, through leading land, farm and equestrian estate agents.

According to DEFRA, no other country in the EU has put such stipulations on their farmers. Will we ever receive fair treatment? Farmers are the only people in the country who are told who they can and who they cannot sell their houses to. And that is victimisation at its highest level. Furthermore, the tie devalues the property by one-third on average.

I doubt if any agricultural worker on a wage reflecting his position could ever afford to purchase a tied farm in Essex even with it being devalued by one-third. That is, of course, if he could find a mortgage lender.

Farmers of tied properties have lost their rights of freedom to liberty. Mr Blair is fighting on behalf of Americas freedom to liberty, perhaps he could spare a thought for his own farmers.

I would welcome hearing from anyone who feels imprisoned on their farm owing to an agricultural occupancy condition.

Mrs T Buck

Saddlers Farm, Beads Hall Lane, Pilgrims Hatch, Brentwood, Essex.

HGCAwould, wouldnt it?

Chief executive of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority, Paul Bisco, would say (Letters, Nov 16) the HGCA does good work for farmers, wouldnt he? However, the truth is that monies taken from farmers by the HGCA, are taken under false pretences, and should be stopped by law.

The HGCA does produce benefit for others, but not for farmers. In 1947, when I started farming, wheat without subsidy was £21/t and a reasonable yield was 1.26t, per acre (0.51t/ha). Also, at that time, the equivalent of a 65g Mars bar was 1.78p. Therefore, an acre of wheat was worth 1.26 x 2100 divided by 1.78 = 1486 Mars bars.

Today, 3.8t/acre (9.4t/ha) again without subsidies, year on year, is worth £65/t, and a 65g Mars bar is 32p. 3.8 x 65 = £247 x 100 divided by 32p = 772, less 1.7% because the imperial ton was 2240lbs, against a metric tonne of 2200 lbs. In real terms, my returns have almost halved.

The HGCA helps the end users, but because higher yields can only weaken a saturated market, it cannot possibly help primary producers.

George Scales

Scales Farms Ltd, Cobblers Pieces, Abbess Roding, Ongar, Essex.

Wheres our fresh milk gone

I note your comments about the relative values of Coca Cola and full cream fresh milk and agree with the points you make (Opinion, Nov 23). You cannot buy fresh milk unless you accept that fresh means less than two months old and having gone through four or more manufacturing processes in the meantime.

Full cream means less than 4% cream or butterfat and first having had all the fat or cream taken out and then some of it put back. Milk, if it still is milk, tastes like tap water whereas there is some taste in Coke.

P Dransfield

North Yorkshire House, Main Street, Great Heck, Nr Goole.

Cabbage origin well hidden

The other day I was in Tesco in Helston, Cornwall, when, for quickness, I decided to buy a pack of cabbage, which looked lovely and fresh. At home I opened the pack to prepare and wash it for that days lunch. What a disappointment awaited.

The outside of the pack contained what it had appeared to contain, but tucked carefully in the middle was a stalk.

I emphasise stalk because that was what it mostly was; a heavy stalk, with a few about-to-rot leaves which showed it was from a different type of cabbage than that displayed on the package.

I looked on the outside of the plastic packaging to see if it might bear the name of a farm. No. A packing station? No. The label simply said it was British.

What angered me, however, was the fact that I knew that the packaging may have been done on the farm the product was grown on or a packing station near the farm.

Someone had thought it a good idea to try to pull one of the oldest tricks in the book which is likely to turn the consumer against the farming community. But we need the trust of the public now more than ever before.

Tess Nash

Venton Vean, Mawgan, Nr Helston, Cornwall.

Contiguous cull was needless

Research carried out by a team at Imperial College and by Prof Mark Woolhouse, Edinburgh University, into the handling of foot-and-mouth has apparently arrived at the conclusion that the contiguous cull policy should have been implemented sooner because fewer animals would have had to be slaughtered.

That conclusion is highly dubious. Thousands of farmers needlessly lost their livestock through the contiguous cull policy. There are many cases when a farm was cited as being an infected premise, which in turn affected up to a dozen other farms, only to have test results return as negative.

A positive test result for F&M is available in just a few hours. Therefore, the contiguous cull policy is unnecessary and sinister. Government scientists know the true picture of virus transmission and of rapid testing procedures.

It is interesting to read the responses of officials from the NFU and Farmers Union of Wales who are applauding themselves for having advocated what is now seen to be the right method of eradicating the virus. Perhaps it is worth noting the drastic measures that were adopted caused the early demise of millions of susceptible, healthy farm animals and, in many cases, the loss of treasured family pets. Some rare breeds are on the brink of extinction, livelihoods have been devastated and our countryside was desecrated.

This research is claimed to be independent. How can it be referred to as independent when it has been undertaken by the same institutions that advised the government at the beginning of the outbreak? That is the Imperial College team of Profs Ferguson, Anderson and Dr Donnelly, plus the University of Edinburghs Prof Mark Woolhouse.

Ms Janet Hughes

Laurels Cottage, Churchstoke, Montgomery, Powys.

Signposting must be good

Here in France all farms, hamlets and communities are signposted. It must be a good thing for the essential services to find you.

David Hoskyns

Telling a sheep from a cow

The extraordinary mix-up in which DEFRA scientists could not tell a sheep from a cow (Opinion and News, Nov 16) reminds me of a story told to me by the headmaster of a primary school in Dorset many years ago.

The county education authority, in its wisdom, decided that five- and six-year-olds should be given a simple test. They were shown about 15 drawings and asked to identify them. The early ones were simple, the last few a little more difficult. The headmaster showed the pictures to each pupil separately. The first picture was of a horse, the second a sheep.

It was to the headmasters surprise that his star six-year old pupil, a farmers son called Ben hesitated when shown the picture of the sheep. The headmaster expressed surprise and urged his pupil to say something. Only after much persuasion came Bens reply: "If its ears were longer and a little more pointed, Id say it was a Border Leicester"

Ben was so nearly written off by the authorities for not knowing a sheep from a cow. What a failure? We know for whom hed be working now.

D W Barke,

The Old Rectory, Nunton, Salisbury.

Is urban mind understood?

Having chosen not to pursue a career in farming 40 years ago, but coming from a rural background, I have remained a reader of farmers weekly for more than 45 years.

The present economic situation in the countryside is of great concern to many who, like me, live in a town. After foot-and-mouth, there are to be several inquiries and a great deal of debate and, therefore, posturing by those involved.

One theme that regularly features through these columns is that the urban voter does not understand the countryside. That may be true, but does the countryside understand the urban mind? If not, a great deal is at stake and a lot more will be lost.

The BSE, salmonella, F&M, right to roam, hunting and decline of the rural infrastructure are issues that should have been addressed within the countryside before they become a truly national embarrassment.

In town, we see the countryside as in receipt of vast amounts of state funds in subsidies and tax advantages over many decades, which have failed to deliver cheap and safe food that we would like to buy.

Recent events have shown the dependence on tourists and yet we have not been welcomed and embraced as visitors as befits our economic importance.

Over the past two decades many of us lost state support for our industry and with it our jobs. Agriculture is seen as the last bastion of the nanny state mentality. The still feudal structure of land tenure restricts change, but change there will be.

So focus on customers, get involved with your NFU, CLA and other associations and co-operatives. Stop moaning about the supermarkets, government, MAFF, DEFRA and the public.

Colin M Grant

Celea House, Nursling Street, Nursling, Southampton.

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Archive Article: 2001/12/28

28 December 2001

Vaccination debate continues apace

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate. That key question about the foot-and-mouth crisis has plagued the livestock industry for the past 10 months.

Only one aspect of the discussion seems to win general agreement. Vaccination is likely to feature in the control of any future F&M epidemic.

There have been good arguments for and against vaccination over the months. Some of the problems associated with the technique have already been resolved and we hope more will be.

Its essential this debate continues next year, so an agreement on how best to use vaccination can be reached before any further outbreaks.

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