Archive Article: 2002/06/07 - Farmers Weekly

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Winning ladies take your places… Guernseys took last weeks Interbreed Dairy Team award at the Bath and West Show, near Shepton Mallet. The team included CG Parfitts Graylands Meadowsweet 48, Lady Susan Barlows Bulkley Dimple 27, Sir Howard Guiness White Ladies Heidi 6 and his White Ladies Gillian 52. Full livestock breed and interbreed results next week.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Auctioneer Mark Elliott, of Bagshaws, in action selling 200 head of dairy cattle at the dispersal sale of the pedigree Hurdale herd of Holstein Friesians at Hurdlow Hall, near Buxton, Derbys. Mr Elliott reckons that wise breeding investments are still paying, even though the milk price is on the floor. "Bids went to 1060gns for a smart third calver, but at that the best stock will still be a wise buy."

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Willing hands from Down Under…

Finding harvest help is rarely easy. And more students want to return to their studies by mid-September. For arable farms, that leaves a shortfall during the busy six weeks of cultivations and autumn drilling.

One Suffolk arable farmer has found a way to fill the skills gap with hard-working and personable Australians and New Zealanders. Such youngsters, who are travelling the world, are happy to work long hours to finance further travel.

So successful is the venture, the farmer has established a website which puts UK farmers and students in touch. There is also a link on the site to the Home Office work permit unit for advice to ensure all appropriate legislation is followed. With more than 100 people on the books willing to work on UK farms, theres obviously strong demand.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Now a virus scare for wheat growers

After foot-and-mouth the last thing we need is another scare. But that is the threat facing UK wheat growers.

Most of our best varieties have succumbed to soil-borne wheat mosaic virus at a trial in Wiltshire. Half are unlikely to yield more than 50% of their potential.

Fortunately, the disease seems to be confined to just four sites – the others are in Kent and the Isle of Wight.

But experience with rhizomania in sugar beet shows how quickly a soil-borne crop problem can spread.

Hopefully, as with rhizo, strict hygiene and biosecurity measures will buy time for breeders to better understand the disease and create a wider choice of resistant varieties. Thankfully, the government knows about the problem and is paying for research.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Put the brakes on accidents…now

Badly maintained tractor brakes can kill. Last year, five farmers and employees were killed in tragic accidents involving vehicles with ineffective brakes, warns the Health and Safety Executive.

Runaway tractors with inadequate hand or foot brakes were mainly responsible. One of the worst accidents involved a farmer who was killed when his telehandler rolled forward to crush him against a stone wall.

So why not check your vehicles brakes today? It could be the most important thing you do all year.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Help FWschool milk campaign with poster

Are you backing our School Milk Matters Campaign? We need your help to ensure more youngsters enjoy milk regularly at school.

So, if you would like to help children build strong teeth and bones, and benefit UK dairy producers, why not request a free FARMERS WEEKLY School Milk Matters poster?

Milk is vital to the health of young Britain so lets underline its importance by proudly displaying the School Milk Matters poster. Our Farmlife Section explains how to order your copy.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Its a bunfight at the woodchip corral…

A revolution in cattle housing is taking place north of the border. Woodchip corrals are proving a successful replacement for expensive beef housing. They cost about one tenth of a conventional building and cut pneumonia risks and bedding costs.

But you cant put one just anywhere or use any old woodchips. It also pays to avoid feeding stock on them, as producers and researchers are discovering. So, if you are considering installing a woodchip corral for next winter, why not invest the time to visit a few?

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Free School Milk Matters Posters!

IF YOU are joining our School Milk Matters campaign competition (see Farmlife, May 31) and/or want to encourage more schools and parents to make milk available daily at school, then stick up our poster to help get the message across.

To get yours free, simply write or telephone stating the number of posters required, to: School Milk Matters Poster, farmers weekly, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM3 5AS.

Tel 020-8652 4911 or email

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Getting a Buzz from farm wildlife revival

Vague calls to boost farm biodiversity are almost bound to fall on deaf ears. So full marks to the latest initiative, the Buzz Project, which aims to inform farmers what they need to do to revive wildlife species lost from their land.

Fully-fledged advice will be available in three years after monitoring the results of using different Countryside Steward- ship options on a range of farms.

But eventually this dial a habitat service could help to translate vague talk about biodiversity into action on UK farms.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Continuing our coverage

of the Beef 2002 event,

Jeremy Hunt and

Richard Allison report

the latest views on

using sexed semen,

woodchip corrals and

profitable heifer beef

WOODCHIP corral management is still a learning experience with early on-farm results indicating that woodchips are too small on many corrals.

SAC adviser Seamus Donnelly told producers that woodchip corrals are proving popular for over wintering beef cattle. "More than 450 have already been constructed in Scotland, with many more in the planning stage."

The reason for their popularity is the many benefits they offer, including reduced straw costs, low labour requirement, land being released for cropping and few cattle health problems. In addition, woodchip corrals cost up to 10 times less to install than buildings.

"To ensure their success, adequate planning and selecting the correct site are crucial. Be nosy and dont be afraid to seek advice from producers already operating corrals.

One common mistake is overstocking the corral and placing extra pressure on the system. Ideally, allow 15m sq (160ft sq) for cows and 6-8m sq (65-85ft sq) for stores, said Mr Donnelly.

However, Dumfries and Galloway producer Nigel Forster told FW that he believes stocking rates should be lower than recommended by the college. Also make sure the feed area is as large as possible and keep the area open to allow wind and sun to dry out the chips.

Mr Forster has two pairs of corrals for overwintering spring-born suckler calves on his unit near New Luce. "Cows are dried off and housed in cubicles.

"We are still learning how to manage corrals. We decided to feed animals in the corral, but there was a build-up of dung within 3m (10ft) of the feed trough. Woodchips became compressed and will need to be dug out and renewed this summer."

To overcome this problem, chips will be scraped back on the bottom side of each pair of corrals, so calves will be fed on the hardcore area and walk through a gate to the woodchip area.

Using the correct size chips is also crucial for its function, said Mr Donnelly. "Current chipping machines produce pieces which are too small for stock to trample dung through the top 2-3in into the digestion area below."

To solve this, Stranraer-based producer and contractor John McIntosh has imported a Chunky Chipper from Finland. "The machine is fitted with a special blade to produce larger chips, which are more than 3in in diameter. Many neighbouring producers are queuing up for the chunkier chips." He also plans to install more corrals on his unit, eventually keeping more than 1500 suckler cows on them.

Frost is another problem as the corral and animals can become dirty, said Mr Donnelly. "One solution is to turn animals onto a paddock because the hard ground will not become poached.

"It can be tempting to construct a corral in a quarry, but this should be avoided as the water table can rise with water flowing up through rock fissures."

Despite all this knowledge, we need more feedback on how corrals are performing. Research is also needed to determine the best shape and size and whether rubber can replace wood, he added.

The Chunky Chipper produces larger fist-size woodchips which are ideal for corrals, says Seamus Donnelly.

&#8226 Use larger woodchips.

&#8226 Ensure sufficient area.

&#8226 Avoid feeding on chips.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Latest addition to New Hollands large square baler range is this BB950 model which is intended for the small-scale contractor and medium to large grower. Slotting in above the BB940, the BB950 inherits the same heavy-duty bottom frame and feeding system as the vanguard BB960 machine. Base price for the baler, which produces a 120cm x 70cm bale, is £58,817.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

Well done for milk campaign

Congratulations on your campaign to reintroduce free school milk (Opinion, May 24). It is important that children have a required daily intake of calcium. Drinking milk is the healthiest and most natural way of providing this supplement and is essential to a childs diet.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats in the National Assemblys partnership government have successfully won the backing of assembly members to introduce free school milk up to seven years of age. As a party we are committed to extending it to older children.

Welsh Liberal Democrats also believe that the government must take a lead to make sure local food is supplied to schools, hospitals and other public institutions.

I wish you every success in your campaign.

Mick Bates

Welsh Liberal Democrats, 3 Park Street, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Powys.

Can we learn from the US?

I was interested to read the article by your Europe editor, Philip Clarke, in which he attacked President Bush and the US government (Business, May 24).

Not only did the US save us from the previous attempt to create a united Europe by Adolph Hitler and his fascist chums, but it also saved us from the catastrophe of communism during the Cold War.

If President Bush decides to put American farmers and American business before other nations, who are we to complain, for surely that is, and should be, his prime concern?

If only our Prime Minister and his socialists did the same then perhaps we would not be drowning in this economic quagmire. Our crazy system of allowing the rest of the world to dump cheap and inferior produce onto our market place, resulting in the bankruptcy of our businesses and the loss of irreplaceable British jobs, is lunacy of the first order. We need a British leader, of the same calibre as Mr Bush, who will put the health of the British economy and the interests of its citizens before all others.

Dick Lindley

Birkwood Farm, Altofts.

The plight of our pensions

They tell us there are too many farmers, they tell us there is too much money being spent on the rural economy – but then we do have a uniquely urban-minded government so that is understandable. But its decision to renege on a manifesto promise and refuse to set up a farmers retirement scheme is too much.

It used to be that farmers depended on the value of the stock, machinery and, in the case of landowning farmers, the property and the land itself, to give them a pension fund on retirement. That doesnt apply any more because of this seemingly endless rural recession – you either sell your fields for a housing estate or you leave the countryside with nothing to live on.

Profits from farming have been lower than the amount the law says you need to live on for several years, so the notion that farmers should have been paying into a pension fund out their incomes is total nonsense. So when the election came round the party in power, and all other parties looking for the rural vote, agreed something would have to be done. Now DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett has confirmed in a parliamentary written answer that there are no plans to introduce a farmers retirement scheme.

Not so funny when you come up to retirement with next to nothing to show for a lifes work. I think she needs reminding that her own parliamentary pension fund is the only one still carrying a growth guarantee.

Sue Doughty

7 Malvern Close, Woodley, Berks.

F&M:Not long enough stay…

On passing through the disinfect/cleanse procedure at our local cattle market, I questioned the DEFRA official as to what precautions would be taken with World Cup fans returning to England from an area of recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.

After consulting with colleagues he returned to say that, in their opinion, England would not be there long enough to pick up any infection.

Trevor Mills

Stanton-by-Dale, Derbyshire.

No more fizz from French

If Harve Gaynard, Frances new interim farm minister, says he is not changing his position in the importation of British beef, then we must ban the consumption of champagne and French wine until he does!

Mrs J M Bourne

Digby House Farm, Digby Fen, Billinghay, Lincoln.

Imports are our problem

The future of farming in the UK is beset with one serious problem – imports.

The quantity of imports arriving in this country is devaluing our own produce, not just food but all manufactured items including cars and coal.

These low-cost, subsidised imports are not only pulling down the prices of home-produced food, the fuel used by aircraft, ships and lorries to transport it is causing major environmental problems.

Unless the volume of imports is reduced greatly, the environment will continue to suffer.

Martin Baul

The Cottage, Raventofts Farm, Bishop Thornton, Harrogate, N Yorks.

Pig waste feed risk fears

Is there a farmer near you or somebody in your village who feeds waste food from the local pub, school or restaurant to a few pigs? If there is, are you prepared to report them?

Highly regulated and registered swill feeders were made the scapegoats for foot-and-mouth disease and were forced out of business without compensation. What has happened to the waste that they were recycling to a very high standard? Has it gone to landfill sites where F&M infected meat is being picked over by vermin and carrion birds with the potential return disease to UK farms? Or is this waste going underground and being fed to pigs in your neighbourhood? Is it only a matter of time before F&M disease or swine fever pops up again, perhaps next door to you?

Robert Persey

Upcott Farm, Broadhembury, Honiton, Devon.

Productivity is real issue

Your correspondent David Evans (Letters, May 17) invites me to respond to David Richardsons fears (May 3) about removing milk quotas and calls for a reasoned debate on CAP reform.

All attempts to support dairy farming in the post-war period have failed to prevent a steady decline in the number of dairy farms. Declining farm numbers is the inevitable response to increasing productivity. Unless farmers are calling for an end – indeed a reversal – of productivity growth, they must accept the inevitability of fewer farmers within the Community. What makes milk quotas so invidious is that not only do they actually increase milk production costs, but they also hold back the more efficient producers who could easily expand production and in so doing reduce unit costs.

What, in effect, Mr Richardsons thinking amounts to is the expectation that the taxpayer should fund growing inefficiency. That is, farmings productivity growth should come to an end, while the rest of the economy will continue to depend on productivity growth for their rising living standards. In such a world, farm incomes could only be kept in line by ever larger handouts from the taxpayer. There is no prospect of this happening.

I heard similar arguments to Mr Richardsons made by potato farmers before the removal of their quotas. To my mind we now have a more efficient potato sector that is market-focused and doing as well, if not better, than when quotas existed. I am not advocating that milk quotas, indeed farm support, should be removed overnight. But current levels of support are unsustainable and it would be better for all concerned to plan against an announced phasing out of support over, say, 10 or so years.

Finally, your correspondent G Crisp (Letters, May 17) seems to think that I am unaware that he and his fellow farmers have been supporting consumers by enabling the average household food bill to fall. In fact that reduction is due to productivity growth – in all sectors of the economy, not just farming.

If farm support was phased out households would not only continue to benefit from the reduced cost of food, but also they would enjoy the additional benefit of not having to fund direct payments.

Sean Rickard

Hard hitting action needed

How infuriating it was to read David Richardson saying he was fed up with being polite (Opinion, May 24). What planet has he been on?

May I remind him that post-BSE crisis 1996, many livestock farmers took action by blocking ports and picketing supermarket depots to highlight their plight.

But the hardest hitting action was the combined farmers and hauliers fuel protest. That struck at the heart of the economy. Above all, it has public support and sympathy.

Waving banners in front of smug politicians at shows would be far too little, too late.

Graham Ingham

18 Church Road, Kirkby Mallory, Leicester.

Wissington – weakest link

I recently went to British Sugars post campaign meeting for Wissington growers and was surprised more growers did not support the meeting.

On returning home I asked a number why they had not gone, and I was told that British Sugar had a monopoly and therefore it was a waste of time turning up.

The meeting was very informed and showed that British Sugar had put a great deal of time and money into solving the problems at Wissington, albeit that the further investment of more than £2m was still no guarantee that the factory could work at greater than 50% output throughout the campaign.

British Sugars parent ABF is looking at an operating profit for 24 weeks ending Mar 2, 2002 of £179m, up 13% on the same period last year. Many growers on the other hand are struggling to break even. Cå°oping with a factory that cannot work consistently at greater than 50% capacity this coming season, will be serious for British Sugar but a total disaster for many farmers.

The meeting placed great emphasis on risk. The risk being thrust upon the farmers, is not the risk of growing the crop, but the risk that British Sugar cannot process it efficiently.

We were also shown a series of graphs depicting amino nitrogen changes in the newer varieties; and different amino nitrogen levels at the different factories throughout the campaign. But the most worrying graph was the one comparing the different factory efficiency levels. It didnt show Wissington the worst affected, but Newark.

Wissington has always suffered a disproportionate amount of problems compared with other smaller factories. Perhaps there should be a graph depicting the management of factories?

Wissington, in the eyes of the grower, you are the weakest link.

Charlie Ward

Newton and Ward, Mill House, Love Lane, Sporle, Kings Lynn, Norfolk.

Bill fits needs of 21st century

Your report referring to government proposals for an Animal Rights Bill (News, May 17) has no basis in fact. This is a false interpretation by one Sunday journalist that seems to have been copied by others without any attempt to check with DEFRA whether this was true. This is how myths are established.

The government proposal, announced in February, is to modernise the 1911 Protection of Animals Act by merging 11 other dated pieces of animal welfare legislation into one new Bill fit for the needs of the 21st century. This proposal has attracted more than 200 responses by organisations and more than 2000 from the public with overwhelming support for the principle of a new Bill.

A new Bill does of course offer the possibility of including some new measures and we have been consulting on that. A wide range of suggestions has come forward, none of them relating to a Bill of Rights. An example is the possibility of closing some loopholes in the 1911 Act where some people, banned for life from keeping animals following cruelty convictions, have found ways around the ban. I do not believe there is anyone who would object to taking action on this.

In this country we are rightly proud that we give high priority to animal welfare. Legislation for farm animals has in fact left protection for domestic animals behind. This is a once in a generation opportunity for a major review and I make no apology for doing so.

Elliot Morley

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, DEFRA,

Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London.

&#8226 Two articles on this subject appeared in farmers weekly in recent weeks (News, May 17 and 24), neither of which were based on comments made by a Sunday journalist. DEFRAs views were incorporated in both stories; in the article of May 17 they took up almost half the copy. We also reported what the opposition and other key opinion formers were saying and consulted with many others including a DEFRA vet – EDITOR.

Come clean on TB, DEFRA

I am sure Martin Hancoxs letter "Cows are cause of bovine TB" (May 10) will produce some replies from farmers. I would also like to hear DEFRAs views.

If, as Mr Hancox says, it is and has been a bovine problem all along, shouldnt DEFRA be prepared to come clean?

A great deal of cash, which has been provided by us, should be accounted for. The badger issue has gone on for years. But has gassing in setts, or the policy of trapping and shooting, got us anywhere?

No one seems to know, and DEFRA refuses to have open meetings to enable farmers to ask for information.

How much longer can this go on, not just the cash issue, but the worry to farmers? They must live in fear. But if, as Mr Hancox says, the cause is cattle-to-cattle transmission, DEFRA should comment.

I would also like to know how near we are to a cattle vaccine and how do you arrive at a cost of £35,000 for each TB badger?

Pamela Dean

Brynella, Field Road, Whiteshill, Nr Stroud, Glos.

Bring back the young to farm

I endorse the Prince of Wales recent call for a way to develop a retirement scheme to allow older farmers to retire. The Princes comments confirm the findings of a survey carried out by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Farming and Rural Business Group that 40% of farmers do not have anyone to succeed them.

The survey revealed that continuing erosion of capital, falling profits and the lack of sustainable diversification, compounded by the adverse effect of foot-and-mouth, have presented the industry as an unattractive career for the younger farmer. Where there are young people in the family, most do not see a future in farming even if they have been in higher education involving agricultural subjects.

Those who were originally enthusiastic to continue with the family farm are often the younger people many of whom became disillusioned in their mid-20s and 30s and have now left the farming sector.

At present, where no retirement scheme exists, older farmers are tempted to hold on to their farm business at the expense of those in the family willing to take hold of the reins.

As the Prince rightly says, a way must be found to resolve the succession issue.

Aubrey Davies

Chairman, Farming & Rural Business Group, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Moorgate Place, London.

NFU left us high and dry

How much longer must dairy farmers wait for some accountability from the final board of the MMB, whose performance has proved to have been weak and incompetent?

Why did the NFU turn democracy on its head to support the introduction of a milk marketing concept on Nov 1, 1994? It has destroyed every grain of stability developed over the previous 60 years and left milk producers high and dry.

A E Durston

Middle Farm, West Horrington, Wells, Somerset.

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Archive Article: 2002/06/07

7 June 2002

CAMBRIDGE members and their husbands met at Deborah Tophams delightful home for their May meeting to take a guided walk through the ancient woodland nearby. Our guide, Peter Reynolds, gained a degree in horticulture in 2001 and did his thesis on the woods at Kingston and what he doesnt know about the plants found there isnt worth knowing.

Evidence of ancient woodland indicators was pointed out to us, such as Midland hawthorn, yellow archangel, wood anemones and oxslips.

The 49ha (121 acres) of woodland probably dates back 4000 years to the Neolithic age; by the 13th century coppicing had become a sophisticated management scheme. Areas of the wood were cut in rotation about every 10 years to produce crops of ash, field maple, hazel and thorns for fuel and many other uses. Standard oaks were grown for building construction and boundary ditches and banks were fenced to keep out livestock which would damage the young growth of coppiced underwood. As these Saxon mounds were being explained almost on cue some deer came out across the ley. Unfortunately they are doing rather a lot of damage to the vegetation.

We waded through meadowsweet which will grow from its present three inches off the ground to waist height, to see some orchids before heading back along an wide pathway named Whiteladies Ride.

Since the 19th century there has been a famous shoot here and we were met by a very aggressive pheasant nicknamed Henry, who obviously did not appreciate people walking on his patch!

The 17th century botanist John Ray visited these woods as did many of the botanists of his time as they walked along the Porters Way, the old green road leading from Cambridge to Gamlingay.

Over the last two years 275 species of flowering plant have been recorded in Kingston Woods including six species of orchid.

At the end of this inspiring evening walk we enjoyed refreshments and the usual chat and laughter associated with a FWC meeting.

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