5 March 1999

Deadline for dip disposal is set & no guidance

By Jeremy Hunt

ENVIRONMENT Agency staff have admitted that amendments may have to be made to new regulations concerning disposal of used sheep dip.

But any changes being considered will not alter the existing time-scale of applications. Producers must abide by the current guidelines and apply for a dip disposal licence by Mar 31, or face a ban on dip disposal until an inspection has been undertaken, says the EA.

Although all producers who intend to dispose of sheep dip on their land have only three weeks to apply for disposal authorisation, FARMERS WEEKLY was unable to obtain detailed guidance notes on the complicated seven-page application form.

Stewart Mounsey, of the EAs water quality planning section in Penrith, told FW: "There are some draft guidance notes available on groundwater regulations, however I am unable to forward you a copy until they have been finalised by the Department of the Environment Transport and Regions."

One of the most contentious issues concerns temporary storage of dip in slurry systems. The new regulations presently deem such an action as contaminating the entire contents of the store with used dip. Subsequently, the larger volume of material would attract higher disposal fees and incur the top rate annual charge.

Sheep producers at a meeting near Appleby, Cumbria, called on the EA to give its field staff powers of discretion where a slurry system was considered the most effective method of disposal on holdings.

EA officer Ian Warner admitted that the matter was being discussed at a high level. "We can only pass on farmers comments. This whole process of groundwater regulations involves a single form to authorise all activities whether industrial or agricultural.

"We are coming across issues that had not been thought of by the policy makers. These are being fed up the line and hopefully the right message will come back to us.

"But the guidance we have been given on the interpretation of these regulations is that if you put your spent dip in a slurry system you may attract the higher charges."

Most producers will fall into the small volume category of dip disposal which enforces an initial £84 licence fee plus an annual charge yet to be announced but likely to be about £100. The small volume category refers to spreading up to 5000 litres (1100gal) up to six times a year.

The large volume charge covering rates higher than the above have been set at £589 for the licence. The annual charge has still to be fixed but will reflect toxicity of the material, actual volume and area spread. Mobile dippers may fall into this bracket.

When EA staff met farmers to explain the new regulations they recognised that some fine tuning may have to be undertaken. But completed authorisation forms and fees must be presented to the EA by the end of the month.

Rodney Bacon, regional NFU senior policy advisor, said the union was trying to get dip disposal fees reduced. "We have already achieved recognition for disposal of up to 500 gallons of dip and introduction of lower fees – last year that facility did not exist. But we are still unhappy that the EA is suggesting an annual £100 fee."

DIP DISPOSAL

* No detailed guidance.

* Concern over some rules.

* Annual £100 fee dispute.

DIPDISPOSAL

&#8226 Groundwater protection.

&#8226 No detailed guidance.

&#8226 Concern over some rules.

Pig veggie menu wrong

PIGS are not vegetarians and treating them as such needs careful rationing to ensure diets meet their nutritional needs.

Speakers at last weeks Nutec pig conference in Sutton Coldfield (see p45) told delegates that bowing to consumer and retail pressure to increase levels of vegetable proteins in pig diets may be against producers interests.

Peter Brooks of the University of Plymouths Seale Hayne campus stressed that pigs are omnivores. "Turning them into vegetarians is unethical and inefficient."

Fish and meat processing residues are quality proteins which pigs can efficiently turn into an even higher quality protein, he said.

"UK producers are at risk of being left behind by the rest of world which is unlikely to stop using meat and bonemeal in diets.

"BSE will not be around forever and we cannot afford to be putting this valuable resource into landfill," he told the conference.

Prof Brooks also called for a change in attitude of producers and feed manufacturers to use of liquid waste products in pig diets.

Retailer Iceland has confirmed that it is to look at sourcing animals produced on vegetarian diets. The report, in Supermarketing, follows its pledge to avoid GMOs in its own brand food.

Ad-lib wheat straw and Brazilian soya at £114/t is providing a low cost supplement for grass silage for the 240 spring-calving sucklers at Stephen Whitefords Bridge Farm, Addington, Bucks. Cows receive 10kg grass silage and 0.5kg soya/head/day plus straw, but in future an extra 0.5kg soya/head/day may replace silage as a cheaper feed for dry cows. Calving, which started with heifers last week, should be completed by late April.

Cattle data plea…

BETTER co-operation could help cut the proliferation of cattle data recording and processing schemes.

Robin Turner, chief executive of NMR told last weeks Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers conference in Malvern, Worcs, that integration of cattle data and records would be beneficial.

"In a few months time, BCMS is to charge up to £10 a head to register cattle, NMR requires £10 to performance record, while breed societies need a further £10 to register an animal. There are three groups competing for money and at 20p/litre it is unsustainable."

Dorset dairy producer Guy Trehane agreed: "We need to cut duplicated costs. Why cant we run NMR and our breed society together like the Dutch have done? The RABDF needs to give a strong commercial push towards that."

But Mr Turner said a one-stop shop for cattle recording would be mooted soon, with cattle being recorded only once and relevant information sent where needed. "This would help cut the burden of administrative bureaucracy, which will increase; we have got to manage and exploit information, which means better use of technology."

Co-ordinating information was a powerful tool, and one supermarkets used to their advantage. "Producer clubs and loyalty cards are harvesting information from naive users which is being used for massive commercial gain. Beef producer clubs are a gift to retailers, meaning they can apply pressure where they identify a weak link to cut costs.

"Producers should regard information as a farm asset with real value rather than giving it away. Processing that data is easy, it is absorbing and applying it to produce milk more cheaply that is difficult," added Mr Turner.

Cheap diet for sheep

GRASS conserved as hay or silage is increasingly expensive and sheep producers should consider excluding it from rations in favour of straw and concentrates.

SAC sheep specialist John Vipond says that this advice has come about through running some least cost sheep diets using the Feedbyte computer programme.

"The answers were coming up without any inclusion of hay or silage which clearly would have led to acidosis problems. But it has set us thinking and it may be time for a radical rethink on sheep diets," says Dr Vipond.

He advises looking for new ways to increase margins. Grazed grass is 10 times cheaper than hay in cost/MJ and all the expensive machinery associated with hay and silage making could be eliminated.

"The aim should be 1000 lambs finished for every full-time labour unit. That can be achieved by simpler systems which rely on high clover swards, no chemical fertiliser, an organic system, no conserved grass, no heavy tractors and machinery, no silage pits to renew, and straw as the fodder base for winter feed," says Dr Vipond.

Many hill farms could improve returns by a move to spring calving cows and May lambing ewes. That would suit high clover swards which should be capable of finishing the lambs off grass.

p specialist John Vipond says this advice has come about through running some least cost sheep diets using the Feedbyte computer programme.

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He advises looking for new ways to increase margins. Grazed grass is 10 times cheaper than hay in cost/MJ and all the expensive machinery associated with hay and silage making could be eliminated.

"The aim should be 1000 lambs finished for every full-time labour unit. That can be achieved by simpler systems which rely on high clover swards, no chemical fertiliser, an organic system, no conserved grass, no heavy tractors and machinery, no silage pits to renew, and straw as the fodder base for winter feed," says Dr Vipond.

Many hill farms could improve returns by a move to spring calving cows and May lambing ewes. That would suit high clover swards which should be capable of finishing the lambs off grass.