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David Howard

15 November 1996

David Howard

David Howard has a 41ha (102-acre) all-grass farm at Clitheroe, Lancashire. He milks 40 Holstein Friesian cows, runs 40 followers, and also carries 92 February-lambing Mule ewes, and finishes 15 Limousin crosses.

ONE observation I have noticed recently in connection with BSE and beef has been the prices charged in restaurants for steak and roast beef.

The beef-related meals are top of the price range. Yet when I visit the auction mart, I see the raw product down some 30%. I do think the retail industry should do its bit by reducing the selling price. There is some profit-taking going on and I am sure it would help if the price was reduced in the retail outlets to encourage an increase in sales.

Protein is causing me a problem, although I hope only a short term one. I dont mean protein in milk but in my silage.

I usually analyse my silage every fourth row of bales and at the moment I just happen to have three or four rows of high protein silage in the stack and I cant get at the silage with a lower protein just yet.

A few of the cows have come in with tender feet and one with a thick leg all in the last few days. I must confess I knew the problem might arise and yet somehow I gambled that it wouldnt. Third cut silage has been fed at night when the cows have been going out during the day and I have used all this silage a little earlier before I changed over on to a lower protein cake.

It hasnt taken long to start to cause problems. A lower protein cake should be delivered tomorrow and hopefully everything should start to correct itself in a few days.

On the social side, the local YFC held its golden jubilee celebration in mid-October and over 200 members and former members came to the dinner dance.

Two things struck me as worthy of a mention. Firstly, the memories that came flooding back: Five former members, starting with the first chairman back in 1946 and ending with a more recent one, described each decade that each individual had belonged to the YFC and portrayed the farming, village and social life in the Ribble Valley during the last 50 years.

From hand milking to parlours, working horses to tractors, pen and paper to calculator and computers and going to social events in the next village either walking or by bike.

Secondly, also present were husbands and wives of former members who had nothing previously to do with the farming industry or the YF movement. They commented how impressed they were with the organisation and the moulding of responsible citizens able to speak in public and to put themselves over to an audience. If only we could do this nationally, maybe our farming industry would be better understood.n

David Howard noticed that cows were coming in with tender feet. The problem was caused by high protein silage feed with high protein concentrate.

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David Howard

3 May 1996

David Howard

BSE seems to have replaced the weather as the main topic of conversation in Great Britain.

Having said that, with a covering of snow on the ground here yesterday (April 13), we farmers seem to be getting everything bar the kitchen sink thrown at us. On a more cheerful note, though, I have known snow in the middle of April before and summer has always followed on.

So I wonder what will follow the BSE scare? Just what will happen to us all in the months ahead? One thing that bothers me is the distance the mass of population has gone from their rural roots.

Here in the Ribble Valley people do not have far to go before they are in contact with rural life – the realities of slaughtering animals, the rural economy and the inter-dependency on each other for a living.

Yet go 20 miles into the towns of Preston and Blackburn and the people who live there have totally different attitudes and views as to what goes on in the rural areas.

The phone-in programme on Radio Lancashire soon shows the lack of knowledge as to how cows are fed, who produces the feed and how only a handful of animal nutritionists can determine the contents of feed on any day depending on price and market availability of commodities.

I hear the head of the EU Commission on Agriculture is now saying he would confidently eat British beef. So why has it been banned? Is it being done as EU self-interest?

As for the future here at Fat Hill. At the moment there is no beef to go. Three cows are due out mid-June so what will happen to them I do not know. One thing I am going to do is to ensure better use of the quota that I have.

I am questioning buying or leasing in quota at 13p/litre after the experience this winter of feeding high quality high dry matter silage. I think there is more scope for us in getting concentrate use down even further and producing to the quota I have.

One thing I am pleased about so far this spring is the speed at which the lambs have grown. Their overall condition and size is way ahead of last year. With the spring growth still to come, I hope we should be able to start selling lambs by mid-May. &#42

David Howard is wondering what the coming months hold for farmers.

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David Howard

9 February 1996

David Howard

AT this time of year, newspapers and TV start their holiday bombardment of adverts telling us of exotic and far away places.

Thinking of some of the places I have visited over the years, the debate over which end of the day we should have the extra hour. This reminds me of a place called Geiranger in Norway which at Christmas time only gets four hours of daylight.

Yet in June, when I visited Norwegian dairy farms three years ago, I found that they get continuous daylight. I really cannot understand all the fuss that we seem to make in England on this subject.

The press tell us that farmers are said to be one of the main objectors to the extra hour in the evenings instead of mornings, but for me, lets have it in the evening. I just cannot see the point in alternating the clocks twice a year anyway. I dont suppose they will take any notice of me in the House of Commons.

The dairy inspector arrived the other day for our dairy and cattle housing inspection. A new bulk tank bung is required – this was the criticism followed by a general discussion on dairy hygiene.

In this market forced economy, the buyer will determine the hygiene standards of milk no matter how many inspections we have to undergo. If the producer is hit hard enough in his pocket, he will clean up his act to get the hygiene levels up to whatever requirements the buyer wants.

Talking of buyers, I have been rather pleased that instead of finishing my Limousins this year I decided to sell them as stores in the first week of November, mainly because I didnt think I was going to have enough silage to finish them. At the time of sale, I was well satisfied with the price. Since then we have had all the BSE publicity and both store and finished cattle are as yet markedly down in this area. Increased feed prices will also be taking effect.

Lambing time is getting near. The first lamb arrived unexpectedly yesterday, so there is a need to get the sheep sheds ready for use just in case some really bad weather appears in February. &#42

David Howard believes that the milk buyer will determine hygiene standards of milk. And that if the producer is hit hard enough in the pocket he will clean up his act to reach these hygiene requirements.

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David Howard

15 December 1995

David Howard

David Howard has a 41ha (102-acre) all-grass farm at Clitheroe, Lancashire. He milks 40 Holstein Friesian cows, and also carries 90 February-lambing Mule ewes, and finishes 15 Limousin crosses.

CHRISTMAS is coming – I dont need reminding. If there is one thing I dread, it is snow at Christmas. Living at the top of a steep hill, and on a private road as well, snow is something that I can do without.

Clearing a half mile length of road to get the milk tanker up safely takes time whichever way you do it. If the road cannot be cleared in time then I have to resort to the emergency tank.

It does save time if 10 minutes is spent at this time of year to dust this tank down after its summer sabbatical. Its hosed down and cleaned out with tank cleaner, then put into a trailer so that it is ready for use when needed. It does help to have everything ready for the morning when weather conditions catch us out.

Many experts have offered advice on how to shift milk out of a bulk tank into an emergency container and I have tried most of them over the years. I find the least complicated the most effective method. I use a couple of dairy buckets and a clothes peg to regulate the outlet bung and am in business transferring the milk easily and quickly.

My wife got into a panic the other day after reading an article about the new SAPS (Sheep Annual Premium Scheme) record book. A movement book does not substitute for a SAPS book and still has to be kept. On her shopping trip to Clitheroe, she purchased the latest record book for sheep and one for cattle, so when I have finished writing this article Id better get recording the most recent sheep movements from the traditional movement book into the new one.

Milk production here is running 2000 litres a month above last years figures, and butterfat is beginning to go over our 4.3% base so some quota will have to be leased in. Producing milk here this autumn has been easy.

I have read articles recently about problems with high dry matter silage. My first cut silage has a dry matter content of 48.1% but the cows just go mad for it. It really is some of the most appetising silage Ive ever made.

The bulling heifers and the year-olds were housed on Nov 24 so the winter routine is now in full swing.

The milk cows have been going out during the day until November 23. I have just been counting how many bales of silage are on the pad and looking at the calendar, it is 166 days to turn out – roll on. Winter is not my favourite time of year – perhaps youve already guessed. &#42

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David Howard

26 May 1995

David Howard

THE cows are dry and all stock, including the calves, is out. But I am concerned about the very low night time temperatures we are experiencing.

The silage fields are growing quite well, but pasture that has been stocked by the sheep and lambs, plus some bulling heifers, is looking over-grazed. Night frosts are also starting to stunt grass growth.

This also goes for the fields with the dry cows in. I understand dry cows should be kept on "bowling greens". Well my cows are – but quite unintentionally.

I am still offering silage bales outside and shall continue to do so for as long as the stock clear them up.

My way of farming is all about meeting deadlines. By May 10, all the cows have to be dry. They have their 60 days rest, and then start calving in the first two weeks of July.

During the next two months I expect my lambs to be fattened, with nearly all of them gone by the end of July. Silage will usually be cut in first week of June and about 1500 bales of hay will be made, as soon as the weather allows, during mid-June.

If I have done my job right we should have a couple of weeks when my wife and I can have a few days off, and this year we are going to Lake Garda in Italy.

Yes, we did go to Italy last year, and I reported how the Italians do not adhere to EU legislation. But were off to a different part of Italy this time, and if anyone is reading this in Italy – watch out. Im coming to see if you have mended your ways!

Something that I always like to give close attention to at this time of year are my tractors and all farm machinery. Good maintenance pays dividends.

Machines that are in use throughout the winter are steam cleaned and anything showing signs of wear replaced. They are then greased and sprayed with old sump oil ready for next winters use.

Tractors must have their oil replaced, with new fuel filters fitted and auto hitches adjusted. It is so annoying when machines break down during busy spells. Time spent now may save tempers during the hectic weeks ahead.

Night frosts have stunted grass growth, so David Howards dry cows are still offered big bale silage.

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