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David Maughan

18 June 1999

NEW PRODUCTS

Double blocking

IMPROVE forage use by offering two new feed blocks, says manufacturer Rumenco.

Eco Breeder Cattle is a 20% protein block with enhanced levels of minerals and trace elements, especially magnesium, making it particularly suitable for spring and autumn grazing, says the company.

Eco Grazer is a dual purpose cattle and sheep block. High levels of sugar energy and an optimum profile of degradable and un-degradable proteins help to maintain performance from mid summer onwards when grass digestibility declines, says Rumenco.

Costs are; cattle – 15-20p/animal a day, sheep – 6p/animal a day (01283-511211, fax 01283-511013).

Sticky ribbon gets stuck into flies

AVOID the unpleasant atmosphere associated with fly sprays by using sticky ribbon to kill them, says distributor of a new range of Swedish fly control products, Pharmacia & Upjohn.

Its Flyson range includes sticks, paper traps, rolls and tubes coated in a natural non-toxic resin. Flies like edges and other flies, so printing red stripes and a fly motif design on the traps helps attract them, according to the company.

The fly rolls can be hung from ceilings or walls with fly sticks being suitable for bending over the edges of window sills, ledges and shelves, it says.

Fly control products start from £1.50 (01536-276400).

New Aussie combs speed up shearing

SPEED up sheep shearing with two new combs developed in Australia and marketed by Cox, says the company.

The Super Shear In Flight (94mm wide) and Wide Flight (97mm) combs have deeper gullets and longer teeth giving better combing and a faster shear, says Cox. Extended grooves help to eliminate the build-up of grease allowing the comb to run through the fleece with less effort, giving a cleaner cut, it adds.

Both types of comb are supplied in packs of five at £12.44 a comb (01207-529000, fax 01207-529966).

Multi-strand electric gate closes easily

COVER your gateways cheaply and easily with Taragate, a multi-strand electric gate, says distributor Atlantic.

Made from permanent materials, it is compatible with all existing electric fencing systems and the multi strands are operated by one handle, says the company.

Two and four strand versions are available to suit all types of stock, and Taragates are easily closed according to the company. Gateways from 1.2m-6m (4ft-20ft) can be covered, it adds.

Prices start from £10.66 (01789-740366, fax 01789-740696).

Mike Allwood

Mike Allwood is owner-

occupier of 82ha (200-

acres) near Nantwich,

Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy

herd block calves during

May and June. Besides

converting to organic

production, he is also

planning to produce

unpasteurised cheese

FIRST cut silage was a most frustrating experience. We started cutting on Sunday May 16, after a good weather forecast for the following week.

As soon as we had finished mowing, the heavens opened and the forecast promptly changed for the worse. We spent the next week, prompted by the weatherman, stopping and starting, but it never rained again. We finally finished on Saturday May 22, many grey hairs later. We had good crops on most fields, with the heaviest on the best established clover leys.

Aftermaths have, so far, been slow to recover despite a good dose of slurry and the last two weeks have seen the milkers moving ever faster round the paddocks. They are now covering about six to eight acres a day.

We spent the spring teaching cows how to eat lots of grass and they seem to have learned rather too well, so I have reluctantly decided to buffer feed with big bale silage until cover improves over the whole farm.

Fresh calvers are receiving only 5kg of concentrates compared with the 8 or 9kg we were feeding last year. They appear to be milking well, but it is too soon to see if body condition is affected or if cows are compensating by eating extra grazed grass.

Because it is so wet, we have also brought most dry cows inside until the weather improves. They will be able to make use of the mature big-bale grass silage we made last summer, while their paddock recovers.

At the end of April, we planted nine acres of peas undersown with grass/clover, with the intention of producing some arable silage to complement wheat and grass silage. Sadly nobody told the pesky pigeons that peas are not for bird consumption and they nibbled off the shoots as they came through.

I have discovered who might be paying for the postage on our cattle passports – of which we received seven today in separate envelopes. My farm manager, Guy, telephoned to find out why one passport had not been returned and was told that from now on we must chase any unreturned passports within one month or we will be charged £50. &#42

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280 acres)

of heather moorland near

Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders. Cropping is mainly

grass with 10ha (24 acres) of

spring barley. It is stocked

with 650 breeding ewes and

95 hoggs, 30 Luing cattle

with followers and finishers

IT MUST just be coincidence, but every month as I sit down to write we are having a wet day. Maybe its happening to ease my conscience that I am not missing an opportunity to get on with some jobs outside.

We started our May lambing on May 15 and fortunately the heavy rain and winds which battered us in the early part of the month relented. It has been mainly dry, but wind and some rather cold days have retarded grass growth since.

Lambing has gone relatively well and we have only had one really bad stormy night which claimed a few casualties. We were down to 60 ewes to lamb, out of 325, after 14 days with all but a few of the hoggs lambed in this period.

Ewes and hoggs are milking well with mostly good strong lambs; on occasions lambs have been too big with a few hoggs needing some assistance.

Another problem with hoggs has been wool around the udder and certainly in another year I will belly clip, if not taking their coats off altogether before lambing.

We lamb on a set stocking basis of around five ewes an acre. Ewes were dosed into their fields on Apr 2 and will remain in them until weaning. No concentrates are fed except at tupping time and ewes were fed hay from early February until late March.

The Blackies, however, were tupped on the hill without feed and foraged for themselves until they were brought down to a lower field on Apr 9.

Lambing fields are checked four times daily, except in severe weather when I go more often. Lambs are iodined and marked at birth on a daily colour system and then rung 24 hours later.

The system certainly reduces costs greatly and with a lambing % of about 150 offers good returns. Through good grazing management, I am hoping to increase lamb sales off their mothers this year with clover rich pasture increasing.

Both our spring barley fields are undersown, one with a permanent high clover mixture and the other with a catch crop of Italian ryegrass. Hopefully, this will allow us to finish many May born lambs off grass. I am also looking into growing high protein legumes for another year. &#42

John Helliar

John Helliar has a 162ha

(400-acre) farm on the

Longleat Estate, near

Warminster, Wilts. He milks

230 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize.

1000 store lambs are put

out on winter grass keep

each October

IVE found the weather in the last month very frustrating. Silage making was delayed by more than a week.

Luckily, there was a four-day window in which the contractor was in our area, so we managed a 30-hour wilt and, by tedding it once, reduced the moisture by 10%. We then picked up 110 acres in just over a day.

Maize spraying has also been held up and the spray is still in the cans, while the nightshade is going rampant – in one field it is a complete mat.

After 2in of rain in three days we have housed 50 dry cows. The trouble is, we try to restrict grass intake to dry cows by feeding barley straw in ring feeders and, out of 20 acres, three acres is a sea of mud. Its not ideal conditions to calve cows in.

Wet weather has also affected cow dry matter intakes for the second year in a row. Milk yield from grass is down by 1.5 litres a cow compared with 1997. Cows have access to barley straw at milking times and they are eating 1kg which has helped keep milk fat up.

That is not all; we booked a digger for a week – to start when the land would be dry at the beginning of June. We now have two sites, one shed extension and the other a new bridge across the river to the new block of land, looking like the battle of Flanders. Next time Ill book the digger for February; it will be probably be drier.

The cubicle house extension is a direct result of the farm assured scheme run by our milk buyer. For many years weve had 10% more cows than cubicles. I personally have never had a problem with that, whatever time, day or night, I have never seen everyone of the cubicles in use.

At the same time we are converting our one loose housing area into cubicles as well, partly because we can house more cows in the same area. We also have more mastitis problems on straws yards, even when using extra straw and routinely cleaning out every four weeks. The cubicles in part of the shed will be portable to allow us to use it for dry cows and calving before cows are winter housed. &#42

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 172ha (425

acres) in Co.Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) of grass supports an

18-month Continental beef

system with purchased bulls

and a silage beef system

using Continental bull and

heifer calves

MAY has flown by with first cut grass silage successfully completed by May 26. This was a day or two later than we wished to conclude operations, mainly due to wet weather in mid-May delaying our start.

We also had an enforced delay between the two farms when our forager spout refused to swivel. The eventual fault was tracked down to a faulty contact breaker, deep in the electrical control box. Ingenuity provided a temporary solution when a spent match was used to close the offending circuit.

Mechanical problems apart, the silage operation proved successful with good wilting conditions. But there seems to be more dead material than usual in the base of what were heavy crops, which may compromise silage quality slightly. We decided to use an inoculant on all our clamp silage this season, as we hope to obtain improved performance from forage.

We are now in our busiest cattle selling period. Prices are firmer than a year ago, although still well behind pre-BSE values.

There has been much talk of top-down pricing by many supermarkets in May. We, like many others perhaps, have begun to doubt where closer links with the end of the retail chain, through producer clubs, is leading us. This muscle flexing on their part, in the face of a firmer market, does them little credit given the lot of producers in the last three years.

Over the last three years we have swung cattle production on the silage beef system at Denton away from bulls towards heifers. This is because we can only claim BSPS on 90 male animals. Last year we found that heifer gross margins were slightly ahead of non-subsidy bulls.

We use Continental dairy-bred heifers purchased as calves for the system. The problem that can arise with heifer production is that if you get the management wrong, you end with animals that must be sold at light weights because they can become over fat.

Last year, the average sale weight was 520kg. The sale weights for this season have lifted to over 550kg with little sign of over fatness being a problem. Now it looks as though heifers can justify their place in the system. &#42

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David Maughan

21 May 1999

All the latest news on whats in feed

KEEP up to date on animal feed ingredients and issues with Premieratlas 99 from Premier Nutrition.

The free information pack contains the latest analysis data on protein, oil, starch and other nutrients contained in straights. Regular updating of information is vital to achieve the best performance from animal feed, says the firm.

News sheets covering topics including traceability and GM issues are published every six weeks and are also available (01889-572500, fax 01889-577074).

Transponder tracks from birth to shelf

ELECTRONIC traceability from birth to the supermarket shelf is now possible with a new pig identification system from manufacturers Hotraco and UK supplier Sleightholme.

The Daisy disk transponder can be combined with conventional ear tags. Information including serving dates, farrowing dates and movements can be recorded throughout the animals life. Automated feeding is also possible.

A hand-held Daisy reader module is used to capture data which can be transferred to a PC for further processing.

Poultry can also be identified from egg to supermarket using a smaller version of the device.

The reader and software cost £650 with disk transponders costing a few pence (01944-738274, fax 01944-738598).

Mineral drink cuts counts, lifts fertility

CUT cell counts and improve fertility over summer using Soluble Optimins from C & &#42 Nutrition.

Soluble Optimins are chelated soluble trace minerals, administered via drinking water.

Availability of more traditional minerals may be impaired due to interactions with other nutrients, says the company. However, it says that because Soluble Optimins are bonded to organic compounds, they are more readily absorbed.

With summer herds often being fed little or no concentrate, and pastures being low in certain trace minerals, summer supplementation is important, reckons the company.

The minerals are available individually or as a blend of zinc, manganese, copper and selenium, costing 5p a cow a day (01928-793090, fax 01928-716997).

Bridge iodine gap

PREVENT iodine deficiency by giving high iodine All-Trace boluses, says Agrimin.

Iodine deficiency is becoming more widespread in both dairy and beef cattle, says the firm. It can lead to reduced fertility, still birth and poor growth rates.

Two boluses give a daily dose of 14.2mg iodine over 240 days, plenty for all cattle grazing deficient pasture, says the company. The boluses also supply the main trace minerals and vitamins.

Dairy cows should receive boluses at drying off and suckler cows 8-10 weeks before calving. A two bolus dose costs £4.70 a cow (01652-688046, fax 01652-688049).

Udder bug blocker

PROTECT against udder infection in the dry period using a teat sealant from Alfa Laval Agri.

Developed in the US, Dryflex creates a flexible, impermeable seal preventing manure, bacteria and moisture from entering, says the company.

It can be used in conjunction with traditional preventative measures including antibiotic infusions and vaccinations.

Treatment costs £2.50 a cow (01633-833912, fax 01633-838962).

John Helliar

John Helliar has a 162ha

(400-acre) farm on the

Longleat Estate, near

Warminster, Wilts. He milks

230 cows, rears his own

replacements and grows

40ha (100 acres) of maize.

1000 store lambs are put

out on winter grass keep

each October

GRASS growth has finally taken off and, other than three nights when the cows came in after we had 2in of rain in four days, this spring has been relatively easy compared with last years nightmare.

After strip grazing the ryegrass, we are now set stocking the main grazing area at three cows an acre. We will revert back to block grazing after taking our first cut silage, when we will separate freshly calved cows to make sure they get the quantity and quality of grazing to allow us to feed low concentrate levels.

We have our usual problem of dry cows being too fat. These tend to be the older cows, while some second and third lactation animals are too thin despite identifying them in mid-lactation and feeding extra concentrates through to lactation end.

Work was always quiet in April until we started undersowing a big acreage of the maize crop. So now we have a labour peak trying to empty the slurry store and spreading FYM after the cows have grazed.

Even with a wet week, we did manage to manure, plough and drill maize by the end of April. Soil temperatures were such that it emerged after nine days.

Incorporating atrazine in the seed-bed was our biggest problem, even though the weather was dry and sunny. The wind blew force seven or eight for three out of the four days we were planting, consequently some fields were left unsprayed. We will spray them with atrazine and bromoxynil once weeds have emerged.

We are fortunate to have a good contractor who is prepared to co-operate with a few drilling experiments. We have planted 110 acres in total; a third was drilled on the French system of two rows at 15in and one at 30in, at a seed rate of 50,000/acre. Another third was drilled on the conventional system at 30in, with a seed rate of 42,500/acre and the last third mixing all three varieties in the same drill, two rows of each.

The varieties we have chosen – Lincoln, Sophy and Goldis – should all be harvested at the same time. We are one of the MGAs 10 trial sites, for which we have grown six varieties in a close row of 15in, and there will be a chance for MGA members to see these sites during the summer. &#42

Mike Allwood

Mike Allwood is owner-

occupier of 82ha (200-

acres) near Nantwich,

Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy

herd block calves during

May and June. Besides

converting to organic

production, he is also

planning to produce

unpasteurised cheese

AFTER five fun years setting up and running Farm Produce Marketing my two partners and I have decided to split up and seek pastures new – please forgive the use of an agricultural pun. Two of us sold our shares to the remaining partner, who will continue to run FPM, concentrating on marketing and not manufacturing. We had built up a super team in the dairy and it was a really difficult job making some of them redundant.

I have decided to try to develop a market for my own organic produce. My wife, Sandy, and I have formed a new business called Ravens Oak Dairy. We have spent the past three months adapting the dairy for cheese production, and are now ready to start making Ravens Oak cheese.

This will be a soft white rind cheese like a Camembert. We have persuaded the Environmental Health officer to let us make it unpasteurised. We will produce our own unique products, aiming at the specialist market – cheese shops and delicatessens – rather than supermarkets.

We have already been practising at the Milk Marque Product Development Centre at Reaseheath, which is just down the road. The cheese we made there tasted really good. I hope we can reproduce the trial results in our own dairy.

Bitter experience has taught me that we will spend the first year learning, so we are not planning to sell much cheese until next summer. Our aim is to process all our own milk in five years time.

Last week we were rushing to get everything done before a Cheshire Grassland Society visit. I am glad that we had this discipline imposed on us because we have managed to make some early big bale silage, sow all the spring peas and prepare the silage pit for first cut, all in glorious weather, before the heavens opened.

Boy, am I knackered. After checking outside the office door I can confirm that we had a quarter of a wellyful of rain. &#42

Giles Henry

Giles Henry rents 105ha

(260 acres) on a 10-year

lease and 114ha (280 acres)

of heather moorland near

Selkirk in the Scottish

Borders. Cropping is mainly

grass with 10ha (24 acres) of

spring barley. It is stocked

with 650 breeding ewes and

95 hoggs, 30 Luing cattle

with followers and finishers

HEAVY rain last week has brought to an end the best spell of weather in the past year.

For two weeks we have had long sunny days which made crops and grass grow and helped all stock thrive and look healthy.

Our last April lambing ewes gave birth on Apr 24, which allowed my son, Stuart, and I to go to Murrayfield for an enjoyable day at the Tennents cup finals.

Lamb numbers from the April flock will be up on last year, with certainly fewer losses after turnout. I have gone over last years sheep gross margins with my Signet adviser and our May flock is allowing us to cut costs while maintaining a healthy gross margin an acre.

I am worried that it is becoming harder to maintain margins with the April lambing flock because of increased costs and reduced returns. Therefore, I have decided to stop lambing in April and lamb 100-120 ewes in January, intensively finishing lambs indoors.

The other 200 ewes will be moved into the May lambing flock. This will give us a high gross margin an acre in the early lambing flock and allow us to spread the May lambs over extra acres. This will hopefully allow us to finish more lambs off grass in the autumn.

So that the ewes are fit for tupping in August, I am creep feeding lambs of three and four crop ewes so I can wean them in mid-June. We hope that by having these lambs ready more quickly the price will not have fallen too much.

Calving continues at a steady pace with 18 calves born so far. The bulls are leading the heifers by 10 to eight. We lost a calf during calving at the weekend; luckily I was able to get a calf from a fellow Luing breeder who had a set of twins.

Last weekend we gave the yearling heifers a bolus and turned them out. They are being used as toppers for the sheep fields.

Our spring barley is tillering well, having had a final top dressing of 30 units of nitrogen last week when things were dry enough to let us on the land. &#42

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 172ha (425

acres) in Co Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) of grass supports an

18-month Continental beef

system with purchased bulls

and a silage beef system

using Continental bull and

heifer calves

EARLY May has brought a surge of grass growth, which should not come as a complete surprise.

Grass seems unusually sappy and weak stemmed, which could give us problems with lodging just before first cut silage. We plan to start cutting in mid-May and will be applying a microbial innoculant hoping to lift silage intakes and cattle growth rates. The probability of this cannot be guaranteed, so we have made our innoculant choice based on strong research indicating significant improvements.

Turnout of 18-month cattle proved a rapid affair once weather settled. We have split the 94 animals into three groups and will graze them rotationally.

Grazing shall no doubt prove to be the usual juggling act between conservation and having sufficient grazing of the right quality. But we will have the benefit of last autumns pasture improvement to lift mid-season performance.

Planning to trim calf numbers this season meant reducing our grass acreage. But with numbers being retained we found it necessary to buy a small local acreage of summer grazing to supplement forage.

The influence of possible extensification payments always has a bearing on the rents offered for these grass lets. It will be interesting to see what occurs next year with the planned changes to extensification under Agenda 2000.

The last heifer group has recently been weaned. This has been a cheap and trouble free group to rear, and Lorna can now take a well-earned rest from calf rearing until August.

After several months planning and completing the free range poultry building, the big day is tomorrow with the arrival of 6000 point-of-lay pullets. We hope these fowl will feel unhindered in their egg-laying ability. Some people, including electric-fencing salesmen, believe our local fox population may exert some influence on this.

We temporarily lose our mains electricity supply next week, to be replaced by a generator, together with its spiky current. This means we will close down the borehole for a while and must resist the temptation to use the computer. &#42

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David Maughan

6 November 1998

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 272ha (425

acres) in Co.Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) grass supports an

18-month and a silage beef

system. Cattle for the 18-

month system are reared

from purchased Continental

bull calves, with Continental

bull and heifer calves for the

silage beef system

OCTOBER has proved a frustrating month for those of us trying to sow autumn crops; we eventually drew things to a conclusion on Oct 25. By the sound of the forecast it looks as though we have been fortunate in finishing. Its certainly been a drawn out season this year.

In fact, we still have some fourth crop silage to complete at Denton, fortunately only one field, so it looks like being a November finish to this years silage season which is not what we would have chosen.

On the subject of silage, we now have this years analysis to hand with two pits here being almost identical in terms of D value and ME (see table). We opened the first cut pit in early October when we housed the outside cattle and they have rapidly achieved good intake levels (measured on the weigh gauge). Body condition has already started to improve so it seems we have good feeding material for winter, which is just as well given the current desperately low prices.

The focus of feed management will be on daily ration costs together with that rations effect on performance. With mineralised rolled barley to be costed in at £85/tonne and clamp silage at £15/t we would expect the ration cost/head to start the winter at 50p/day. Based on previous experience, we hope cattle to gain at around 1.4kg daily. To ensure this is achieved, we have usually included a small quantity of purchased roots in the ration to buffer silage acidity and consequently increase dry matter intake. With the first crop pit having a pH of 3.8 this would again seem a sensible strategy.

The first batch of calves are about to be weaned; they came in at good weights averaging 58kg and have proved to be a good rear with plenty of TLC from Lorna. The big question now is when to bring in the second batch. Due in by mid-November, they really shouldnt be much later if theyre to meet reasonable turnout weights by next spring. Hopefully we shall have a clearer idea of whether the calf slaughter scheme is to receive a years reprieve by then.

Unfortunately, we have recorded our lowest ever cattle sale values in real terms with the sale of a load of useful looking heifers that only averaged 150p/kg deadweight. It surely cant get worse, can it? &#42

What will happen with the calf slaughter scheme – will it be reprieved, wonders David Maughan.


1st Cut 2nd/3rd

Clamp Cut Clamp

Dry Matter 28.8 35.5

pH 3.8 4.1

Crude Protein 15.0 15.5

Ammonia 8.7 9.8

D Value 71.0 71.0

ME 11.5 11.4

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David Maughan

22 May 1998

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 272ha (425

acres) in Co.Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) grass supports an

18-month and a silage beef

system. Cattle for the 18-

month system are reared

from purchased Continental

bull calves, with Continental

bull and heifer calves for the

silage beef system

The farmer will never be happy again

He carries his heart in his boots

For either the rain is destroying his

grain

Or the drought is destroying his roots

You may speak if you like to this

querulous man

Though I should not attempt to be

funny

And if you insist he will give you a list

Of the reasons hes making no money

IN case this couple of verses may have a topical ring to them it is as well to recall that they were penned 50 years ago together with a further couple of dozen verses, which I shant repeat in case I should be accused of plagiarism.

It sometimes seems that Les Dawsons immortal words "Behind every cloud is another one waiting to arrive", was written with agriculture in mind, but surely we must be somewhere near the bottom.

With those thoughts in mind I put on my NFU hat and joined the EU agricultural ministers on beef export matters as they arrived for their final days discussion within the splendour of Newcastles finest hotel. As a humble foot soldier, my duties involved little more than waving a sandwich board bearing a couple of Germanic phrases, but the reality of the occasion was not lost on most of us there, with the clouds unlikely to begin to lift until the beef ban itself is lifted.

Silage making is about to begin with the usual rush of final preparations. The leys have been knocked by the weather during April. One of the consequences in the second year leys is that they are showing a high level of disease, as high as I can recall; virus disease is very evident this year.

The crops being so sappy and the weather dull it may not prove too easy to obtain a satisfactory fermentation, so we have decided to apply an inoculant to this years silage. There is a good deal of evidence that intake levels are lifted in any case with a good inoculant, so I hope this will lead to improved cattle performance later. We use a specialist grass spreader, which seems to give us much improved control over our wilting. It should prove invaluable on this crop. &#42

The Maughans are about to start silage making, and this year an inoculant will be used to ensure good fermentation of the grass crop.

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David Maughan

27 March 1998

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 272ha (425

acres) in Co.Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) grass supports an

18-month and a silage beef

system. Cattle for the 18-

month system are reared

from purchased Continental

bull calves, with Continental

bull and heifer calves for the

silage beef system

IT WOULD seem that events in the political field at present will have a greater effect on the fortunes of beef production than those in our own fields.

The lifting of the export ban on Northern Irish beef is a very welcome start to a total lifting of the ban which I think most beef producers would regard as a pre-requisite to a return to profitability in our industry.

One of my concerns regarding the eventual lifting of the total ban will be what can be considered as a start date to this process. If the date-based start of Aug 1, 1996 is agreed as satisfactory then the end, as they say, is nigh, with the possibility of the gates opening to exports by early next year.

However if full computer traceability is required and this event not even starting to operate until autumn, when the new passport scheme comes into effect, then the lifting could be some considerable time ahead.

As passports have been in operation for all cattle since July 1996 it would seem a complete waste of this period, which will stretch for over two years by the time the new computerised scheme is introduced, for the information already gathered not to be back-loaded onto the new computer system – obviously a mammoth undertaking, but one which must be necessary if the beef industry is to financially survive.

With the announcement of the latest proposed changes under the Agenda 2000 proposals expected imminently, we shall be watching its contents closely as they will indeed be setting the agenda for the fortunes of the beef industry just as it starts to emerge from under the cloud of its current situation.

With our 1998 marketing year about to get under way, the current price levels suggest little improvement in our fortunes for this particular year. The cattle have made good progress during the winter, with the bulls averaging 1.2kg/day liveweight gain (a little lower than usual at this stage) on their predominantly silage diet supplemented with 3.4kg of rolled barley together with a small quantity of fodder beet.

Interestingly, a small group of steers in the same pen as one of the bull groups averaged 1.1kg/day. If we exclude the performance of the bottom 10% of the bull group the average takes significant lift. A lesson to be studied there perhaps? &#42

The lifting of the Northern Irish beef ban is a welcome start, says David Maughan.

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David Maughan

27 February 1998

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 272ha (425

acres) in Co.Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) grass supports an

18-month and a silage beef

system. Cattle for the 18-

month system are reared

from purchased Continental

bull calves, with Continental

bull and heifer calves for the

silage beef system

FILL-DYKE February is not very appropriately named, with no rain so far and spring-like temperatures – most unseasonable.

While the going is good we have been able to catch up with our mucking out and spreading activities. Now that spring has woken up we shall start spreading fertiliser this week, firstly on the OSR and then apply 375kg/ha of a 15:15:20 blend to the silage leys.

I mentioned last month that we had experienced adverse side effects with the second dose of an RSV vaccine earlier in the winter. This did not turn out to be unique, for it seems others have on occasions also had similar experiences, indeed sometimes very much worse. Ours was a dead vaccine which seems to be safer than a live one.

The manufacturer blood tested the affected calves and concluded that the vaccination was not directly responsible for what had seemed a pneumonia outbreak. With the following batch being due its second dose we undertook a small on-farm trial to attempt to repeat the experience, dosing half the batch and measuring the temperature rise 36 hours later. The treated group measured 1.18F higher than the control group, with no real signs of ill health, so we have not been able to repeat the experience. We now suspect we had on the previous occasion vaccinated the calves at the start of a challenge by a different organism, then in its sub-clinical stage. The stress of the RSV vaccine had then been sufficient to trigger the reaction.

I had, along with a number of other beef producers, the pleasure recently of visiting a latter-day "cathedral of commerce". We arrived at the Leeds headquarters of one of the largest supermarket chains, shortly after the close of the working day. The fact that they wanted what we produced was not something that most of us had experienced in recent times.

The object of the evening was to encourage producers to become more closely involved with them by joining a select beef producer group. Their credibility at being the only supermarket to have stuck with British beef throughout the crisis makes them a more trusted partner than others. &#42

Vaccination for RSV caused the Maughans more difficulties than expected.

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David Maughan

30 January 1998

David Maughan

David Maughan farms with

his brother, Peter, on two

farms totalling 272ha (425

acres) in Co.Durham on the

Raby Estate. The 40ha (100

acres) grass supports an

18-month and a silage beef

system. Cattle for the

18-month system are reared

from purchased Continental

bull calves, with Continental

bull and heifer calves for the

silage beef system

A NEW Year brings the hope that fortunes will improve. But didnt we, so far as beef production is concerned, have exactly the same hope last year. No doubt if the current clairvoyants are not to be dismissed, there is as much chance of that happening as Mystic Meg announcing that our balls are about to fall in order this Saturday.

However with few exciting alternatives to turn to we have penned another batch of 60 calves at Denton Grange in early January, with the previous batch of 41 bull calves destined for the 18-month system having just been weaned at Morton Tinmouth.

This batch has turned out well with the exception of one we unexpectedly lost with bloat. One of the problems that occasionally occurs with straw-bedded pens later in the period is that because the calf has to reach further down when drinking, its oesophegal groove can direct the milk into the rumen instead of the abomasum when its appetite is dulled for whatever reason. The usual reason for a dulled appetite is that it may have a temperature, so we normally get a warning that we have a bloaty calf and raise the bucket when feeding, which cures the problem.

This batch had, with the benefit of some keenly priced milk powder, been very economic to rear with feed costs of only £21.21/calf against £29.10/calf for the previous batch. Straw and ear tags accounted for a further £1.60 with vet and medicines adding an additional £9.81.

The vet and medicine figure may seem high, but it does cover the first of two planned doses of an RSV vaccine. We are going to miss the second planned vaccination because of the adverse reaction we have experienced. For the second time running the vaccine has been the trigger for a pneumonia type challenge which took three to four days to mop up with antibiotics. We have consulted the manufacturers who were understandably concerned and organised a blood test, so we shall await the interpretation of the results with interest.

Having reared 100 bull calves we are now over our BSPS 90 head limit. We are putting mainly Blue and Charolais dairy bred heifer calves into the silage beef system. With being able to buy nearly three heifers for every bull, they would seem to offer a greater prospect of that elusive profit. &#42

Another batch of 60 calves has been penned at Denton Grange, the previous batch moving onto the 18-month finishing system.

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David Maughan

2 January 1998

David Maughan

David Maughan farms in

partnership with his brother

Peter on two farms totalling

272ha (425 acres) in

Co.Durham on the Raby

Estate. The grass acreage

supports silage beef and an

18-month system. All the

cattle, apart from a few

purchased sucker heifers,

are reared from bought

Continental bull calves. The

farms include 305 arable

acres, which supply the

bedding and cereal part of

the cattle ration

IT seems that the first half of December has been dominated by events on the other side of the farm gate. I dont think I can recall a period when all sectors seem to feel so under threat. The sharp decline in beef prices in the latter period of November seems to have acted as the catalyst that triggered the huge wave of protest that has swept through the industry.

As beef farmers, depending on this sector for a fair proportion of our livelihood, we dont need reminding what a tremendous cost the whole sorry affair has had on the fortunes of this sector. The recent realisation that we as first calf buyers would be the ones responsible for obtaining and of course purchasing the full passport has not left us feeling too pleased, especially if the full £10 charge is applied.

Locally we had the opportunity to collectively give vent to our frustrations at an NFU organised crisis meeting at Darlington Mart. I think it surprised many at the depth of support that occasion received and from it hopefully some progress will flow.

Personally, together with a couple of friends, we picked up the challenge and found ourselves supporting the protest outside Liverpool Docks a night later. It was rather ironic really, for we parked our car directly opposite Cargills dockside rape crusher plant (rape being the one commodity that has held its own this season) to go and protest about a sector that most certainly hasnt.

Although the gate that we were drawn to was only a couple of hundred yards away we almost didnt make it, for on passing a certain dockside bar we observed through the open door a not unattractive lady (a term used in the absence of an alternative coming to mind) peeling off what little clothes came between her and an unpleasant chill. The offer by someone at the door, of cheap beer and a free show, it must be admitted did give rise to a conflict of priority at this juncture. However, I am pleased to be able to report that the delights of the inside of that bar may have offered us were passed by in favour of standing outside a dock gate for the rest of the night. With a decision-making process like that, perhaps that is why were are still in beef production.n

The first half of December was dominated by events on the other side of the farm gate , with David Maughan being one of the demonstrators at Liverpool Docks.

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David Maughan

5 December 1997

David Maughan

David Maughan farms in

partnership with his brother

Peter on two farms totalling

272ha (425 acres) in

Co Durham on the Raby

Estate. The grass acreage

supports silage beef and an

18-month system. All the

cattle, apart from a few

purchased sucker heifers,

are reared from bought

Continental bull calves. The

farms include 305 arable

acres, which supply the

bedding and cereal part of

the cattle ration

November never is the most exciting month on the calendar but with the grazing bulls not being yarded until earlier in the month at least the winter period has been shortened with the extended grazing season.

With a pit full of a pleasing quality silage, plus plenty of barley on hand, we have to consider whether to introduce the additional cost of purchasing either stock potatoes or fodder beet for the winter ration. Past experience tells us that we can obtain performance levels over and above those that we would experience with silage and barley alone. The calculation has to be based on the cheapest cost of achieving live weight gain and as such will I think favour the inclusion of some roots.

With the arrival of the winter sheep, which provide a valuable role in controlling any surplus grass, and the purchase of a few 21-month-old Simmental steers to bring our numbers up and use up a few second claims, we are now fully into the winter routine.

We are also filling the pens here at Morton Tinmouth with the second rear of bull calves for the 18-month system. We are pleased that the purchase price is easing back, heaven knows it needs to having run well ahead of returns for most of the past BSE period. Whether they are still economically priced shall have to be judged in 15 months.

Unlike last year we have not seen a rise in finished values this autumn. It does seem that the realisation that low prices are here to stay for some time ahead has dawned on most producers. It would seem that the Irish dimension is taking on a very non-political meaning to beef finishers trying to compete against the weight of beef being imported from that source. Indeed, it does sometimes feel with the export ban that we are playing in a match where the goal is completely boarded up, so we shall never even have a chance to win.

On waking up one morning recently I heard the announcement on Radio 4 that cattle passports could be rising to £10 a head, which was not the best way to start that day. Thinking Lorna would wish to share this unfortunate news, I awoke her, telling passports were going through the roof. "Well," she said, "for where we are going this year, it doesnt really matter."n

Including some roots in winter beef rations of silage and barley will help produce high weight at cheapest cost, says David Maughan.

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David Maughan

12 September 1997

David Maughan

David Maughan farms in partnership with his brother Peter on two farms totalling 272ha (425 acres) in Co. Durham on the Raby Estate. The grass acreage supports silage beef and an 18-month system. All the cattle, apart from a few purchased sucker heifers, are reared from bought Continental bull calves. The farms include 305 arable acres, which supply the bedding and cereal part of the cattle ration

IF ever there was a vintage year for grass growth, then surely this has been it, with leys having every opportunity to express themselves. With more than enough silage in store, it seemed time to park up the fertiliser spreader for the season. However with indications that applied nitrogen was being used up, we applied a further modest dressing to ensure we have sufficient grazing through to the end of the season.

With 3rd cut silage safely under plastic, we had hoped to drill this years new leys before starting on the wheat harvest. But the opportunity of a fine spell to make a start of the wheat arose.

In truth, the straw was not fully ripe when we started, but with grain moisture contents getting down to 15-16% it proved better than waiting and taking over-moist grain from over-ripe straw, which is the position two unsettled weeks later.

The leys were drilled during the third week of August and with no shortage of moisture have evenly emerged eight days later, always pleasing to see. We review the mixture each year and have, for the first time, dropped Italian ryegrass from the mixture, believing we can tighten up heading dates without sacrificing first cut yield.

It was quite noticeable approaching first cut that the Barverdi IR was some days ahead of the rest of the mixture. Indeed this rush to produce a seed head follows through with subsequent cuts and grazings.

With a higher proportion of tetraploids in the mixture, the absence of Italian should not unduly affect sugar content and consequently silage fermentation.

With grass seeds in, we moved on to drill rape, which is now safely in. We expect the unwelcome attentions of slugs to more cloddy areas, so these areas receive a dressing of slug pellets to add a little variety to their diet.

The first batch of 43 bull calves are now well settled in, with Lorna well into the routine. The settling-in period following their arrival was not straight forward, with a number of calves throwing a temperature, together with the early scours that inevitably arise with the stress of movement and change.

It took quite a few days to find an antibiotic that was responded to, trying a variety of drugs before discovering that Baytril was the particular one that give us a consistent response this season.n

Its been a vintage year for grass growth at Morton Tinmouth. New leys are now drilled and have emerged well. Italian ryegrass has been dropped from the mixture in an attempt to tighten up heading dates.

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David Maughan

15 August 1997

David Maughan

David Maughan farms in partnership with his brother Peter on two farms totalling 272ha (425 acres) in Co.Durham on the Raby Estate. The grass acreage supports silage beef and an 18-month system. All the cattle, apart from a few purchased sucker heifers, are reared from bought Continental bull calves. The farms include 305 arable acres, which supply the bedding and cereal part of the cattle ration

WITH almost three inches of rain in July, a mid-summer drought is most certainly not on the cards this year. Thankfully we have been spared the extremes experienced elsewhere in the country.

But with soils at field capacity, the combine discovered that it was not only barley prices that had a sinking feel to them.

Barley yields themselves were a little lighter than in recent years, principally I think because of the almost total lack of sunshine in this north-east area during the grain fill month of June. We Propcorn the barley which is to be home-fed to the cattle, preferring a moist grain to improve rolling and lower dust levels in the prepared feed. This is quite important when feeding young stock.

We completed the OSR harvest yesterday with the yields down on last years exceptional results, but averaging just over 1.5 tonnes/acre weighed off.

Third cut silage has now begun five weeks after second cut with a useful crop. We shall bale and wrap here before clamping the Denton Grange crop later this week.

Hopefully we will have time to sow the grass leys before wheat harvest. We changed to a combination drill last year, but were a little concerned that row spacings could not be close enough for grass seed. To overcome this we fit a band spread attachment to each coulter which proves effective in ensuring a wide spread pattern.

My brothers son, Tim, finished college in July and has returned home. This lifts us up to four for a couple of months before my son William leaves us to take up a place at college in September. I shall certainly miss him on the farm as will his mother, Lorna, when she tidies up his bedroom.

The last of the fattening pigs will be leaving this week. They have fitted in well during the summer months since calf turnout, and would seem to perform well being on a non-pig farm.

As the pigs leave, the first of this seasons calf intake will be arriving, with Lorna girding herself in anticipation of her new charges. After two truly awful years finishing cattle through from calves, it would not have been difficult to abandon the cattle enterprise in favour of an easier all-arable alternative. But with the futures of arable farming itself taking a sharp decline, this option does not hold the same appeal it did.n

As the last of the fattening pigs leave the farm, David and Lorna Maughan are preparing for the first of this years batch of calves to arrive for rearing and finishing.

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David Maughan

28 March 1997

David Maughan

David Maughan farms in partnership with his brother Peter on two farms totalling 272ha (425 acres) in Co.Durham on the Raby Estate. The grass acreage supports silage beef and an 18-month system. All the cattle, apart from a few purchased sucker heifers, are reared from bought Continental bull calves.

THE recent spell of dry weather has given us the welcome opportunity to make good progress with our early spring work, the silage leys receiving their first dressing of a 15:15:20 blend in early March. With the mild weather we hope that unlike last year grass growth will be off to a flying start.

Again unlike last year we did not experience severely low temperatures in the new year period. In fact the lack of penetrating frosts over winter gave us very few muck spreading opportunities, so the recent dry spell was a bonus in catching up on that overdue task.

Our cattle marketing season runs from February through to October, so it was with some trepidation that we made our opening draw in late February with a load of bulls at our local auction mart at Darlington. We returned home with a strong feeling of déjà vu.

It was interesting to compare returns to those in the opening draws of 1995 and 1996. In those two years we returned home with averages of 130.2p/kg and 129.7p/ kg respectively, on 600kg Con-tinental bulls, compared with 102p/kg this year.

Our second draw a fortnight later saw a much stronger market with an average of 105.1p/kg. If this was to be a more typical figure of what we might expect in the coming season then it would seem that the beef finisher is in for a second season of harsh medicine following the anniversary of BSE day.

Indeed it is interesting to reflect following this anniversary that if these figures follow through it would see averages fall by a massive 25p/kg or £115 on a typical 580kg animal compared with pre-BSE values.

With the current low prices and the prospect, according to informed opinion, that the European beef market will remain weak for some years to come, then it would seem there is a powerful force for the revaluation of many of the inputs that go into beef finishing systems.

A fine sentiment perhaps, but how can the value of our main input, the young calf, be brought down to more economic levels when the cull of bull calves continues to distort the market so much.

We recently placed 60 Con-tinental heifer calves in the pens at Denton. These are destined for the silage beef system, so it will be interesting to report their progress.n

It could be a second season of harsh medicine for beef finishers, says David Maughan. Sales this year have left an average of 25p/kg less compared with pre-BSE values.

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