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John Davies

2 July 1999

A GM-free forage ration supplement

ORGANIC cattle and sheep producers can now supplement forage rations using Bio Blocks from Dallas Keith.

The blocks contain non-GM soya, wheat protein, trace elements, vitamins and molasses, according to the company.

An anti-bloat Bio Block is also available containing poloxalene, permitted by the Soil Association as an anti-bloat agent, it says.

The company recommends ad-lib feeding the 20kg and 50kg blocks which are supplied in edible cardboard containers.

A 20kg Bio Block costs £7.50 and a 50kg block is £21. The 20kg anti-bloat Bio Block is £12.60, while the 50kg block costs £32 (01993-773061, fax 01993-771338).

Safer method of delivering rodent bait

SAFER rodent baiting of round bale stacks is possible using a bait placer, says developer VES Pest Control.

With producers using bait bags to protect bales from rodent damage, positioning the bags well out of reach of children and farm animals is important, it says.

The bait placer has a spring trigger and stainless steel shaft and will deliver bait to awkward areas – where rats run – that are out of sight, adds the company.

It costs £25.99 (01433-621199, fax 01433-621714).

Feed gives rams essential fatty acids

BOOST ram performance using Clover Super Vitality feed, says manufacturer Harbro.

The feed provides a balanced supply of essential fatty acids which research shows maximises the reproductive performance of rams, according to the company.

Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesised by rams and must be supplied in the diet for optimum sperm count and viability, it says.

Clover Super Vitality contains fishmeal and fish oil, it says. Recommended feeding rate is 0.5kg a head a day for 90 days before tupping until the end of the season.

The feed costs £800/t (01888-568882, fax 01888-563939).

Mastitis warning

EARLY warning of mastitis in individual quarters is available through a monitoring system from distributor Jenisys.

The company says the monitor is suitable for fitting to all makes of milking machinery and works by measuring milk conductivity in individual quarters.

Trials show that an increase in milk conductivity indicates probable onset of mastitis three to four days before visible signs in milk, according to the company.

Sensors integrated into the claw design are connected to an indicator box. A light flashes on the control panel when conductivity or milk temperature levels are outside the normal range, it explains.

The system – including clusters, indicator box and transformer for a 10 point parlour – costs £4350 (tel/fax 01608-662919).

Gordon Capstick

Gordon and Mary Capstick

farm 230ha (569 acres) at

Milnthorpe in south Cumbria.

Stocking is 100 suckler

cows, with calves finished

alongside 100 purchased

stores, and 1200 Mule ewes

producing prime lambs.

About 10ha (25 acres) of

barley and 6ha (14 acres) of

soft fruit are also grown.

FIRST cut silage went well. It is always satisfying to get a good, rain-free cut under your belt. At least it is one worry out of the way.

The weather forecast seemed to be getting it right – rain, more rain – so we had an all-night session for the second year running. This proved just as well, as it really poured down the following day.

We are now well into sheep clipping. We did our own for the first time last year with borrowed equipment. This year we built a clipping trailer with three clipping points. We started with four Metro wheels from the scrapyard and it took three of us a week to make it, in-between jobs.

It certainly saves us time as our sheep are kept in seven groups. Shearing is not a lucrative job at the moment, but it has to be done on welfare grounds.

I do not like the idea of practically giving the wool away when I am told it will not pay enough to get a contractor to do the job. Why should we have to work for nothing?

Mary and I had a day off recently and went to Lowther for Beef 99. I was very impressed with the event, it had plenty of trade stands and visitors. It was good to see the Minister open the event and stay for about five hours, no doubt he got an insight into the problems of beef farming at first hand.

We went on the estate farm tour that took two hours. The sheep and suckler cattle were looking great and a credit to manager John Reid and his staff. The business has a turnover of £1.5m and is not expecting any of enterprise to be profitable in 1999. What hope is there for the rest of us?

Summer calving cows are now producing. At last count there were 15 left to calve. Some of them are cows that have lost a bit of time for one reason or another, but are still good cows and will stay with us for some time yet. &#42

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders farms with his

parents on an organic, mixed

370ha (915-acre) farm in

Oxfordshire. Main enterprises

are 200 milking cows and

followers, 190 Mule ewes,

50 beef cross stores and 70

beef cross calves. Winter

wheat, barley, oats and

beans are grown for the

organic market

RECENTLY I visited Holland with my local dairy discussion group. These trips are both fun and educational.

The most important points I picked up from the research stations visited was how to get the most benefit from slurry and farmyard manure, through correct timing and method of application. There were some striking improvements that I could make at home to reduce nutrient loss and get better crops as a result.

In Holland, farmers are prohibited from spreading slurry between September and February, to reduce the risk of leaching. And when applied, slurry must be injected.

On top of this farmers must produce a nutrient balance sheet for their farm. Their current average surplus of more than 300kg of N/ha is to be reduced to 180kg of N/ha by the year 2008.

At home, staff have been busy cleaning out sheds and spreading dirty water. The muck heaps have all been turned to encourage composting. This makes manure more available to plants when applied. We have used a Hymac for the first time to turn the muck and it has worked well leaving no wheel marks.

We have planted 27 acres of maize this year. The establishment has been about 90% but, because of the wet weather, we were unable to inter-row hoe the crop as early as needed. Since then, it has been harrowed with the Einbock weeder and inter-rowed again.

Lambs continue to grow well. The first batch of finished lambs should be sorted for sale in mid-July, having started lambing back on March 15.

Ewes are in good condition, but mastitis has caused a few problems this year. Ive had five cases in 200 ewes. I dont know why we should be troubled this year.

In addition a few lambs have gone lame, I think the long grass they have been on has probably caused some scald. Fortunately, most of these lambs seemed to cure themselves.

I am currently trying to sort out my staff situation. We have been one full-time member of staff short since last September, and jobs are piling up. Good staff seem to be in short supply these days. &#42

Christian Fox

Christian Fox has taken

over management of 100

cows and followers, on a

200ha (500 acre) mixed

farm in West Sussex, with

150ha (380 acres) of arable

crops. The plan is to

increase profits and lower

costs by producing more

milk from grazed grass

I GAVE my crystal ball an airing this month to predict, or guess, our milk production and cashflow during this year of transition to spring calving.

We should be able to keep milking until mid-November. Cows will then be dry until Feb 6 when calving begins.

By my calculations, we should produce half our quota this year and lease out the rest. Milk production costs will remain at 18p a litre. With no calf income, but with income from leasing out quota we should still make a small profit.

The odd shower of rain has kept the grass happy. Growth here is 65kg DM/ha a day, still above cow intake requirements of 42kg DM/ha a day. Thats despite having not applied nitrogen fertiliser since April in order to depress growth. However, grass quality is beginning to suffer slightly so its on with 35 units after the cows to perk things up and alleviate my nitrogen withdrawal symptoms.

There are 15 days grazing ahead of cows which gives us a good window should we hit a dry spell. This window will allow us to slow the rotation using buffer feed and match cow demand to grass growth.

Having finished the second cycle of AI, 26% have repeated to first service. This seems good, but I think I have missed a couple. I expect to calve 85-88% of the herd in the first six weeks, starting on Feb 7. So, it looks as though we have a calving pattern at last.

Having started breathing a sigh of relief about AI, the Gurus of Gloom are now predicting high re-absorptions as cows havent been in calf and have been bulling for so long. Worth noting that these Sages of Sadness are all men.

I must remain vigilant until we actually finish serving on July 20, to ensure there are no loose ends. I have used a Kamar on four cows seen by the vet, three cows I think I have repeated but not been spotted and four May calvers not yet served.

Next month, I shall predict the outcome of the MMC enquiry into Milk Marque, using tarot cards and tea leaves. &#42

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

farm in mid-Wales. The main

holding at Pentre comprises

145ha (360 acres) of grass,

with some short-term grass

lets being taken, and hill

rights extending to 97ha

(240 acres). Stocking is

101 suckler cows, 975

ewes, 230 Beulah Speckled

Face ewe lambs and 35

Welsh Mules

FIRST of all, can I correct a misprint in last months article which said that silage had been done by May 1. It should have read that stock had been turned off it on May 1 to allow it to start growing.

Many people have questioned me about this, including some from the Welsh Office. With HLCAs under review at the moment, let me reassure you its nigh impossible to make silage in May up here.

After all the hard work preparing for the YFC rally, undertaken by our club, it was great to see so many people taking part in such a wide range of activities having fun and learning new skills. But it was quite muddy by the end of the night and I think the car park may need ploughing.

Shearing of hill ewes has taken place earlier than normal. With preparations for the deployment of troops to Kosovo, all graziers were advised to remove sheep from the military range for 10 days while exercises were at their busiest. We decided it was easiest to shear them when they were down. But having them home has put some unplanned pressure on grazing.

We found ourselves short of grass, so the first pit was cut at six weeks, two days after turn out. The second pit, due to the need for more ground to come back into grazing, was cut at five weeks. It seems good quality silage, but we will need some second cut for quantity.

Cows are calving quite quickly with the heifers being a little slower. The beef trade seems to be firming a bit and the yearling cattle are benefiting from some compensatory growth off grass. No doubt trade will have eased in a couple of weeks when our stock and everyone elses is ready.

We have tried some surface seeding straight after taking the silage. Pasture was spring harrowed twice, then some AberExcel & Merviot red clover sown followed by three bags an acre of 5.24.24 and a good rolling. The result was encouraging when demonstrated by IGER at the Kemira Grassland event. Its a cost-effective method for improving my permanent pasture, without taking fields out of short term production. &#42

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John Davies

20 November 1998

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah Speckled Face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes

ALL attempts at extending the cattle grazing season have been halted with one local rain gauge recording 12.5in of rain during October. Rice growing seems to offer more potential at present.

Cattle were all housed by Oct 22 – it looks like being a long winter – lets hope similarities with 1947 dont continue.

We bought a Charolais bull at Perth and by the time he was shipped home, hell cost just over £2000.

At the third and final Mule sale we sold 44 ewe lambs to average £28.80 to end a thoroughly dismal year of ewe lamb sales.

The sheep have also been extremely unhappy, poaching as much grass as they are eating. Some of the ewes which have been put to the Beulah-Speckled Face tup have gone back to the MOD range and some of the ewes with the Blue-faced tup have gone on tack – which, thankfully, is a little cheaper this year.

Wether lambs are being moved around regularly and given plenty of room – in a kind of holding pattern similar to a jumbo jet circling an airport using fuel before crash landing.

We had to cope with a short notice cattle inspection. The morning was spent checking records, then after dinner we went out to check all cattle born this year. No major problems.

Thanks to the computer, applying for CIDs and passports in the past has been straight forward, so its a real drag to go back to writing each one out, both for me and the operator trying to decipher it at the other end. Surely IT progress and a few £m should take us forward, not backwards.

Taking some time away from the farm, I went on a Future Farmers of Wales farm walk to the chairmans farm. Its always interesting to have a nose around somebody elses place and see what can be learnt for use back at home.

I also attended the Ministry of Defence Meat Working Group in Bath with NFU, FUW and MLC representatives. After a lot of hard work it was good news on the beef front. But it was extremely disappointing that with present market prices for lamb – and with supposed over-capacity in the abattoir sector – no-one on the other side of the farm gate was fired-up to get the annual order, which would require about 90,000 lambs. &#42

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John Davies

5 June 1998

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah speckled face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

IN the middle of April, we spread fertiliser on the ground which is first to be shut off for silage. Because we were short of grass and sometimes have difficulties with nitrogen levels in the silage, we tried turning the stock out one week after spreading.

If the sun is shining and the longer-term forecast is not too good, impatience sometimes gets the better of me and I cut before the required six weeks.

Marking lambs was going full-swing at the end of April. They seem to be growing well after the initial check due to bad weather. Some with scald were run through the foot-rot bath which seems to have cured it. All the cattle were turned out by May 1 – just in time for the YFC AGM in Torquay.

Its quite a balancing act keeping the grass level correct. Stock must be moved around constantly, with cattle for sale and ewes with twin Mule lambs having the first bite, followed by cows and calves, then in-calf cows to clean it up.

I find the period when the earliest cut is in its final weeks and the later ones are in their early weeks most difficult to gauge. No doubt what I should do if things get too tight is strip graze some ground which had been shut off for silage. This year that doesnt look likely.

I have claimed BSP on some young bulls. Its the first time weve done this and presently they are offering around 90p/kg. I wonder what it will be in two months when their retention period is complete.

By the time you read this well have hopefully sold some cattle in Brecon. The cash flow is desperately needed.

With last years cattle averaging £1.10/kg and to date this years averaging 88p/kg, my policy of holding back as many as possible with the hope that things can only get better is likely to be abandoned in favour of the Basil Loman ethos – first loss is least loss. We have sold cattle when they are ready and not tried to predict the impact on the market of the calf slaughter scheme, re-opening of exports etc, which has been a much more successful policy. &#42

John Davies… keeping the correct level of grass in front of stock is proving quite a balancing act.

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John Davies

8 May 1998

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah speckled face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes

ITS NOT over til the fat lady sings – or in farming terms – dont count your chickens before they hatch, or lambs before you sell them! Some breeds swim better than others and its not a recognised trait of Blue Faced Leicesters, with Charollais/Bleu DMaines, etc being even worse! We found ourselves having nearly completed lambing with new-born lambs being kept in, but even some week-old lambs were dying in extreme weather. With all the other problems facing the industry, Mother Nature still sometimes has the final say.

We turned some heifers out during the last days of March to a field which we intended to plough, then reseed with a short-term ley and undersow with barley for some whole-crop silage. But after a couple of weeks, the heifers had done a good job of ploughing the field and were taken up to Lampeter.

We picked up the hoggs from Pembrokeshire which were drenched and then turned out onto the MOD range. On Apr 7 we turned 30 cows and calves out due to being short of silage. On Apr 9 the nearby village of Talgarth made national news as it was flooded. Needless to say, the cows and calves did not need much persuading to come back in. After assessing the ground conditions and supply of silage left, I decided it was time for some serious crawling to friends and family regarding their over-supply of silage. I managed to acquire a couple of weeks supply at very reasonable rates.

I attended an excellent CEJA conference (European Council of Young Farmers) in Morpeth, Northumberland. Agenda 2000, as we all know, is here and its time we make our voice heard. With 80% of Wales designated LFA its quite incredulous that we didnt qualify for any of the dairy quota allocated to hill areas, so its vital that we get our act together and make sure that we access as much as possible of the new dairy quota that is available to young farmers under the age of 40.

I tried a New Zealand drill designed to rejuvenate sward through slot seeding. One of the keys to success is moisture, another is heavy grazing. Neither seem a problem at the moment.

Some weeks later than normal we have started marking lambs. One advantage of the sheep shed is you can keep going through the showers.

I spent a day travelling around north Wales promoting Welsh lamb and beef to two of the bosses of Trust Meats, London. They are responsible for getting top quality meat into some of the finest establishments in the capital. We started off at Meurig Reess farm near Tywyn. This was then followed by a visit to Mr Reess abattoir operating on a small scale but to the highest standards. Back to the farm with a dinner to rival any London restaurant, then on to Cwmni Cig Arfon, a modern abattoir and cutting plant in Caernarfon. Lets hope some orders follow. &#42

Wet weather has meant John Davies had to buy in silage to tide him over until ground conditions allow livestock to graze again.

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John Davies

10 April 1998

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah speckled face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

AFTER a very wet start to March its good that someones on our side. Weve had some problems with the February calves including scours. Some took a lot of TLC and stomach tubing with various rehydration therapies.

I travelled out to Dublin to the Macra headquarters for the Young Farmers International Standing Committee. I met all our counterparts from the UK and Eire Young Farmers Movement. Had some good debate and we all face similar challenges and tackle them in our own way. Macra na Feirme was the host and is a very pro-active, switched-on organisation, with a strong voice for rural young people in Eire.

Kemira Early-bite had been spread on all fields by Mar 11. The daffodils were out earlier than normal which is a good back-up for T-sum. I also spread a little slurry on some of the fields due for later silage.

Like everyone, on the whole weve had an excellent lambing. The weather has been extremely good and the ewes have at last adjusted well to being housed. It has also made quite a difference to our grass situation. We have less than 150 ewes left to lamb so the next job will be marking lambs.

We sold some grazing cows in Builth Wells market. The price was similar to Brecon under the liveweight OTMS scheme, but there is no £8 a head haulage charge after getting them to market.

Havent had too many days off this month for YFC business, although I have attended a couple of useful forums and met with the MOD meat- buying working group. After some clarification of roles and responsibilities with the MLC, things seem to be moving slowly but surely.

I was feeling quite pleased with the way our grass had responded to the fertiliser until I travelled to IGER, Trawsgoed. Proceeding up the drive it was quite evident just what top quality grass and forage managed correctly could do. The new dairy complex looked just the job – if I won the Pools Id have one.

We also had farm tour which included Tygywn organic dairy. Set up after an initial period of "cold turkey" with significant drops in forage production they were back to 95% of pre-organic production, with premium of 8.5p/litre of milk produced. If I was milking Id be very interested.

The next stop was a tour of the grassland trail plots -1400 different plots in one field, some excellent varieties on trial. As I got home I rang Gareth Davies our grassland adviser to arrange a walk of our grassland and assess how to get these excellent varieties into our leys ASAP. They key to survival seems to me to be quality livestock fed on home-grown, high quality forage. &#42

John Davies visited the new dairy unit at IGER Trawsgoed; hed have one if he won the Pools.

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John Davies

13 March 1998

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah speckled face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

EARLY February and once more, just prior to the deadline of Mon 2, we took our SAPS form into WOAD Llandrindod Wells. Queues were shorter than those waiting for release of the Full Monty video, although if Jack Cunningham has his way we farmers may face the same fate as the steelworkers featured (Dont think my dancing is up to it!).

Last year we had a bit of trouble with twin lamb due to moving ewes back from tack too close to lambing. Had a brainwave this year of parting the twins and triplets down there and bringing them back earlier.

This worked fine until they went into the shed. Some took too long to adjust to being housed. Being almost too fat they were not happy changing from a diet of grass to silage, which was too wet and some lambs were lost even after drenching and injecting with supposed remedies. Decisive action was needed. I rang a dairying friend Pete Joules who mixed us a ration comprising of molasses (215kg), maize meal (650kg), soya (110kg) and sheep minerals (25kg). This premix (150kg) is then added to silage (850kg) and fed at approx 3kg a head.

The ewes have been drenched with Combinex and injected with Covexin 8 and 1 and seem to have settled down in the shed.

Having the ewes housed helps the grass situation. However, the silage pits look as if well need an early spring. To help things along we spread some Kemira Early Bite at 50 units/acre on Feb 25. There was snow forecast but youve got to be an optimist these days.

I also recently spoke at St Asaphs farmers group all-Wales industry seminar, and set the stall out where I stand with regards to one voice for Welsh agriculture.

Next day we had a pleasant run to down Pembroke-shire where Martletwy YFCs new hall was opened by Nick Ainger MP. Following the hard work of many and thanks to lottery funding and donations, an excellent facility for the whole community has been provided for many years to come. The crowd of members and ex-members from near and far proved the saying "once a Young Farmer, always a Young Farmer". &#42

John Davies has been busy with admin, YFC and preparing for lambing.

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John Davies

13 February 1998

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah speckled face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

MY YEAR began with a trip to the excellent Oxford Farming Conference; it was my first visit there and quite an experience.

On my return home Dave had more or less completed the central alley in the sheep shed. Next job was a trip to Pembroke to scan the ewes on tack. They have scanned at about 150%. Lambs are going to market like many others with a one-way ticket; the price seems to be dropping every week.

The wet weather meant slurry stores were getting full, and with the ground being too wet for the guzzler we had to call an umbilical system. Its wide wheels and less weight meant there was little mess.

We scanned the ewes at home, kept the twins indoors and the singles went back up the range for a couple more weeks.

Quite busy with the wood business (Coed Epynt). Orders for floorboards still rolling in. This is highly labour intensive and quality control is vital. It does not help when some plonker (me) tests the moisture wrongly, which is noticed halfway through machining that batch of wood. It all had to be re-packed and put back in the kiln. Not the sort of job that needs to be done twice as partners (Rob and Gary) pointed out on a number of occasions.

Had the honour of speaking on behalf of Young Farmers at the NFU Keep Britain Farming Rally. It was a long journey, towing behind a Land Rover, what I think we can safely say was the biggest banner on display. Quite a few people gave toots of their car horns of support, at least that is how Emrys our driver interpreted them. In the hall you could feel the desperate desire and determination to Keep Britain Farming and by that, keep rural areas thriving. It was a day I will never forget.

The drier weather has allowed us to spread slurry with a guzzler. But, after feeding some round bale hay unchopped, we had some problems with blockages, which I had to clear by hand. It is not a good feeling sat in a meeting wondering whether somebody else has been spreading slurry or whether I have made a bad job of scrubbing my hands.

This years sheep cake will be supplied by Wynnstay Farmers. Thank goodness it is significantly cheaper and I have managed to secure a little longer credit terms. I have also made a move and ordered the fertiliser. Lets hope Nitram comes out less than £100/t.

Sold 10 heifers in Brecon to average 85p/kg. This was not good, but bills have to be paid. Some lambs were sold in Builth just a couple of days later at the same dismal price. Like many other farmers in every other sector, I believe we produce a quality product. All we ask for is a fair price. &#42

Slurry spreading has been on John Daviess busy agenda this month.

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John Davies

19 December 1997

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah speckled face

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

THE beginning of last month saw us concreting and reorganising the feeding system at Pentwyn, where the young cattle will be housed for the winter. There will be more kept there this winter due to present prices being below cost of production. They will be fed on silage only which analyses at crude protein 18.9, D-value 73.1 and ME 11.7; however, its a little wet at 20% DM.

The ewes, which have been put to the Beulah-speckled face ram for replacements, have been turned back out to the range. In the past some have been sent on tack. This year with costs needing to be controlled, they will receive supplementary feed from around Christmas time.

Went to the Ffermio 2000 award ceremony where a young couple from near Welshpool won, they are new entrants to farming with tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to the industry. Ffermio is the Welsh language farming TV programme and is the best, most balanced farming programme for many years. A large number of English speakers watch it with the help of Teletext translation service.

The article would not be complete without having a calf to pull backwards. I think I can recognise this problem from 50 yards now. Called the vet and this time we had a successful outcome.

Sunday night, anger finally turns into action and some beef burgers find their way into the sea at Holyhead.

The media attention has focused very sharply on the plight of our agricultural industry over the last few days. I was in Gaerwen market on Wednesday night where there were at least 3000 farmers.

What is absolutely vital at this time is that all demonstrations stay within the law and do not inconvenience the public, our customers. I believe it is absolutely correct that all imports should be subject to the same rigorous standards as our own meat.

I was pleased to hear Ron Davies, Secretary of State for Wales give an undertaking that if evidence of any beef being imported was found not to be up to those standards, action would be taken. I think hell be busy. At the time of writing, (Dec 5), it looks as if this next week will be absolutely vital for our rural areas throughout the country.

Think not what your industry can do for you, but what you can do for your industry.n

John Davies will keep more young cattle this winter, and feed them on silage only because present prices are below his cost of production.

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John Davies

21 November 1997

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales.

The main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360

acres) of grass, with some

short-term grass lets being

taken, and hill rights

extending to 97ha (240

acres). The farm carries 101

suckler cows, 975 ewes,

230 Beulah Speckledface

ewe lambs and 35 Welsh

Mule ewes.

A WET, dismal morning checking around the in-calvers and I dont believe it – another pair of back feet! I walked the cow to the shed, had an investigation and called the vet. If it wasnt for the fact that this cow was bought and not covered by our own bull, I would question his technique and wonder whether there was any connection. It was the most awkward caesarean I have ever been involved with followed, with a great deal of stress to man and beast.

The next day, I attended a conference on rural stress and somehow cows calving backwards did not feature high on the agenda. With the suicide rate as it is in our county I am not in the least surprised, and I can remember grandfathers saying that "problems outside the front door are manageable; inside they are more serious".

We turned in the rams on Oct 14 more or less on block, with only some which are going to a 100 Beulah Speckledface ewe lambs being held back. We were feeding the Bluefaced Leicesters with some ram mix just prior to tupping. However, one of them thought it would be his last supper for a long time and scoffed considerably more than he should have, or at least was good for his libido. Having kept him for the last 11 months, he has hardly looked at a female for the last two weeks. Thankfully, he seems to be getting better.

Off to Gwent for the Wales YFC Challenge Weekend. Young people from as far as St Lucia, Western Samoa, and GB all worked hard to build a childrens play area and renovate a pond to provide access for the disabled. It was hard work, but good fun, and I even had a Scotsman buy a round!

Were managing to sell lambs at the rate of 60 or so a week. The trade seems a bit mixed, but at least the Mule wethers weigh well and if we can get above £45 a head, it will help the cash flow. The third Mule ewe lamb sale held in Builth Wells for the first time was very successful, with trade up about £5 a head on the last sale. The latest policy with regards to clean livestock is causing some controversy. While the need for keeping E coli and the like out of the food chain at the earliest possible stage is essential, consistency is also required. How will markets without covered pens manage in the future I wonder?n

Rams were turned in by John Davies last month – with only some which are going to Beulah Speckledface ewe lambs held back.

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John Davies

24 October 1997

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales. The

main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360 acres)

of grass, with some short-

term grass lets being taken,

and hill rights extending to

97ha (240 acres). The farm

carries 101 suckler cows,

975 ewes, 230 Beulah

speckled face ewe lambs

and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

SOME deadlines are flexible, some arent. Oct 1 was the latter of those – getting ready for the open day and conference focusing on the positive aspects and actions that can be taken by us as farmers and the industry as a whole.

Being a typical working farm, a few changes had to be made, in particular the sheep shed had to be cleared, with 400 seats and staging set up. Thank you to all the friends and neighbours who provided 12 tractors and trailers. They were there bright and early, and the only things we needed were punters and sunshine! Thank goodness, both arrived mid morning and the farm tours seemed to go smoothly.

The conference took place in the afternoon. One of the speakers in particular got some reaction to controversial views on the quality of what we produce and how we market it. He highlighted consumers developing taste for locally produced, quality food. With red meat prices as they are, there is little to lose and much to gain. Im desperately trying to think how to sell our produce for more than it costs to rear – maybe Ill use some of his ideas.

We bought 100 Beulah-speckled face ewe lambs from Llandovery market which averaged just over £58. The same day, we sold some old ewes with the first pen making £35. At the second Mule sale we were quite late in the draw, and averaged just under £63. Hopefully theyll be good value and their buyers will come back again.

The beautiful autumn weather has changed, and become wintry overnight with thunder, lightning and very heavy rain. The cows and calves are starting to make a mess and my thoughts of being modern and extending the grazing period New Zealand style are looking dodgy. We have more silage than normal this year, but rarely seem to have any left at the end of the year so I hope my nerve will hold.

With cattle prices as they are, do we take the view that the first loss is the best or do we keep them? I think well keep as many as we can. If we can find some cheap housing, it would ease the pressure.

Being a FAWL registered farm and with all the requirements in place, Assured British Meats need to get its house in order, and as farmers, we need to have the kite mark on our meat. With common standards of approval I see no problem with traceability and increased regionality offers marketing opportunities. So come on ABM, shape up, lets be proactive instead of reactive.n

John Davies runs an upland

stock farm in mid-Wales. The

main holding at Pentre

comprises 145ha (360 acres)

of grass, with some short-

term grass lets being taken,

and hill rights extending to

97ha (240 acres). The farm

carries 101 suckler cows,

975 ewes, 230 Beulah

speckled face ewe lambs

and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

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John Davies

29 August 1997

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland stock farm in mid-Wales. The main holding at Pentre comprises 145ha (360 acres) of grass, with some short-term grass lets being taken, and hill rights extending to 97ha (240 acres). The farm carries 101 suckler cows, 975 ewes, 230 Beulah speckled face ewe lambs and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

WITH the Royal Welsh Show seeming like the dim and distant past, and with a huge amount of work done by a large number of volunteers, it was one of the best shows ever for Wales YFC. All the major political parties called by the YFC stand and it was something to savour to see William Hague being grilled by members of our Junior Forum.

Back in December, myself and two friends decided we needed to diversify – so Coed Epynt was set up, specialising in oak flooring from thinnings. With 90% of oak woodlands in Wales being owned by farmers and approximately 70% of them not being managed, it looks as if there may be some opportunities. We had a stand at the show and a lot of interest.

Back to the farm and we sold some steers in Brecon on red CIDs. They averaged 104p/kilo and the job seems to be improving, which is just as well with the recent cuts in OTMS. We had some cows booked in, but they were stuck in the queue prior to the cut.

Sure enough, a few days after the cut they went, with the two coming to just £557 after commission, haulage etc. being deducted. This was significantly less than the one would have made in what now seems the good old days. Im sure our national herd will become older and less competitive as I now need a pretty good reason to cull. Other people I spoke to feel the same.

We finished silage contracting on the last day of July, apart from a little raking. As always it was good to finish, with jobs at home in need of some attention. All the remaining muck was spread on aftermaths and the docks seem to be growing well. These have had a dose of Asulox, which should do the trick without knocking out too much clover.

We have hired a Belgian blue bull for a month. He was reserve champion at Chelford last year and looks quite impressive. We have purchased 14.3 units of cow quota and will surely need to buy an extra bull.

Last week saw some serious cleaning up with the first site visit of the organising committee for our open day, led by the YFC, and comprising leading members of Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions, NFU, FUW, MLC, RWAS, CLA, NSA and FFW. It will be held on Oct 1, with an open morning to be followed by a conference with some top speakers. Further details (01982-553502). &#42

With cows now fetching so little under the over-30 month scheme, producers will need a good reason to cull, says John Davies. He fears that the national herd will become older and less competitive as a result.

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John Davies

1 August 1997

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland stock farm in mid-Wales. The main holding at Pentre comprises 145ha (360 acres) of grass, with some short-term grass lets being taken, and hill rights extending to 97ha (240 acres). The farm carries 101 suckler cows, 975 ewes, 230 Beulah speckled face ewe lambs and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

WHAT more pleasant activity on a wet day than a ministry inspection of steers after a recent claim for second premium was about to complete its retention period. Everyone was present and correct and contrary to some rumours, the ministry man was very helpful and accommodating. Half an hours notice was given of arrival and no doubt, if it was dry perhaps I would not have been in such a helpful and accommodating mood!

We have finished our indoor silage pit, but what an ordeal. Thinking the rainy season had set in for good, we kept going at every opportunity with pressure being on to arrive at a few other farms. Quality no doubt will suffer.

The hill ewes off the nearby MOD range were shorn in early July. They shore better this year due to it being a grassier season, and the lambs seem to have done well. Lambs were drenched with Nilverm Gold and sprayed with Youngs Vector.

The weather has finally changed and its now pedal to the metal. Apart from one minor blow-up, the forager is going well, but the Sanderson forklift used for buck-raking was overheating, and some re-routing of the exhaust system was called for. With less than 600 hours on the clock and not six months old, this is a little disappointing, but it seems better now.

Together with a few hundred other farmers, I went to see Frans Fischler speak in Builth Wells and was quite disillusioned and disappointed with what he had to say. I suppose it was unlikely that any announcements would be made, but at least he saw and heard for himself the desperate situation we are in.

We weaned all our Mule lambs and split the wethers and ewe lambs. They were drenched with Cydectin, and we generally gave them a good check-up. With the Mule ewe lamb sale to be held in September, they will get the best TLC possible on these upland pastures before they hopefully move to a warmer climate!

It has been a been a rush to get things squared up before the Royal Welsh Show starts. The show has something which in the Welsh language is called hwyl, and which I feel is unique to such a large show. Maybe a reason for this is the way it retains its feature county. This year the host county will be my own – Brecknock – and our president the Hon Mrs Shan Legge-Bourke has been an inspiration to us all with a large amount of money being raised towards a new sheep complex which will benefit our own and future generations.n

During silage making, the Sanderson forklift used for buck-raking was overheating, and re-routing of the exhaust system was called for.

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John Davies

14 February 1997

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland stock farm in mid-Wales. The main holding at Pentre comprises 145ha (360 acres) of grass, with some short-term grass lets being taken, and hill rights extending to 97ha (240 acres). The farm carries 101 suckler cows, 975 ewes, 230 Beulah speckled face ewe lambs and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

PENTRE Farm is 8 miles from Brecon, and is a traditional family farm run in partnership with my father Elwyn, mum Olwen and my wife Menna, who are often called on to lend a hand.

The soil is predominantly red sand stone, and the land runs from 800 to 1150ft. I am the youngest of three brothers – all of whom run a similar, separate business – and two sisters. I am currently vice-chairman of Wales Young Farmers Club and do a small amount of work for Farmplan, after having initiated and helped to develop the beef programme.

Creating employment – or making work as Dad calls it – is important to me, and Im lucky to be able to call on a number of skilled casual workers when busy or when a YFC trip is called for, which is quite often!

Our next major project will be building a sheep shed of 105ft x 50ft. The site has been levelled and were just waiting for it to be delivered.

The reason for building the shed is optimism on the sheep front. This year our mule ewe lambs averaged £76.66, with three kept on which were too small to sell, so we cant lose too many to inclement March weather.

Having extended the cattle shed by a couple of bays this time last year, and then finding that rotavirus and Mr Dorrell had decided that keeping sucklers was not a good idea, I hope that budgets concerning the sheep shed will not be affected in the same way.

We presently have 26 steers and 40 heifers at Pentwyn which are going along nicely. We hope to finish them off grass in the summer. Theyre getting 0.75kg BOCM Intensive Beef and silage which analyses at DM 54.6, crude protein 19, D value 74.2 and ME 11.9 – an analysis which I was quite pleased with, and more importantly, the cattle seem to be too!

Our 490 ewes in lamb to the Blue Faced Leicester ram are presently on holiday in Pembroke. Just under half of then are carrying twins. Surprisingly, last year the Mule wethers averaged less than the speckle lambs which were kept entire. We sold some Mules and a few Rouge cross too early during July. The speckle lambs were marketed later and averaged £46 with some 30 left. The Mules and a few Rouge cross averaged £42.63 with around 10 left to sell.

The dry weather has allowed some muck spreading, and the frosty weather in early January saw a blitz on cattle work. The spring calves were injected with Dectomax and drenched with Lloyds Agrimin. The following day, the autumn calves had the same treatment.

At the beginning of the year we also installed a tank for molasses and were now mixing Rumenco Scotmol with straw and silage in the mixer wagon and they seem to be improving. Certainly time will tell. I hope to weigh them in the crush, an Allflex FX31 which weighs and downloads information directly into the computer indoors. Analysing the results is at least a change from thawing water bowls! &#42

The computer plays a vital role in analysing liveweight gain of suckler progeny at Pentre Farm according to our new contributor John Davies .

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John Davies

14 March 1996

John Davies

John Davies runs an upland stock farm in mid-Wales. Pentre comprises 145ha (360 acres) of grass, with some short-term grass lets being taken, and hill rights extending to 97ha (240 acres). The farm carries 101 suckler cows, 975 ewes, 230 Beulah speckled face ewe lambs and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

FIRST of all I can correct one minor printing error from last months article. We were pleased with an average of £67.66 for our Mule ewe lambs. The printed price of £76.66 would leave quite a discrepancy in our accounts, especially if some friendly Inland Revenue person saw it.

On the cattle front, most of the spring calves have been weaned over the last month. Nearly all averaged over 1kg/day liveweight gain with the best putting on 1.9kg/day. The Dectomax and Agrimin treatment we gave them at the turn of the year worked well, because the autumn calves have really moved as well.

The sheep trade continues to be a bit mixed. We sold some barren ewes which we had picked up from tack at Jordanstan Hall for up to £40. They had done well and there was no reason why they shouldnt be carrying a couple of lambs. When scanning, the five came through – one after the other. I though the machine was awry, but they are always seen together. Dad calls then shy breeders, and someone else called them lesbians! Whatever your views on that in the human population, it is most undesirable in a sheep flock.

The work on the sheep shed is progressing very well. Erecting the metal and wood ready for cladding and roofing took three days. But thats the easy part – we have all the internal work and roofing/cladding yet to do. The boys have been talking about brushing up on their hang-gliding skills!

Late January saw the boys busy hedging and fencing prior to the deadline for the Countryside Council for Wales Hedgerow Renovation Scheme. It is designed to renovate old hedgerows of importance to wildlife and landscape, which are clearly visible from public roads or footpaths.

The bad weather in early January made it a tight deadline, but we had to get there because we hosted an open day on Feb 5 to promote the scheme, which is the most generous in this area and just about covers costs. A good number attended, and also put their names down on the waiting list which is presently too long. It would be good to have a well funded Tir Cymen scheme – which tries to integrate production, environmental management and rural support – extended to the whole of Wales.n

FIRST of all I can correct one minor printing error from last months article. We were pleased with an average of £67.66 for our Mule ewe lambs. The printed price of £76.66 would leave quite a discrepancy in our accounts, especially if some friendly Inland Revenue person saw it.

On the cattle front, most of the spring calves have been weaned over the last month. Nearly all averaged over 1kg/day liveweight gain with the best putting on 1.9kg/day. The Dectomax and Agrimin treatment we gave them at the turn of the year worked well, because the autumn calves have really moved as well.

The sheep trade continues to be a bit mixed. We sold some barren ewes which we had picked up from tack at Jordanstan Hall for up to £40. They had done well and there was no reason why they shouldnt be carrying a couple of lambs. When scanning, the five came through – one after the other. I though the machine was awry, but they are always seen together. Dad calls then shy breeders, and someone else called them lesbians! Whatever your views on that in the human population, it is most undesirable in a sheep flock.

The work on the sheep shed is progressing very well. Erecting the metal and wood ready for cladding and roofing took three days. But thats the easy part – we have all the internal work and roofing/cladding yet to do. The boys have been talking about brushing up on their hang-gliding skills!

Late January saw the boys busy hedging and fencing prior to the deadline for the Countryside Council for Wales Hedgerow Renovation Scheme. It is designed to renovate old hedgerows of importance to wildlife and landscape, which are clearly visible from public roads or footpaths.

The bad weather in early January made it a tight deadline, but we had to get there because we hosted an open day on Feb 5 to promote the scheme, which is the most generous in this area and just about covers costs. A good number attended, and also put their names down on the waiting list which is presently too long. It would be good to have a well funded Tir Cymen scheme – which tries to integrate production, environmental management and rural support – extended to the whole of Wales.n

John Davies runs an upland stock farm in mid-Wales. Pentre comprises 145ha (360 acres) of grass, with some short-term grass lets being taken, and hill rights extending to 97ha (240 acres). The farm carries 101 suckler cows, 975 ewes, 230 Beulah speckled face ewe lambs and 35 Welsh Mule ewes.

Work on John Davies new sheep shed is progressing fast, but the hard work is to come, he says.

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