John Martin - Farmers Weekly

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John Martin

16 April 1999

Program checks pig performance

CHECK pig performance against industry figures using computer programmes PigPlan On-Farm or PigPlan Solutions, says farm business consultants Signet.

Comparing on-farm performance with other units will highlight where output needs improving. Using a Windows-based programme from AgroSoft, producers can enter data manually or remotely using a hand-held terminal, to produce analysis and management reports.

Each month data is sent to Signet for analysis by pig specialists who will interpret results and suggest how performance can be improved. This will be followed up with two visits each year by a Signet consultant.

Offering full telephone support, PigPlan On-farm costs £1100 for the initial year and £600 a year thereafter, or it can be leased for £700 a year. PigPlan Solution prices depend on selected applications (01908-670339, fax 01908-609825).

Two new bulls join breeding outfit stud

TWO bulls – Dixie-Lee Aaron and Glen-D-Haven Lib Jabo – have joined the line-up of breeding company AltaPon.

Dixie-Lee Aaron is a Luke son out of the Mascot daughter Dixie-Lee Aspen EX92 (pictured). He offers 1068kg milk with 20kg (-0.33%) butterfat and 30kg (-0.04%) protein, and with a PLI of £115. Dixie-Lee costs £22 a straw.

Also joining the stud is Glen-D-Haven Lib Jabo sired by Heinz Liberty and out of a Gold medal dam by Blackstar. He offers 1203kg milk, 29kg (-0.12%) protein and 27kg (-0.27%) fat, and with a PLI of £100. His straws cost £18 (0151-355 3666, fax 0151 355 3888).

Cow costings at half the price?

COMPLETE dairy cow costings at a much lower price than other providers, says NMR.

It adds that this service is priced at half the cost of many competitors services.

The service requires producers to complete a monthly data sheet including feed, fertiliser, milk production and milk price.

Reports of margins over purchased feed and fertiliser will be sent out within two days of receiving completed input forms, says the company.

Producers already using a costing service with another company can input 12 months of data to provide rolling average figures free of charge.

The service costs £8.50 a month (01249-462000, fax 01249-462002).

Simple sugar in dairy cow feed

FEED Greenfield Eclipse cake to dairy cows and help improve feed intake and performance from grazed grass and silage, says compounder Hanford Feeds.

Greenfield Eclipse contains Lactofeed 70 – a simple sugar – which should improve the use of degradable proteins found in both grazed grass and silage, says the company. Other ingredients include maize gluten, rapeseed, cottonseed, corn distillers, minerals and flash-dried grass.

Recommended feed rates are between 4kg and 6kg a cow a day throughout lactation. Available direct, it costs about £142/t (01300-348556, fax 01300-348050).

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson farms a

325ha (800 acre) mixed

arable and dairy unit near

Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The 200

dairy cows average 6500

litres on a simple, high forage

system. They are allocated

25ha (100 acres) of

permanent pasture and 29ha

(110 acres) of short term

leys and maize grown in the

arable rotation

I AM introducing myself as a new writer to the Farmer Focus section. I have been running our dairy for eight years now and am still on a steep learning curve, with there being no shortage of changes going on.

We farm 800 acres in north Norfolk, of which 210 acres is designated to the dairy. Dairy land is made up of 100 acres of heavy grade three clay land, put down to permanent pasture long ago, and 110 acres of medium sandy loam, which is part of the arable rotation, comprising of short term leys and maize.

Over the years, the proportion of maize has steadily risen and is now up to 85 acres. The main arable crops are wheat, sugar beet and potatoes.

We have recently increased our milking cow numbers from 160 to 200 to spread our overhead costs. This was fairly painless, due to BSE cohort compensation and, sadly, the number of dispersal sales in Norfolk last year.

We rear our own heifer replacements for four months before sending them to a farm in Lincolnshire for rearing. This is all run with two cowmen, although the arable staff help with silage feeding in winter.

Our dairy ethos is to run a simple system that produces milk cheaply from forage. We have resisted the temptation to buy a mixer wagon, with silage being easy-fed in bunkers using a shear grab.

Cows are fed two-thirds maize silage and one-third grass silage, with a midday feed of 10kg of either potatoes or sugar beet, depending on price and time of year. Cows are topped up with a 28% protein concentrate in the parlour.

At present yields are running at 6500 litres from 1.3t of concentrate and 3500 litres coming from forage. Our aim is to increase yield a cow and ideally yield from forage.

We calve in two blocks – September/October for the autumn herd and January to March for the spring herd.

Cows have milked well over the winter, which has resulted in us going sailing over quota. We have decided to sit tight regarding buying quota, and it now looks as though our gamble may have paid off. However, we have covered ourselves for the new quota year. &#42

Kevin Daniel

Kevin Daniel has a mixed

lowland holding near

Launceston, Cornwall. The

65ha (160 acres) farm and

20ha (50 acres) of rented

ground supports 70

Simmental cross suckler

cows, 380 Border Leicester

cross Suffolk ewes and has

28ha (70 acres) of arable

THIS months report has been written in the lambing shed, while waiting for a ewe to give birth. Normally we dont give an individual ewe so much attention, but she was scanned as a single and with a pen full of foster lambs, I am keen for her to rear an extra one.

At scanning we identified 51 trebles and 52 singles, so in theory every ewe can rear two lambs. In practice, a lot of singles lambed at the start when we had no spare lambs, leaving a surplus of triplets.

Fostering lambs at birth is the easiest and most successful method, especially when a triplet is lambing at the same time, when we take the biggest lamb to match with the single. If we have an older dry lamb to foster, the legs are tied and the lamb is immersed in warm water before assisting with the birth of the single lamb and then covering the foster lamb with birth fluids. We find wet fostering to be 90-95% successful. But once a ewe has licked her lamb, it is nearly impossible to get her to accept a second one.

With the peak of ewes lambing over Easter, mild conditions proved ideal for turning ewes with lambs out when 24 to 36 hours old. Temperatures were three times higher than the same time last year, and unlike last year we have recorded no weather related losses.

We have, once again, been assisted with lambing by Steven Goodenough, now in his middle year of an HND course at the local Duchy College. Steven is a hard-working and competent shepherd. I am sure British agriculture has a secure future if all new entrants are of his calibre. He has taken responsibility for lambing during the day, allowing me to spread fertiliser on the silage area and winter cereals, and spray a first fungicide on the wheat and barley.

Provided ground conditions allow we hope to have turned out most of the cattle by the time you read this article. This years grazing has been supplemented, as last year, with 40 acres of grass keep because the farm is once again over stocked because of TB restrictions, preventing sale of store cattle. &#42

John Glover

John Glover currently milks

65 Holstein Friesian cows

plus followers on a 40ha

(100 acre) county council

holding near Lutterworth,

Leicestershire, having

moved from another 20ha

(51 acre) holding

county council farm

WHEN are we going to turn the cows out?" my seven-year-old son keeps asking. The answer is, soon. We are actually waiting for the ground round gateways and water troughs to dry up because we had youngstock out until January and fields were heavily poached.

We only need about seven acres to turn the cows onto, but it has to be close to the yard as we feed the cows a total mixed ration 365 days a year.

We are just starting the third year of our tenancy here and we are just about getting straight. But it is surprising how long things take. In the first winter, youngstock were housed away and the milking herd moved here as soon as the parlour was finished in October.

The youngstock were then housed all the second summer to use up silage stocks so we could empty the silage clamp. Then last autumn and winter the remaining building work was finished but, because things take longer than expected, youngstock were kept out longer than intended. We may, therefore, be later turning out and excessive poaching may reduce silage yields.

After two full years of the tenancy we are getting there, although the parlour still has some odds and ends to finish when the landlords start the new financial year.

The other matters not settled are the end of tenancy valuations. This is when the costs of improvements we made to the old farm are calculated and set against the dilapidation of the landlords property. Added to this is the cost to the new tenant of silage stocks and certain items of tenants fixtures – such as milking equipment, yard gates, cubicles and feed barriers.

We are pig in the middle here, as we shall receive a payment from valuation of the old farm but will have to pay on the valuation on this new tenancy.

So was it worth moving? We are now in a better position to face CAP reforms, as we have a dairy herd of 80 cows and the yields are back around 8000 litres and we can house up to 100 cows in the future. &#42

John Martin

John Martin farms with his

parents on the Ards Peninsula

south of Belfast. The 65ha

(160-acre) Gordonall Farm

and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown

A SHORTAGE of hours in the day indicate that it must be spring at last. A bit of grass growth is welcome because silage is disappearing fast.

Cows began calving in early March, with 44 by the end of the month. Five sets of twins will help to make up for a couple of stillborn calves, but we find the 23 heifers very slow – normally they calve before the bulk of the cows.

Only a few ewes are left to lamb. With a lambing percentage of 168% for this batch we are reasonably happy, as it includes 39 ewe lambs and 32 purchased hoggets.

These ewe lambs produced the first offspring from a Beltex ram bought last year, and were easier to lamb than expected.

Half the early lambers were weaned a couple of weeks ago, and the same fate awaits the rest in the coming days. We sold nine spring lambs on Mar 23, to begin our 26th year supplying a local, butcher.

The heaviest lamb, graded U3, killed out at 24.7kg coldweight, and at £3.25/kg realised over £80. The group averaged 21.7kg and £70.47 each. There are less spring lambs about this year and with little sign of the much talked about carry-over of lambs from 1998, prospects look reasonable.

We have also sold some store cattle to boost cash flow. The market has been somewhat lower than last year and the first day saw single punched, home produced and mainly Limousin bullocks average only 96p/kg liveweight. The second outing after the Agenda 2000 proposals were agreed by the EU saw things improve with the average for similar stock rising to 104p/kg. Perhaps buyers saw that the beef base price was only to fall by 20%, instead of the 30% originally proposed.

The subsequent Berlin agreement by the heads of government was not as bad as we expected. But it will cause us to look seriously at our systems. The most obvious concern, beside the reduction in prices, is that of stocking rate limitations. We currently claim up to two livestock units/hectare. Now that all stock on the holding count towards the 1.8 LSU maximum we are way overstocked in EU terms. Already the word inefficiency springs to mind, if we have to reduce numbers. &#42

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John Martin

15 May 1998

John Martin

John Martin farms in

partnership with his parents

on the Ards Peninsula 15

miles south of Belfast. The

65ha (160-acre) Gordonall

farm and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown for feed and

for sale

I DISCOVERED early in my farming career that education is a poor substitute for common sense.

My college days told me that at the beginning of May, according to the grass growth curve, I should be standing waist deep in grass. But a quick look in any of my fields tells me that theory is not always borne out by practice.

The unseasonal cold snap over Easter combined with biting winds, resulted in limited grass growth in a year when we had hoped to keep costs down with an early turnout. Until a few days ago only calved cows and heifers were outdoors, unsure where their next bite was coming from.

The recent milder temperatures have allowed yearling cattle to go out, although they are still getting a little rolled barley to help with the transition. Heifers averaged 340kg, most having already reached the target bulling weight of 320kg. They were treated with a pour-on to control parasites, in preference to the bolus used in previous years, which is more expensive. I hope the bullocks will have become cash by now, although they are later being marketed this year due to a slow demand as a result of the grass situation.

Only a few older cows have yet to calve, with all young calves now dehorned and having received a pneumonia vaccine to counter any risk. We had been waiting to receive our new double ear-tags which have arrived at last, so all recent additions are modelling this seasons accessory in yellow.

The early lambs have had a bit of a set-back due to the wet weather, so there are fewer sold than we would have liked. But the last 15 sold averaged about 22.3kg and realised £56, going to our regular butcher for local consumption.

The rest of the early lambs are now weaned and well settled. We sold the first 27 cull ewes to average £28 each, but the price has fallen considerably since then.

The green £ revaluation on May 1 will compound problems within the lamb market depending on exports, and any return to exporting beef will also be at the mercy of the currency dealers.

It is disheartening to know that we as farmers can be technically efficient on our farms, but that profitability is determined in dealing rooms.

Conversely it may encourage us to look to tighten our belts, perhaps giving greater efficiency in the future, but I have to look with some envy at the 11 member states who have joined the Euro.

Only a few of John Martins older suckler cows are left to calve.

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John Martin

20 February 1998

John Martin

John Martin farms in

partnership with his parents

on the Ards Peninsula 15

miles south of Belfast. The

65ha (160-acre) Gordonall

farm and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown for feed and

for sale.

The dry weather at the start of the month was a welcome seasonal luxury, and a good opportunity to get ewes and lambs onto the forage rape. The lambs have started to eat creep feed now and we try to ensure the feeders are kept clean to stimulate intake. There seems to be uncertainty about the market for spring lamb this year, but we hope local consumers will be demanding our top quality product.

We received our first load of fertiliser in advance of the target T-sum date of Feb 16, when all of the grazing area had 50kg/acre of Hydros nitrogen/urea mixture applied. Only a little slurry has been spread and we hope to cover the first cut silage area before the end of the month. I attended the Ulster Grassland Society Conference recently to have my grass management skills refreshed. The theme for the speakers centred around maximising use of home-grown forage, while optimising timing and level of inputs.

While a few local dairy cows were outdoors recently for a spot of extended grazing, we have no similar plans for our sucklers. The in-calf heifers have been injected with a five in one vaccine to cover their offspring against a mixed bag of diseases, and are expected to begin calving in late February.

Much to the relief of our bank manager Im sure, the beef heifers were sold to the same local butcher who buys our lambs. These were too small to go to the bull last summer and averaged 242kg cold weight, or £436.

As time goes by, the financial position of the Provinces farms becomes more serious.

The Ulster Farmers Union has calculated in recent days that the fall in the value of farm output in the last two years is in excess of £200m, with an average net farm income of less than £3000 for each farm business expected for 1998. &#42

Average net farm income in Northern Ireland is expected to be less than £3000 for each farm business in 1998, says John Martin.

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John Martin

28 November 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in partnership with his parents on the

Ards Peninsula 15 miles south of Belfast. The 65ha (160-

acre) Gordonall farm and 16ha (40 acres) of rented land

carry 400 Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a small flock of Suffolks

and 40 spring calving sucklers. About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown for feed and for sale

ITS that time of year again "with only … shopping days left until Christmas". Although my days are subject to this time-scale also, I tend to see them as the number of washing and disinfecting days until lambing.

Our pre-natal clinic is currently in full swing, with 170 early lambers practising their breathing exercises. They were crutched by a contractor on Nov 10, about five weeks from parturition. This is probably one of the best days work we do all year and has several benefits. Firstly, ewes are easily spotted when they begin to lamb, teats are more accessible for newborn mouths, and finally the ewes dont get dirty when they go onto the rape or spring grass. As well as their annual clostridial vaccine booster, the ewes have been foot bathed every few days. This controls any foot-rot, but also reduces the risk of bacteria getting into bedding and subsequently causing liver abscesses in young lambs.

Due to the extra grass again this autumn these sheep are in exceptional body condition. After housing they will receive the best silage available, with concentrate introduced for the last three weeks of pregnancy. This home-mixed ration based on rolled barley, has fishmeal added to stimulate milk production. This ration is quite acceptable for breeding ewes under current FQAS regulations, but who knows what the future may hold.

The March lambers are now well settled in lamb with only a few ewe lambs left to be marked.

About 100 lambs remain and havent needed any meal yet as the milder weather has returned. They should be all sold by the New Year.

The continuous chorus of calves after weaning has ceased as they have adapted to life on deep pile straw. They have received barley with locally grown peas, as a cheaper protein source than soya meal, at about 1kg/day. This will be reduced to 0.5kg daily in order to control inputs and maximise liveweight gain from silage. Weights at housing were up to 340kg for some of the March born animals.

Their mothers spent a couple of days on straw only to help dry them off, and are now receiving big bale silage and straw alternately to prevent them becoming over fat.

The silo is now fully opened and quality looks good, although it is drier than recent years. However, a representative sample will be sent for analysis in order to be sure of its nutrient content.n

John Martins early lambers receive best quality silage after housing, with concentrates introduced in the last three weeks before lambing starts.

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John Martin

31 October 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in

partnership with his parents

on the Ards Peninsula 15

miles south of Belfast. The

65ha (160-acre) Gordonall

farm and 16ha (40 acres) of

rented land carry 400

Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a

small flock of Suffolks and

40 spring calving sucklers.

About 20ha (50 acres) of

barley is grown for feed and

for sale

REGULAR readers will recall that 12 months ago I acquired two new members of farm staff. One was a collie pup and the other a wife. Youll be glad to know that a year on, we are all still working together. I now seem to be making good progress with their training even though there was a steep learning curve for all concerned.

Looking to the livestock, the sheep have all had their winter scab dip through the shower dipper, prior to the rams joining the mid-March lambers on Oct 16. About a week before, one of the oldest rams decided he didnt want to play any more and caught a chill. Despite treatment and some swearing on my part, he seems to have decided his illness is terminal.

We had bought two Suffolk ram lambs at one of the smaller sales, so along with four home produced ram lambs we are just about up to strength as far as ewe:ram ratios go.

The remaining store lambs had been growing well prior to the cold, wet weather, but they have slowed up now. We may introduce some rolled barley with added protein to help them along if this climatic downturn continues.

On the cattle side, the vet examined the 28 heifers and confirmed them all in calf, with the majority due mid-March – the same time as the ewes!

While he was here he castrated a 12-month old Belgian Blue bull which wasnt good enough to use for breeding. I was rather surprised when he produced a cordless drill. After withdrawing each testicle he placed a pair of forceps on the cord and using the drill spun it round until it narrowed and broke. This technique results in less bleeding and was developed by a rancher in the US.

The 50 spring born calves have received their vaccinations against pneumonia, and by the time you read this will have been weaned. They will get 15ml long acting alamycin to get them over the stress involved and Ivermectin to control parasites. They will be housed on straw, while all the other cattle will go onto slats. The beef cattle will also get Ivermectin, but the in-calf cows and heifers a cheaper combination of pour-on and white drench.

We are currently being told of the need to present only clean cattle for slaughter. I dont have any problem with that, but some of the measures being talked about, such as clipping the bellies of cattle, are completely unreasonable. I only hope it doesnt take someone being seriously injured to bring people to their senses. Surely it would be much better to clip them after bleeding and before going under the knife. In a straw deficient area, where slats are the only alternative on many farms, we await a workable commonsense approach. &#42

The rams went in with the mid-March lambers on Oct 16 – minus one which has decided that his illness is terminal, says John Martin.

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John Martin

5 September 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in partnership with his parents on the Ards Peninsula 15 miles south of Belfast. The 65ha (160-acre) Gordonall farm and 16ha (40 acres) of rented land carry 400 Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a small flock of Suffolks and 40 spring calving sucklers.

DESPITE some rain breaks, the 18 acres of Pastoral winter barley was harvested by early August. It averaged 3t/acre and was sold off, immediately – supposedly as a cash crop – with the price down 22% on last year. Despite a depressed demand for straw, ours sold readily to regular customers.

The stubble received 2500 gal/acre of cattle slurry before a run with the power harrow which was enough to create an adequate seed-bed for forage rape. Fertiliser was applied – 100kg/acre of 16.16.16 – and the gates closed until next January.

The current grass situation is good, and some areas have been topped to freshen them up. Cows and calves are being rotated to keep on top of the new growth. The cows should now all be in calf again via natural service and a few late calvers are still to be sold.

The calves are receiving home mixed creep meal to start them to feed: This will improve growth rates as grass quality falls, and make weaning less of an ordeal.

The lambs were dipped again to control fly strike, which should be less of a problem from now on. Lamb trade continues to hold reasonably steady with the last batch sold averaging over £53.

We purchased 39 breeding ewe replacements, Suffolk x Cheviot. These, along with 42 home-reared Rouge x Suffolk ewe lambs, will receive clostridial vaccinations as well as injections against enzootic and toxoplasmic abortion.

A new Suffolk stock ram was purchased, selected for his breeding and potential performance as recorded under the Signet Sheep-breeder scheme. I sold five home-produced Suffolk shearlings straight out of the field for up to £305.

Unfortunately one of our older commercial rams went to meet his maker as the result of a broken neck – sustained in a fight over a female – so this years Suffolk ram lambs have been drafted in for extra fire power.

A Dorset ram was purchased recently and had his fire power removed thanks to a vasectomy, so with any luck "he" will be a useful teaser for the next few years. &#42

Suffolk x Cheviot breeding ewe replacements and a new Suffolk stock ram have been bought by John Martin. A Dorset ram was also purchased – but promptly vasectomised for use as a teaser.

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John Martin

8 August 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in partnership with his parents on the Ards Peninsula 15 miles south of Belfast. The 65ha (160-acre) Gordonall farm and 16ha (40 acres) of rented land carry 400 Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a small flock of Suffolks and 40 spring calving sucklers. About 20ha (50 acres) of barley is grown for feed and for sale

ONE local farmer recently proclaimed after his first cut that good weather for silage making was nothing to do with luck, but good management on his part. I know farmers may claim to have supernatural powers at times, but Ill stick with trying to be lucky, being a lesser mortal.

It has paid off twice this year; our second cut picked up on July 23 in bright sunny conditions, after a 24-hour wilt. Fortunately, the temperature dropped sufficiently to allow covering of the silo in relative comfort.

This years forage conservation is almost at an end having taken 97 big bales from seven acres of the grazing area.

Showers throughout the season have stopped grassland from scorching as in recent years, but growth has been limited in the last few weeks. We applied 75kg/acre of 27.5% nitrogen to the grazing area in late July to help encourage the grass growth needed for flushing and mating ewes.

Rams were introduced to the 65 December lambers on July 11 but their activity has been slower than expected. The 110 January lambers had four weeks on good grass before joining the rams on Aug 4.

The last of the ewes have been dried off and will be kept tightly stocked until mid-September.

The early lambs this year have averaged £55.60, down on 1996, a continuing trend for the rest of the year. Hopefully, replacement ewe prices will be more realistic as a result but as a seller of Suffolk shearling rams, I have mixed emotions.

The lambs are looking well on silage aftermath with the first of the March crop sold in mid-July. All the lambs were crutched with electric shears to remove the wool from the tail area. This decision was made after last year when we seemed to waste a couple of hours dagging dirty lambs every time they were in the pens to be sorted. It certainly seems to have kept them cleaner and helped to reduce fly strike which has been a problem in the area.

We kept a close eye for the tell-tale signs of tail shaking and stains on the wool, until we got a chance to give all the sheep their summer dip on July 24, using the sheep shower.

The cows, now all calved, are running with either Limousin or Belgian Blue bulls. Nine cow and calf units were sold recently to a top of £780, well down on earlier sales. They were surplus to requirements and hopefully the market will strengthen as buyers look for replacements to fill their suckler cow quota claims.

The last of the calves were dehorned, although a couple were nearly left too long. Thank goodness for anaesthetic, but I sometimes feel I have a greater need of it than the calves.n

The last of the ewes have been dried off and the lambs are looking well on silage aftermath.

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John Martin

21 February 1997

John Martin

John Martin farms in partnership with his parents on the Ards Peninsula 15 miles south of Belfast. The 65ha (160-acre) Gordonall farm and 16ha (40 acres) of rented land carry 400 Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a small flock of Suffolks and 40 spring calving sucklers. About 20ha (50 acres) of barley is grown for feed and for sale.

AT LAST, a normal sleep pattern has been resumed with only a handful of early lambers left. The lambs are mostly all outside, having enjoyed a mild January with all its sunshine.

The first 78 ewes with twins are now grazing 17 acres of rape, but have access to a grass field if they wish. We havent used strip grazing for years and just let them at it all. With a headland round the field they start at the outside and eat their way in, and actually waste very little. The other ewes and lambs are all on grass.

The lambs are still only eating small amounts of creep as yet, but its kept clean and fed fresh daily. However, the crows are also rather partial to the meal and see the feeders as a 24-hour fast food joint; we are currently engages in a battle of wits, and lead.

The lambs have been growing well but we have lost a few at three to four weeks. These have been sent to the DANI Veterinary Research Laboratory for post mortem, a service we will have to pay for in the near future. As yet no conclusive results, but a suggestion that our problem may be lamb nephrosis. No, I hadnt heard of it either but it seems to be the in thing for lambs wishing to expire. The bad news is that there is currently no known cause or cure, and only some flocks are affected.

The March lambers are now all housed on a diet of good quality silage with only purchased replacements still outdoors. They have access to silage and hay, but will also be given a little concentrate before housing to prevent any dietary upsets. The last of our finished lambs realised £66 to round off probably our best sheep year ever.

Not so the cattle; 12 home-produced Farm Quality Assured Limousin bullocks were slaughtered Feb 3, averaging 307kg at 20 months. The revaluation of the green £ has helped reduce beef price to 186p/kg for U3/R3 grades. The deseasonalisation premium of about £58 will bring them up to around £600, but still well short of £710 last year. &#42

John Martins early ewes are almost finished lambing, and the first 78 ewes with twins are grazing rape.

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