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John Yeomans

2 August 2002

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

WE RECENTLY had a visit from the RSPB, which is working with producers in Wales to survey farmland birds and the population spread.

It was interesting walking with Reg, who recognised the calls before the birds came into sight.

The next day I was topping thistles on the hill and saw a red kite, only the second time I have seen one here. Perhaps if I hadnt been looking at it I would have missed the stone that broke the knife holder in half. I have not found the missing half yet, but await strange stories of decapitated ramblers.

The next day we were silaging, so of course the hydraulic pump went on our tractor. Our harvest is now finished although it was exposed to a 0.5cm (0.25in) monsoon for five minutes, according to our rain gauge.

We bottled out of making hay seven days after cutting and went for round bale silage. The pit looks pretty full, so I think we should get away without needing to buy any bulk feed – famous last words.

My mother in-law was playing football with our son Jack and took a Rivaldo-style dive, unfortunately breaking her arm in three places. We could not move her and rang the ambulance. Luckily, we had our OS grid reference by the phone, thanks to the Powys Farm Accident Reduction Project, saving the emergency services so much time.

We have just bought some OP dip – £225 for five litres. The New Zealand equivalent was about £50 for five litres in 1999, but was taken off the market due to lack of interest. I never thought we would need a loan to dip sheep.

The MOD contacted us recently for permission to use our ground on training exercises. As my mate Bryn says, if we move anything on to the farm we are shut down for 20 days, yet they can move from farm to farm over a large area. &#42

The MOD has gained permission to exercise on several farms in John Yeomans area. Yet stock movements are still restricted by the 20-day standstill – double standards, he believes.

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John Yeomans

5 July 2002

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

THE World Cup – I was gutted – Ill say no more. After a cold wet start to summer, the weather has improved considerably.

Hill grass growth has picked up to 77kg DM/ha a day. After seeing lambs and calves sheltering in the cold rain most days when I checked them, now the weather has improved, hopefully theyll grow as fast as the grass.

At home, a field reseeded in 2000 is yielding 98kg DM/ha a day.

Weve now fixed a date for our open day – Sep 6. Ceiriog near Ruthin and Derek, near Llangurig, the other original TIR farms, will also have theirs in the same week. That is providing we can get through the risk assessments, Environment Agency check and Health and Safety visits to allow the open day to go ahead. There is some concern about allowing people on tractors and trailers and going round the hills through other peoples stock.

I recently went on an excellent farm visit with the Royal Agricultural Societys Awards Scheme. This was mainly on trailers, but they took the view that as grown-ups we could be trusted not to throw ourselves under the tractor wheels.

It amazes me that there is concern about producers travelling through other peoples stock, when walkers and mountain bikers are doing the same every day on hill roads. It worries us that the projects focus – looking at the whole farm and how best to make it viable from soil, stock and business – is being lost in a mountain of regulations.

I feel we should take a common sense, careful approach to the day, as we did in 2000 and let our insurers know what is going on. In New Zealand, the project on which ours is based, runs large field days successfully with a minimum of fuss.

While Im on my soap box, why is it that when things get a bit hot for the government, mysteriously negative stories about agriculture or other industries and individuals are released. I thought maybe Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair could be an asset to the Wool Board, theyre so good at spinning. &#42

Grass growth has put on a spurt recently on John Yeomans farm, and he hopes cattle will follow suit.

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John Yeomans

10 May 2002

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

WHAT a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago wed started our five-month stint on a Form D notice with all the problems it entailed.

Twelve months on, lambing has probably seen the best weather for many years. Mind you, theres a major hail storm outside at the moment.

Apart from a few prolapses, lambing has gone pretty well and is over apart from a few ewe lambs due to a romantic visiting ram. We decided not to rush ewes back to the hill after lambing to allow grass to build there. This means we will aim for an early/mid-July silage cut.

We have applied 120kg/ha (50kg/acre) of urea to hill ground along with Fibrophos, Timac and 0:24:24 on three trial pieces which weve brought from 0 to +1 for P and K since 2000. This application should bring them to our target of +2.

Last year, despite restrictions, production from hill ground improved by 12%. Im sure Chris and Charlie from IGER are looking forward to their regular trips to the hill to cut the grass cages this year. Sadly, on Chriss first visit, there wasnt enough grass to cut.

Silage ground has had 308kg/ha (125kg/acre) of 34.5% N and grazing fields, 120kg/ha (50kg/acre).

Calving has gone well apart from a few annoying bits of bad luck. Due to last year, aside from too many barrens, a number of cows have slipped back into May calving.

On a positive note – unusual for me as I gained the college prize for moaning – weve bulled over half the cows and heifers to calve next year. We plan to leave bulls in slightly longer this year and sell later calvers.

Weve had another ministry check following our cattle check in February – this time on sheep. Mysteriously, these checks seem to come just after Ive had a pop at government or DEFRA in farmers weekly.

I am, of course, assured we were picked completely at random. Ive never had this kind of luck at the Lottery or Premium Bonds. The check went well with everything in order and, more importantly, I didnt have to open any gates on the way to dry ewe lambs on the hill. &#42

Are DEFRA inspections random, wonders John Yeomans after a recent ministry sheep check.

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John Yeomans

15 March 2002

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown

in mid-Wales. The farm is

split between hill and

upland, with the hill land in

two blocks running up to

426m (1400ft). It is

stocked with 70 suckler

cows, including some

Limousins and 540 breeding

sheep, mostly Beulahs

A BIG relief for us was a clear TB and brucellosis test. Because the badger population explodes and TB spreads at an alarming rate, something drastic must be done.

At a recent talk, a vet told us that when TB is discovered in parts of the US, not only are the reacting farm animals "taken out", but hunters are sent in to control wildlife. They believe this arrests disease spread and stops wildlife suffering a slow death from TB.

We have a very active badger population in our wood and, hopefully, they will keep out any dodgy disease-carrying types to maintain our TB-free status.

I was disappointed to read of a vet criticising restocking farmers for moving TB into previously clean areas. Had DEFRA allowed them to restock from neighbours at the beginning, this would never have happened.

The TB test was well timed to coincide with a ministry tag and record check on the cattle. This was a pretty big task requiring several hours of paperwork alone. Apart from one stupid tag mix-up by me – I would like to blame Sarah, but she has an alibi – everything was OK.

A recent trip to a Trident/ ADAS Rosemaund open day showed some interesting trials with moist feeds for cattle and sheep. Problems with soil in our silage – this year I think the moles will have drowned – are making us look hard at possible options for making up a probable shortfall. Ewes fed on a pressed pulp/distillers grains mix at Rosemaund looked well.

After the addition of 7.5% soya to the young cattle ration, growth rates have risen to more than 1.17kg/day on ad-lib silage plus 3kg/head of sugar beet, maize gluten and soya mix.

Finished lambs have given a reasonable return, with our Blueface progeny averaging 42.1kg and our best Beulah rams offspring, 41.3kg. All batches have been sold at between £2 and £2.40/kg deadweight.

We recently received a letter from BT addressed to "the executors of John Yeomans" – I know I look pretty grim in the farmers weekly photos, but I thought I looked better than that. &#42

Cattle ID checks and TB tests have taken considerable time on John Yeomans farm recently, but at least TB tests proved negative.

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John Yeomans

15 February 2002

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown

in mid-Wales. The farm is

split between hill and

upland, with the hill land in

two blocks running up to

426m (1400ft). It is

stocked with 70 suckler

cows, including some

Limousins and 540 breeding

sheep, mostly Beulahs

OUR vet says it always lifts his spirits to come to us. However bad his day, it always looks good compared with ours.

Reversing into the shed with the loader door open, I broke the door latch then accidentally locked myself out. Coming from Birmingham, our mechanic thought Id have broken in and driven away in 30 seconds. We ended up taking the window out.

On a brighter note, scrapie testing went well. Of 51 rams tested, 21 rams and ram lambs tested are group one ARR x ARR genotype. Most of the rest will be culled, which I hope will benefit us financially when the autumn ram sales come around.

Ewes are now housed and shorn having scanned at 150%, including 17 barren (3%). Dry ewe lambs have returned to the hill, while 44 tupped Mule ewe lambs that were unsold in autumn have now been sold to a regular customer.

We have also sold our first bull for 18 months. Its good to start returning to some normality. Roll on Bishops Castle May sale.

Calving has gone well, so far. High iodine boluses seem to sharpen calves up no end, although we had to put one young cow down because she prolapsed badly.

Before the rain came we had started to coppice, replant and double fence some poor lengths of hedge. By we, I mean Philip and Paul – the fastest fencers in the west. Weve had no grant aid, but the job was urgent for stock control and the three-year wait for our Welsh agri-environment scheme payments was not an option.

We had a good family break for a couple of days to London and saw many of the sights. The main reason for our visit was an invitation to St Jamess Palace for a reception with 250 others, hosted by Prince Charles.

I wrote to him during the depths of foot-and-mouth to thank him for speaking up for the countryside and he hosted the dinner as a morale booster. It was a real treat for us, particularly as next week is the first anniversary of the start of F&M. &#42

John Yeomans attentions have turned to fencing recently, a job which had become urgent for stock control.

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John Yeomans

18 January 2002

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown

in mid-Wales. The farm is

split between hill and

upland, with the hill land in

two blocks running up to

426m (1400ft). It is

stocked with 70 suckler

cows, including some

Limousins and 540

breeding sheep

THE first article for us of 2002 and my wishes for the new year are to get rid of 20-day movement restrictions and open markets to all classes of stock. On a personal note, I wish to lose a couple of stone off my fighting weight without amputation of body parts.

A few years ago, our trading standards here in Powys ran a pilot scheme with movement books where carbon copies were returned periodically to trading standards by post. This is something which could be implemented immediately and would be cheap and simple to run.

The 20-day standstill, 25-30 days if postage time for licences is included, must be removed as soon as possible. It is pointless having a scheme which for economic, welfare and management reasons is impractical, not to mention subsidy rule implications.

Surely a means of tracking movements which producers can work with and still stay in business is not too much to ask.

At home, the winter weather weve had was refreshing. However, we have had several days where a few hours with a hot kettle on troughs and bleeding through waxed diesel has tried my patience.

It makes me think how disorganised I am compared with other farmers, particularly in Scandanavia where they cope with much worse winters

This season, cows have received high iodine trace element boluses. We had a couple of calves which lost hair last season and although we couldnt blood test due to foot-and-mouth, iodine deficiency was the most obvious reason. I have thought about taking a couple myself.

Lambs sold just before new year averaged 205p/kg at 19.8kg deadweight. Hopefully, we will shortly be scrapie testing rams and ram lambs under the National Scrapie Plan. I say hopefully because NSP performance to date has not filled me with confidence.

Four different testing dates, not communicated within the NSP department, have left me unimpressed. All the staff Ive spoken to have been polite and friendly, but organisation must improve.

Teething troubles are to be expected, but to take the industry with them, the government must improve things and perhaps offer compensation for sheep needing to be culled due to undesirable genes. Wake me up, Im dreaming. &#42

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John Yeomans

21 December 2001

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill and

upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland, with

the hill land in two blocks

running up to 426m (1400ft).

It is stocked with 70 suckler

cows, including some

Limousins and 540 breeding

sheep, mostly Beulahs

IWILL start by wishing everyone a happy and healthy Christmas for next Tuesday and lets hope 2002 will be much better for us all.

Wales is now officially free of F&M. Hopefully, the status is UK-wide as soon as possible.

Lamb prices have improved greatly in the last six weeks or so. Weve sent two batches of Beulahs and Mules and a few Charollais crosses, which averaged 18.9kg and 18.7kg at £2/kg.

Our remaining lambs have been housed on ad-lib silage and 0.6kg/head of sugar beet/maize gluten mix. The silage has analysed at 34.2% dry matter, 64 D-value, 14.7% crude protein and 10.3MJ of ME/kg DM.

Ewes have gone to the hill and rams have been taken out. A few of the old girls have been kept at home – at nine years old I thought they deserved a slightly cushier Christmas.

There are still 44 Mule ewe lambs left, which we have run with Charollais rams for sale in January. There could be a demand from people looking to fill quota before Sheep Annual Premium Scheme forms are returned in February.

The cows have been scanned, which was a disaster with far too many barren. This is mainly due to their condition following our Form D notice movement restrictions and being housed until mid-June. A few will be sold on the Over 30-Months Scheme and the remainder bulled to calve in January/ February 2003.

Calves have been weaned three weeks later than in 2000 and average 234kg, which is 27kg more than last year. This is pleasing after such a grim year.

The Royal Welsh Winter Fair was strange this year without live cattle and sheep. But congratulations to the organisers for a very positive event and it was good to get out and see folks again.

Hopefully we are over the bad and 2002 will be all good. It could be worse, we could have an unsympathetic ill-informed government and an agriculture minister who has more interest in her caravan than the industry shes paid about £130,000/year to represent… Oh, we have. &#42

Although too many cow are barren, John Yeomans mood has been lifted by calf weaning weights.

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John Yeomans

26 October 2001

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

SINCE the last article, Ive had some serious stick about looking stroppy. Someone thought Id swallowed a wasp and someone else drew a moustache and glasses to improve me. In fairness to Jonathan, FWs photographer, there is only so much you can do with my face which is more suited to radio.

We are hoping to keep cattle out until well into November, particularly with the high cost of straw. We have leased in 20 units of Welsh LFA cow quota at £35/head. I expect next year Ill regret not buying, but I was concerned about pushing our borrowings up too much.

As part of the Welsh Sheep Strategy and an initiative by the Welsh Assembly, we have blood tested, electronic bolused and tagged 130 ewes and 10 high index ram lambs in an effort to improve scrapie resistance in the national flock.

As part of the project, flocks involved agree to mate ewes to particular genotyped rams based on blood test results. The plan is to raise the scrapie resistance level in the national flock.

Ewes have been Agrimin bolused and ewe lambs dosed with Copprite following blood tests. They will be retested at lambing to monitor effects of the different treatments.

Weve recently had vets to the farm in order to apply for a sole occupancy licence to enable us to move between our eight different land blocks. This will make management much easier and means we wont have to apply for a licence and have our stock checked before every farm movement.

Our vets are snowed under with licensing work and should be paid by the Samaritans for keeping us all going.

We have registered our interest in Farming Connect, a Welsh Development Agency initiative aimed at keeping Welsh farmers in business. It starts with a business review and looks at various options for the future. Well keep you posted on its progress.

After an eight-month break we have started the TIR farm project meetings again. It was really good to get together and start looking forward. Im sure with Margaret Beckett at the helm the futures great – well if we move to France and open caravan parks it will be. &#42

With TIR farm project meetings running again and a new Welsh Development Agency initiative, now is the time to look forward, believes John Yeomans.

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John Yeomans

28 September 2001

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

WRITING this article without mentioning the terrorist attack in the US is tricky. It brings home the scale of our own problems when you see the suffering of others all over the media.

On a brighter note, I was involved in the difficult job of choosing this years Welsh Sheep Strategy Cymru/New Zealand scholars – a really tough task with some excellent applicants. It was pleasing to see, after all the industry has been through, the enthusiasm and zest for a future in farming these people have.

As I write, the last few days have been taken up with licence applications. We have finally sold Mule ewe lambs and store cattle which should have gone to Bishops Castle back in May.

It is rewarding to sell stock to other producers rather than to be thrown in a hole. If all goes well, this will free autumn grass for ewes coming off the hill for tupping and ease our cash flow.

I think Lord Whitty could do with a spell in our regional Welsh Assembly office in Llandrindod Wells. As a renowned whinger, I must break from my norm and give credit for how the staff there are handling the mountain of calls and enquiries, dealing with people like me going off our heads trying to sell and move stock.

But some bright spark in the upper part of the ivory tower has decided there will be no ram movements in Powys without blood testing, even though it is almost six months since the last confirmed case in our area of Montgomeryshire.

With the Farmers Union of Wales, we have worked out that a possible 20,000 rams would move in Powys at this time in a normal year. With some quarters informing us that premium will be paid on untupped ewes, sheep farmings future is worrying. As blood testing of rams will not begin until early October, ram sellers and buyers will be left in deep trouble.

We have had three-quarters of our winter straw requirements delivered at about £10/t more than last autumn. After the rest of this years events, the next lorry and trailer load could well be the final straw for us. &#42

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