6 November 1998

Maize nearly over at last

THE maize harvest is drawing to a close at last, writes Tim Green. Some crops may never find their way to the clamp. At Vimer, we have been fortunate because our harvest took place on the driest day for some time. Two or three days earlier or later could have resulted in a real mess. How did they manage before 4WD tractors?

Despite only mild frosts, our maize did suffer some damage. But it is badgers playing in the crop that have caused most trouble. We seem to have more than ever at present. Limited wild boar damage did not justify applying for compensation. In fact, the badger damage, for which we receive no compensation, has smothered evidence of the wild pigs. But we saw three good-sized boars in the final rows at harvesting and the cheeky beggars even managed a nibble at the clamp the following morning. When questioning our vets about the badger TB link, Im met with strange looks and the response: "What link?"

This department of France suffered recently its first case of BSE. The latest case, the 43rd diagnosed case in France, was a young cow born more than three years after the ban on imported meat and bonemeal.

In accordance with French rules the whole herd of 138 animals was destroyed. I am convinced BSE has always existed at low levels in the population and will continue to do so. That means we will keep finding isolated cases with no logical link to alleged causes.

Meanwhile, weve been doing our best to eradicate at least one pest. For the second year, our vets have injected every bovine born before the first of the month with an ivermectin treatment or its equivalent in a bid to remove warbles.

Different dosage

Cattle can either have a microdose (23p/animal) or the regular morning dose administered by a vet or qualified assistant. Pour-ons are allowed but milkers are limited to the micro jab. With Ivomec at £245 or more for 500mls, we are fortunate to have the successful microdose. Weve whizzed everything through the crush in the time our vets had planned to treat the milking herd.

Just before we finished the maize harvest our drilling contractors phoned. We agreed to try drilling our Platine winter barley and found that if the drill kept behind the plough, conditions were surprisingly good. Even one small patch of Shango wheat was drilled before maize took priority. At least stony ground has some advantages. Plans to plough on a neighbours farm were abandoned because the clay furrows would not break.

When the time comes for cereal spraying, our purchase of a second-hand sprayer should improve timeliness. Our old sprayer has long served its time and this year we have been using either a contractor, costing £10/ha (£4/acre) or borrowing his machine at a cost still to be negotiated. Although farm auction sales are rare, as often farms are taken over with existing equipment, one came up recently. Two farms have been amalgamated and surplus machinery offered for sale. As the new occupant used a sprayer from the CUMA machinery ring, a genuine machine came up for sale from a man with a sound reputation. We bought the 800-litre, 12m sprayer for about £640.

Other sale items included the usual motley assortment of troughs, fenceposts and the like. Most sold for typical prices with the only items drawing real interest being cider barrels. If in good order, these are normally worth about 10p/litre capacity. But these barrels achieved up to double that price. It must be the time of year. Many farmers are either picking apples for domestic consumption or for sale.

Later flowering trees this season missed a frost and have yielded reasonably. Those caught by the frost are completely devoid of fruit.

Its a situation which suits Vimer because our trees are all later maturing varieties. And it is the later varieties which produce the best cider.

Soil conditions were surprisingly good last month at Vimer – provided the drill kept behind the plough. Filling the drill hopper above is Platine winter barley.