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Peter Walters

2 August 2002

Peter Walters

Peter Walters manages

163ha (402 acres) at

Hatherleigh, Devon, which

is in organic conversion.

The farm is stocked with

100 pedigree Poll Dorsets,

90 Dorset X and 50 Mules.

It also supports 68 suckler

cows including 18 pedigree

Red Devons

ANOTHER month has passed and still no money from the Organic Farming Scheme, hence more phone calls to let them know we are still waiting.

What makes me angry is the funds are available and we are entitled to them. It is awarded to help with conversion with most of the money paid in the first year; our second year started on Jul 31.

I also tried to find out when the remaining 2001 Suckler Cow Premium and Extensification payment would be settled. I was told our claim would not be checked until the end of July, as they have to double check ear tag numbers with the BCMS, which is taking time.

So why didnt they start checking earlier? Being as polite as I could, I asked how he would like his wages paid two months late, with no interest and all the red tape. Needless to say, he would not.

I am very pleased with the silage crop, considering there has been no fertiliser or manure spread on any of the land for two years. Using a Welger RP 200 we have been averaging 16 bales/ha (6.5 bales/acre). On one particular field the yield reached 21 bales/ha (8.5 bales/acre).

Because of the slow tupping at the beginning June, I left rams with Dorset ewes for another week. This has hopefully paid off with another 26 going to the ram.

We were accepted for the National Scrapie Plan and blood tests were taken at the end of July. I had the five rams and 45 ewes tested with each animal receiving a bolused electronic tag.

Fly strike has started to become a problem, so I have used Vetrazin (cyromazine) pour-on, on all sheep and where maggots were found I used spot-on. These methods of control are permitted under organic regulations.

The bird box survey has gone well with 331 blue tits, 76 great tits, 14 nuthatch and five pied flycatcher, young being ringed. The nest sites of the skylark, barn owl, yellow hammer, kingfisher and an abundance of song thrush were also recorded. &#42

Peter Walters is still wrestling to obtain the organic aid payments he is entitled to, despite being a year into conversion.

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Peter Walters

5 July 2002

Peter Walters

Peter Walters manages

163ha (402 acres) at

Hatherleigh, Devon, which

is in organic conversion.

The farm is stocked with

100 pedigree Poll Dorsets,

90 Dorset X and 50 Mules.

It also supports 68 suckler

cows including 18 pedigree

Red Devons.

IN EARLY May I wrote about my worry over grass growth, but after the May deluge all concerns have gone. I have even managed to shut an extra 6.5ha (16 acres) up for silage, which I hope to cut soon.

Dorset ewes, put with rams on Jun 1, have been slow going to the tup, with only 12 tupped by Jun 18. This was mainly due to bad weather early in the month, but as I write, the weather has improved and so has the number of coloured backs.

I have cultivated 4.85ha (12 acres) of ground and sown a crop called Winifred – kale x stubble turnip. I was attracted to this variety because of its late sowing date and fast establishment. As I cannot use chemicals, the late sowing time should hopefully miss flea beetles and fast establishment allows it to compete better with weeds.

We are still waiting for the Organic Farming Scheme subsidy. Our application was received by DEFRA on Dec 17 last year. From Mar 17 I have phoned every other week and we have just had the agreement through which has been signed and returned.

We now have to wait for a claim form to be sent, then, I have been informed, payment should be within two months. Why does it take so long? If the government wants to encourage producers into organic or stewardship schemes, it must do something to speed up applications and payments. This also applies to livestock subsidies it still holds, on which I assume president Blair is making interest.

On a happier note, I entered one of our woods – which we have intensively improved – for the Devon County Show, forestry and farm woodland competition, winning first prize. This wood was also awarded the Forestry Authority perpetual challenge trophy.

I also entered our hedges for the Devon hedge competition, organised by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and Devon Hedge Group. We came first in the best newly restored Devon hedgebank category and third in the best whole farm management section of the competition.

These competitions are worthwhile, as they help show the public the conservation work and management producers do for the countryside and its wildlife. &#42

Peter Walters is pleased with recent successes in farm conservation competitions.

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Peter Walters

7 June 2002

Peter Walters

Peter Walters manages a

163ha (402 acres) at

Hatherleigh, Devon, which

is in organic conversion.

The farm is stocked with

100 pedigree Poll Dorsets,

90 Dorset x and 50 Mules.

It also supports 68 suckler

cows including 18 pedigree

Red Devons

I HAVE weaned calves from the 29 Hereford x cows that are due to start calving in late July.

Calves have been farmed organically, but will have to be sold as conventional. This is because, under simultaneous conversion rules, the dam must be on the holding for 90 days before calving, which unfortunately these were not.

Ewes were sheared in early May by a local contractor. I plan to put about 60 pedigree Dorsets to rams on Jun 1. It has been nearly two years since I sold any lambs, so it was a pleasure to pick out 25 that are fit to slaughter.

Our Countryside stewardship project officer came to map the 13ha (33 acres) that I want to add on to the existing agreement. At the moment it is eight fields which have been farmed as one, with no fencing, one water trough and one gate.

I plan to put all fields into P1 – unimproved grassland. This will give me an annual payment and capital grants for work I had planned to do. This includes putting all existing hedges into a management programme with fencing, new gates and water troughs in all eight fields. This will make farming the land more manageable and improve wildlife habitats and conservation.

Im sure DEFRA staff sit at their desk thinking producers have little to do and about who they can annoy next. Well it seems to be my turn. I have had a query about our 2000 suckler cow premium claim concerning five passports, with BCMS claiming they do not exist.

Conveniently for them, but unluckily for me, all passports and some paperwork were destroyed at the time of our F&M cull. There was no discrepancy between ear tag numbers and passports, which were checked at the time. Believe it or not, they destroyed this paperwork because I had touched it and it was considered contaminated.

However, I photocopy everything and still have copies of the paperwork, so I know the numbers are correct. But I will still have to spend a few hours on unnecessary letters and phone calls to validate the claim. &#42

Peter Walters currently has cattle passport trouble, as BCMS destroyed some when his stock were culled last year, in case they were contaminated with F&M.

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Peter Walters

10 May 2002

Peter Walters

Peter Walters manages a

163ha (402 acres) at

Hatherleigh, Devon, which

is in organic conversion.

The farm is stocked with

100 pedigree Poll Dorsets,

90 Dorset X and 50 Mules.

It also supports 68 suckler

cows including 18 pedigree

Red Devons.

THE weather has improved, so the ground has dried enough for contractors to spread limestone without too much damage to fields. It was applied at 5t/ha (2t/acre) over 40ha (100 acres).

We have been busy with chain harrows this year because fields have become very matted. This is because we had no animals to graze until last September, then it was only a small number due to restocking regulations. Also, although some fields were cut for silage, most were topped. With the foot-and-mouth clean-up, it was difficult to keep on top of grass so we kept raising the topper to avoid too much cut grass on pasture surfaces.

I have been informed, on a number of occasions, that the second year of organic conversion is usually the worst period for grass growth. At present, I have to agree. I am not unduly concerned by this because I have silage left from last year and because of our low stocking density I should be able to cope.

I went to an organic beef meeting organised by Organic South West. One of the main concerns aired was the standard and quality of imported meat. Our standards are much higher for organic production than the rest of Europe, so how can we compete? There must be a more level playing field.

Another 1150m (1258 yards) of stock fencing has been completed this month. We are using high tensile wire for both sheep netting and barbed. This puts the cost up slightly, but makes a much better job and it will, hopefully, last longer.

On Apr 16 we surveyed the 71 small bird boxes that were put up this year. So far, 47 are occupied and 17 have at least one egg. It is particularly pleasing that two of the boxes are being occupied by Nuthatchs. &#42

Pastures on Peter Walters farm have become matted due to lack of livestock, last year.

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Peter Walters

12 April 2002

Peter Walters

Peter Walters manages a

163ha (402 acres) in

Hatherleigh, Devon, which

is in organic conversion.

The farm is stocked with

100 pedigree Poll Dorsets,

90 Dorset x and 50 Mules.

It also supports 68 suckler

cows including 18 pedigree

Red Devons.

LAMBING has now finished, with lower percentages than I would have expected under normal conditions. But considering the movement restrictions that were in place and DEFRA being as awkward as possible with our restocking, I feel lucky having any lambs at all.

Towards the end of February lambing, we lost some lambs with scours. I had a post-mortem and scour test carried out, which showed positive for E coli. This came as a surprise because of all the cleaning and disinfecting associated with foot-and-mouth and reduced stocking rates in the sheds.

After contacting the Soil Association and on our vets advice, we treated all newborn lambs on welfare/health grounds because they would be at risk. I shall probably ask for a derogation to vaccinate ewes.

Three of the five pedigree Devon suckler cows due to calve this month have done so, producing three heifers. This is a good start for establishing our Devon herd – they were by three different Devon bulls.

The Hereford, cross cows and their calves have been turned out. These are split into two herds and have been running with Limousin bulls. One herd should start calving in July, the other in October.

I received two brownie points last week. My organic adviser paid a visit and was pleased with the running of the farm and the condition of stock. There is a lot to learn about the organic method of farming and I find these quarterly visits worthwhile.

One of the possibilities we discussed is buying in organic stores in the autumn, so I can sell them as finished organic cattle after we have completed our conversion on July 31, 2003.

Our project officer from the Countryside Stewardship Scheme also paid a visit, primarily because I want to add another 13ha (33 acres) that we purchased last year into the scheme. But while here, she inspected the work that has already been completed and I am pleased to say she was impressed. &#42

The establishment of Peter Walters pedigree Devon herd received a boost this month with the birth of three purebred heifer calves.

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Peter Walters

15 March 2002

Peter Walters

Peter Walters manages a

162.7ha (402 acres) in

Hatherleigh Devon, which

is in organic conversion.

The farm is stocked with

100 pedigree Poll Dorsets,

90 Dorset X and 50 Mules.

It also supports 68 suckler

cows including 18 pedigree

Red Devons.

WE have previously hired in bulls, but to minimise the risk of bringing in disease, I have now bought two Limousin and one Devon bull.

I have just had eight Devon heifers PDd. They had been running with one of the Limousin bulls and six are in-calf. The remaining two are now running with the Devon bull.

On the sheep front, the 90 Dorset-cross ewes have lambed, but Mules and pedigree Dorsets are still in full swing. It has been difficult to obtain a reliable delivery of organic sheep feed because it is only made to order.

And because I will not be using synthetic fertiliser, I need to make full use of our own farmyard manure. To this end, I have bought a used Kidd 1600 side discharge muck spreader which will spread manure more evenly than our rotor spreader.

The results of a soil test show, as expected, most of the farm will require lime. When weather permits I will have some of the farm spread with limestone, which is allowed under organic rules.

We have a Countryside Stewardship Scheme agreement covering most of the farm and are in our third year. At the beginning it seemed a daunting task, requiring some 8000m (8720 yards) of hedge coppicing, laying or bank restoration and 10,000m (10,940 yards) of fencing.

Luckily, I have found some excellent local people to help with this work part-time. Since the New Year, we have done 600m (656 yards) of hedge laying, 600m (656 yards) of coppicing and 1200m (1312 yards) of fencing.

I was very concerned when I heard President Blair is going to take charge of the National Health Service. When he took charge of foot-and-mouth, he brought in the dreaded contiguous cull. Beware – he may do the same to the NHS, but I suppose at least this would bring the waiting lists down.

Our neighbours stock have remained healthy, proving that the difficult battle to stop them from being slaughtered as contiguous animals was worthwhile. We must succeed in getting a public inquiry.

It is now a year since our stock was slaughtered and in memory to them we have planted a walnut tree at the end of the pyre site. &#42

Requiring 1200m (1312 yards) of fencing, Countryside Stewardship seemed a daunting task for Peter Walters, but locals have proved a valuable asset.

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