28 April 1995

at busy time

Planning problems strike

Problems with planning permission have provided an unwelcome distraction as Briscoe Farm gears up for turnout. Tim Relf reports

DESPITE being busy with preparations for turnout, the Nicholsons have found their dirty water lagoon has attracted the attention of North Yorks County Council.

"A local building contractor has been coming occasionally and, free of charge, putting soil, clay and stone along two sides of the earth-banked lagoon to provide support," says George.

"The work was almost finished. We were then planning to finish levelling and landscaping it. Our landlord had agreed to provide some trees too. Sycamore, alder and ash would probably be well suited to the situation."

The National Rivers Authority also appear to favour the work. "They have written to us, saying they have no objections – obviously with the proviso that none of the materials deposited lead to any contamination of watercourses or drains," says George.

"But now we have been told by the county council that planning permission is needed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

"We are within the National Park, so regulations are fairly tight. I think some of the planners concerns might be because some of our farm buildings are listed. But these are about 100m away from the lagoon, and there are newer buildings in-between."

As such, the Nicholsons have had to make a "part retrospective" application for planning permission in respect of the work.

While they have been waiting for a decision, the weather has scuppered their hopes for an early start to the season. Eddie had wanted the cows to go out in the first week of May. Now, like last year, it looks as if May 12 is a more realistic date.

"Its not that we are short of silage," he says. "Although we have just finished last seasons, we have now begun using 1993s. Itll be interesting to see if cow performance drops as a result. Last year, we were struggling to produce 4 litres/day from forage. This winter, because of the better silage, that figure has more than doubled."

The Nicholsons now think, if turnout is not excessively delayed, that production from forage in the 12 months to the end of May, could be 3800 litres a cow.

While waiting for the spring grass, feed protein has been raised from 18 to 22%. "It will be reduced to 18% as soon as they go out again," says Eddie.

Pre-turnout tasks have included treating stock between five and 14 months old against lungworm with a Dictol bolus. For the 93 heifers treated, the cost of two doses will be £5.30/head. "This may seem expensive," says Eddie, "but we havent had a case of lungworm on the farm for 15 years." These animals will also be given a slow-release worming bolus the day they are turned-out.

The in-calf heifers, meanwhile, will be given feed blocks containing Panacour. "This saves handling them, and therefore prevents causing them stress," says Eddie.

The routine, pre-turnout job of checking and repairing fences is almost complete. And 600m of mains water pipe has also been laid to serve new water troughs in four fields. "The aim is to cut down the amount of walking the cows have to do when theyre out."

The pipe has been laid at the same time, and on an identical course to a 50mm diameter slurry irrigation pipe. Set 18in underground, they should be deep enough to avoid any interference from subsoiling operations.

"We desperately wanted to get the job done before turnout, but have kept waiting and waiting for the ground to dry out," says Eddie.

Meanwhile, lambing began early at Briscoe, with 35 lambs born by Apr 17 when the first were expected. About one-third are having twins.

George Nicholson demonstrates the height to which reinforcements have been built up around the dirty water lagoon at Briscoe.