19 March 1999

Handle with care

A BOOKLET covering welfare-friendly transportation of pigs has been well received by retailers and welfare organisations says publisher, SAC.

The booklet, Livestock Tran-sport; Pigs handle with care…, has been put together in collaboration with drivers and hauliers working in Scotland. Subjects covered include: welfare, vehicle construction and maintenance, paperwork, dealing with inspectors and contingency plans when problems occur. It is presented in an attractive and easy-to-use format, adds SAC.

Individual copies are £12 including postage. Multiple copies are discounted to £8 (0131 535 4184, fax 0131 535 4246).

Easier vaccinating against husk

EASIER vaccination of large animals against husk is provided by a new device from Intervet, manufacturers of Huskvac.

The plastic device fits on top of the vaccine vial, effectively working like a drencher, says Intervet. With cases of husk on the increase in adult animals the product comes just in time for turnout when farmers need to discuss lungworm control measures with their vet.

The vaccine dosing device is available free of charge from veterinary surgeons (01223 420221, fax 01223 420751)

Silage improver

IMPROVE maize silage protein content and save on concentrate costs by using HIproLIVE silage enhancer, says Genus.

Using a combination of live bacteria and chemical salts, HIproLIVE ensures maize isnt affected by aerobic spoilage and the inclusion of urea – which is converted by bugs within the silage – boosts protein levels, says the company.

It adds that three years of trials show concentrate in cow diets can be reduced by 2.4kg a day, so cows produce an extra 1000 litres from forage. Over a 200-day winter that could save a 100 cow herd £4,500 in feed protein costs.

Applied during harvesting using a special applicator, the silage enhancer will be available through a network of contractors nationwide. HIproLIVE will cost from £2.30/t freshweight of silage treated (01270-536584, fax 01270-536601).

Ryegrass tackles poached swards

RENEWING poached swards without the need for ploughing and reseeding is possible with Renew, a mixture of Italian and hybrid ryegrasses with diploid and tetraploid perennial ryegrasses from breeder Barenbrug.

Designed for rapid establishment, Renew helps to prevent unproductive weeds from invading damaged swards says the company. Sowing can be carried out by direct drilling, or broadcasting on to a previously harrowed sward and rolling in. Recom-mended sowing times are before main growth starts, after tight grazing, after a silage cut and late in the season.

Renew is supplied in 25kg packs costing £40/kg, with sowing rate varying from 25-35kg/ha (10-14kg/acre) depending on sward condition. (01493 440047, fax 01493 440048).

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

I HOPE the old saying about March "In like a lion, out like a lamb" comes true this year. The weather in the first week was as ferocious, with strong winds, sleet and 1.5in of rain. By the end of the month, we would like it milder for lambing, due to start on Mar 24.

Fertiliser still remains in the shed. But as soon as the ground allows 250kg/ha of 27-10-0 will be applied to the grazing area and 375kg/ha of 20-8-12 spread on first-cut silage fields. A second application of 250kg/ha of 22-4-14 +7 sulphur is planned for early April.

Income this month has come from the sale of barley fed bulls from last years crop of calves. Base price has varied from 180-185p/kg deadweight for an R grade animal, which is 7p/kg up on last year.

Most have graded U- to give a 5p/kg bonus with a handful grading U+ for an extra 10p. Bulls, so far, have averaged 320kg and have returned £575, after transport and deductions.

Expenditure for the same period has included 20t of barley straw at £55/t, which should, I hope, see us through the rest of winter.

Wet weather and the need to keep finishing stock scrupulously clean has increased our straw use this year. With Cornwall a long way from arable areas, straw is expensive, so much so, that many local beef finishers have abandoned winter finishing because of the increased bedding cost.

Abattoirs and meat companies are happy with a consistent price throughout the year. But producers need a rise in winter and early spring to allow for higher costs compared with grass finishing.

Agenda 2000 proposals indicate a 25% cut in intervention prices and a gradual move to world prices, so there will be a need to cut production costs.

This may see more grass finishing in summer in the wetter west of the country. Cattle will then move east for winter, to finish on cheap straw and by-product diets in an American feed-lot style operation. I doubt that this will be acceptable to the public, but it may be the only way British beef producers can compete at world prices. &#42

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

THIS time last year we were having problems with over-fat ewes getting on to their backs and difficulty finishing the forage rape to allow ploughing.

How I wish I could say the same this year. With rape finished and little grass to move early lambers on to, we are feeding more silage than usual. We constructed new silage feeders to keep lambs out and thus stop them wasting what is a scarce commodity.

Older lambs are now eating creep meal well, so we hope to have finished lambs in good time for the butcher to start spring lamb sales by Easter.

Every time I feed some silage or use straw, I find myself doing a mental budget as to how long I can expect stocks to last. With any luck, we have enough of both commodities. But my estimates depend on selling some of last years spring born calves as yearlings.

We had hoped that the date based export scheme would be operating by now, so both cows and calves would be realising a better price.

T-Sum for this year has come and gone and the waterlogging does little to encourage grass growth. We see some response to the 50kg/acre of urea sown a month ago. Even then, we did not get over all of the fields before the monsoon season returned.

Our desire to spread slurry before mid-March, to get the best out of its nutrients, is also somewhat stifled. Last autumn we soil sampled the whole farm including rented ground. Areas with low pH and requiring phosphate and potash for maintenance are still waiting for their necessary dose as there has been no chance since autumn to get on the ground.

Last year, any lambs that the butcher could not take were sold through a local lamb marketing group. At their annual review recently it was reported that stock sold through the group had increased by almost 100% in 1998, to 16,000. This was encouraging and I expect to see more animals sold in this way over the next few years.

But with Northern Ireland farm incomes for 1998 down by 57% compared with 30% for the rest of the UK, it has been depressing to see the £ strengthen yet again in recent weeks. &#42

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

MECHANISING dairy cow feeding seemed a good idea when we bought our mixer wagon.

You can feed from the comfort of the tractor seat – which is fast, if bad for the waistline – but you need something to fill it and a tractor to drive it.

Though this can work well, it relies on all three machines working; when one breaks down the whole system stops.

Over the past month we have had a series of minor breakdowns. First, the telescopic loader would not start one morning, it had no power in the battery, not even for the lights. Luckily a neighbour filled the Keenan for us while we sorted it out. It seems it had a corroded main fuse and a new one soon had it running again.

Then it was the turn of the mixer to play up. This has an electronic weighing system using four weigh cells and a control box with a digital readout. The system is polite, it displays "Hello" when switched on. But on that morning, after it had greeted me, it went into a random display of numbers for which the instruction book offered no explanation

The book did advise checking the wiring and connections to ensure all was secure and dry. An examination soon revealed that I had left it too near the calves, which had chewed through a weigh cell cable. Again, a simple repair was all that was needed.

The final breakdown was the tractor used to drive the mixer wagon. As we feed about 80 cows twice a day, one tractor stays on it. One morning this tractor, an MF 690, would not start. It was another electrical fault, but we managed to start it by towing it.

Not to be caught out, I decided to put my other tractor, a Ford 6610, on it until the MF was sorted out. That did not have enough hydraulic pressure. Fortunately, towing the MF had cured its electrical fault, so we used it for feeding that day.

The Fords only problem was that the pressure relief valve had unwound itself.

On the Sunday, the MF would not start again. It turned out to be a faulty starter motor. Unfortunately, the replacement starter motor was also faulty and the engineer left with the words "Ill be back in a couple of days with another". &#42

Louis Baugh and his wife

farm 186ha (460 acres) at

Neatishead Hall and 91ha

(225 acres) at Beech Farm

near Norwich in Norfolk.

About 100 autumn calving

Holstein Friesian cows and

followers are grazed on

Broads ESA marshes with

forage from Italian ryegrass

and maize

WE RETURNED from our New Zealand trip to find the farm in smooth running order, due to the efforts of our team who made a good job, making me feel redundant.

The compound fertiliser had gone on to the Italian ryegrass during a dry spell. However, it has rained ever since and here we are in mid-March waiting to apply the balance of nitrogen.

We recently received notice of a proposed milk price cut and the reduction of Bactoscan and cell count levels. The price cut came as a shock. Many milk producers felt the bottom of the trough had been reached. A study of trends in retail milk price, dairy commodities, currency and farmgate milk price suggests there is little justification in reducing returns to the producer.

Is this a symptom of the milk selling system we now find ourselves part of? If it is, recently announced initiatives to group milk producers into regional super-groups has my support.

The move to reduce Bactoscan and cell count tolerance – to half the EU standard – may give our milk buyer a marketing edge, but to the producer a fall out of the highest band represents payment penalties.

The attendance at a local meeting on mastitis recently produced a high turnout, much to the organisers surprise.

Continuing wet weather and the use of wheat straw, baled in poor conditions last harvest for litter has created mastitis problems for local producers. This is an example of circumstances out of our control which may reduce milk price.

Occasional problems do occur and a tightening of quality standards can introduce a greater element of risk into the contract for the producer.

This is my last offering to Farmers Focus, to which I have enjoyed contributing. Thank you to everyone who has passed comments or made suggestions. I look forward to reading other correspondents comments in future: Hopefully in more prosperous times. &#42