21 December 2001

Sites for sore eyes

New to the internet?Richard Allison visits some of the best

agriculture-linked web-sites among the thousands on offer

IS Father Christmas bringing a new computer to your farm on Dec 25? Then try the internet as a source of valuable information and advice, but beware of the many poor and out of date web-sites.

To save you the time-consuming task of trawling through potentially millions of web-sites to find the specific information you require, it may be worth trying some favourite sites, collected from producers and farmers weekly reporters.

Foot-and-mouth highlighted the importance of keeping up to date as the disease spread and legislation changed. This made DEFRAs web-site essential reading, but Dorset producers Richard and Liz Hole found the site poor and relevant information was often difficult to locate. In contrast, FWi is a good example of a useful web-site, says Mrs Hole.

FWi provides news, market prices, buyers guide for machinery and links to other useful sites. It also has the ability to search for previous articles on the web-site and in back issues of farmers weekly using key words.

Greenmount Colleges excellent site also provides access to updated milk yield and quality data for ongoing trials, such as the milk protein improver and high forage herds.

If your interested in stock diseases, the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) can be accessed from the UK Vet web-site. It provides up to date disease forecasts in the UK and warnings for cattle, pig and sheep diseases currently being reported by vets.

Dairy producers may find it worthwhile checking the Milk Development Council site, which offers access to many factsheets. But be warned, the news section is not updated often.

In contrast, the National Pig Association site is updated daily with news and comments, including a section dedicated to combating post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS).

Services for dairy producers are set to improve in January when ADAS milk cheque interactive comes online.

Site manager Ian Powell says it will allow herd data to be entered and edited online. "Within seconds, a report can be generated allowing herd performance to be assessed at a glance using graphs and compared with plan."

SAC also has a useful web-site with details of producer meetings and events north of the border, while the MLC offers the latest practical advice for beef, sheep and pigs on its site.

But if youre after a little light relief, visit the worlds first online cow casino – moolette – where a helpful heifer aims cowpats at red and white numbered squares and you have to guess where it lands. The game can be played for fun without having to place bets.

Other games, including fling the cow and sheep, can be found in the funstuff section of Somerset Organics Online, the home of Pig Brother.

Or perhaps you are looking for a more interesting screensaver for the new PC. We recommend a free White Stuff screensaver with Rolf Harris, which can be downloaded from the National Dairy Council web-site. The great escape ringtones are also available for mobile phones.

If you have tried all these sites and still have not found the desired information, visit agrilink for an extensive list of agricultural related web-sites.

In addition, dont forget Ceefax and Teletext, says Mr Hole. "Before the plug was pulled on Nov 25, DEFRA had up to three pages providing latest statistics for confirmed cases and numbers slaughtered."

He believes DEFRA should consider permanent pages on TV, providing information on latest developments and news. &#42

ADAS MCi – www.dairy-mci.com

Agrilink – www.agrilink.co.uk

Greenmount College – www.greenmount.ac.uk

FWi – www.fwi.co.uk

Meat and Livestock Commission – www.mlc.org.uk

Milk Development Council – www.mdc.org.uk

DEFRA – www.defra.gov.uk

National Dairy Council – www.milk.co.uk

National Pig Association – www.npa-uk.net

SAC – www.sac.ac.uk

Somerset Organics – www.somersetorganics.co.uk

Moolette – www.moolette.com

UK Vet – www.ukvet.co.uk