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Steve Morris

23 August 2002

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs,

in partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470-acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a

further 20ha (50 acres) of

rough grazing. It is stocked

with 50 dairy cows, 280

Lonk ewes, 100 half-breds

and 40 gimmer hoggs

I SHOULD update you on our TB test cow that I mentioned in June.

Having been diagnosed inconclusive at the routine test in April and again on her retest in June, she was again judged to be inconclusive and, therefore, deemed to be a reactor at her August retest.

Along with both our own vet and the DEFRA vet, I had been confident she was just one of those odd cases throwing up the occasional freak result that turns out fine later on.

At seven years old, she had been born and bred here and, along with the rest of the herd, gone through her two previous tests without incident. No cattle have been bought in during recent years, so there is no obvious explanation.

All cattle, including youngstock will have to be retested in late September, after another 60-day interval. We have been issued with form TB2 prohibiting any cattle movement on or off the holding other than for slaughter. This means a return to the hassle of last year with regard to dairy bull calves.

The nearest slaughterhouse processing TB post-mortems is in Cumbria and it took seven days from diagnosis to slaughter. The reason for the delay? The abattoir proprietor said they were busy with TB work, particularly whole herd slaughter on foot-and-mouth restocked farms.

Our son, Christopher, started junior school at Ribchester last year. We soon became involved in the hubbub of the school events calendar. First, the dance troupe required bales of straw for the PTFA barn dance.

Then, it was hay bales for the Rose Queen float on the field day. Next, the cubs required a site for a nature trail. All requests were, of course, met with enthusiasm, but I was slightly concerned that I may offend whoever had provided assistance previously.

No worries there we were told. Despite there being 80 or so pupils at the school, we are the only full-time farming family with a child there. Those of you who have ever passed through rural Ribchester will be as amazed as we were. No doubt a symptom of our times. &#42

Three TB inconclusives spell a reactor, meaning a return the movement restrictions Steve Morris thought had disappeared.

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Steve Morris

24 July 2002

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs,

in partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470-acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a

further 20ha (50 acres) of

rough grazing. It is stocked

with 50 dairy cows, 280

Lonk ewes, 100 half-breds

and 40 gimmer hoggs

I MUST be getting old. The number of times in the past Ive smiled at dad reciting how the summers used to be when he was a lad. Recently Ive caught myself doing it.

How did we make 10,000 or more bales of hay in a summer, when now it is a struggle to make 4ha (10 acres). Even then its not a fair comparison when you realise that half of that is made in mini Hesston bales.

One aspect that has changed for the better is the heifer calving season. As a teenager which, I admit, is more than a couple of decades ago, milking new calved heifers would fill you with dread. At least a two man job – often three plus kick bars – whereas this past couple of summers the introduction of newcomers to the herd has been a breeze.

Particularly pleasing this year have been daughters of Parker Aerostar Wade. I should have bought more of this bulls semen, but he became unavailable soon after I purchased it. With a couple of heifers still to calve, maybe I am tempting fate, but I cant recall such a trouble-free heifer calving season.

This year they have all calved to Jurmel. His figures get better with every proof run, but once again I probably should have purchased more semen as he died after I bought his semen last summer.

The only disappointment with heifer calving is milk let down. Oxytocin is always close at hand. This year four have required it – 25% – when only a decade ago I dont think Id even heard of it.

With no apparent differences between those that require treatment and those that dont, its baffling as to why this is an increasing problem albeit an easily remedied one.

The 20-day rule hasnt affected us unduly so far. In the normal run of things, the only stock bought in are rams. This year we need to purchase at least seven, split between three different breeds. The timing of these purchases will be considered carefully, but whenever they occur it is inevitable that this ridiculous piece of bureaucratic nonsense will affect the running of our business. Please Lord Whitty can we just have some commonsense. &#42

Although haymaking weather has got worse over the years, heifers have definitely become easier to deal with, believes Steve Morris.

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Steve Morris

28 June 2002

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs,

in partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470-acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a

further 20ha (50 acres) of

rough grazing. It is stocked

with 50 dairy cows, 280

Lonk ewes, 100 half-breds

and 40 gimmer hoggs

FROM our vantage point looking south across Ribble Valley, we usually see a patchwork of varying shades of green by mid-June.

The early cut farms are usually taken by May 10-12 and then gradually, over the next 3-4 weeks, the rest of the valley follows on in irregular sequence coming to a close on the higher farms, such as ours, by mid-June, when second cut starts the cycle all over again.

Not this year. Only two farms appeared to be clear before the five-week monsoon season arrived to leave us all with stemmy overgrown crops on saturated ground. By the time our wet land has dried enough to take silage trailers, we will probably have been lapped by those first two front runners while we are still on the starting grid.

Among the long list of events gradually getting back to normal after foot-and-mouth are the statutory tests for brucellosis and TB. In mid-April, we had our first test for two years.

One cow registered TB inconclusive. More restrictions, more stress, more hassle.

This cow was retested in early June, this time by a DEFRA vet, only to once again be diagnosed as inconclusive and will need retesting in August. And yes, before you ask, we do have badgers on this heavily wooded farm, although the local gamekeepers dont believe there has been any significant movement of individuals in recent times.

Another chore that will have taken place by the time these words are printed is the annual farm assurance visit from our milk buyer. Most of the physical inspection, along with the more management orientated aspect of the paperwork should be okay. But I must confess I struggle to find the enthusiasm for some of the more pedantic elements of record keeping.

As the calving season starts, with 18 heifers due to have calved by mid-July, relief comes from the knowledge that this year, markets will provide an outlet for dairy bull calves. Forced into buying a captive bolt stunner last year, I will be only too pleased to leave it hidden away. Reluctant to purchase it initially, a good friend told me Id get used to using it eventually. I didnt and dont believe I ever could. &#42

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Steve Morris

3 May 2002

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs,

in partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470-acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a

further 20ha (50 acres) of

rough grazing. It is stocked

with 50 dairy cows, 280

Lonk ewes, 100 half-breds

and 40 gimmer hoggs

EWES with singles are now on the fell after an enforced absence due to the terms of the stewardship agreement we signed last autumn.

The 4ha (10-acre) area where silage has been fed for the past 20 years is now fenced off and will not be grazed for at least five years and possibly 10, depending on the success of heather regeneration.

One stipulation of the agreement is that some fell must be burned each year. With ideal weather prevailing, the chance was taken to remove some of the oldest stemmy material. This was on the fells south side, which has the old Clitheroe/Longridge road running adjacent to it.

The estate gamekeeper, an experienced fell burner, made all the necessary arrangements and had a good team of beaters. But that did not stop every Tom, Dick and Harry who passed by that morning calling the fire brigade on their mobile phones. The result was not only the local tender turning out from Longridge, but also four tenders and a support unit arriving from Preston.

The last of the seasons finished hoggets have been fetching a reasonable trade, making up to £51 and averaging £45 a head. Many have been fattened at my in-laws. They farm at Ormskirk in south west Lancs, where they usually lamb up to 1000 ewes between Christmas and Easter.

But this year they were not able to buy their full complement of replacements and had surplus grazing available. In this arable and vegetable growing area, grazing is a loose term that takes in stubbles, grass and waste vegetables dumped by neighbours.

Mention has been made in the budget Press coverage about new fiscal arrangements for buying milk quota. Twice in the past five years we have bought milk quota and have been able to offset the expenditure against tax.

This is due to a particularly clever, but perfectly legitimate wheeze that our accountant has been using. This was one of the reasons we moved our business to him a few years ago and emphasises the value of an accountant who specialises in farming. &#42

When Steve Morris tried to do a spot of fell burning recently, helpful passers by made sure the fire brigades were summoned.

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Steve Morris

14 December 2001

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs, in

partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470 acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a further

20ha (50 acres) of rough

grazing. It is stocked with

50 dairy cows, 280 Lonk

ewes, 100 half-breds and

40 gimmer hoggs.

HAVING joined Zenith on Dec 1, our milk is now being collected every other day at midnight by a tanker that was already passing the end of our road.

Night-time collection appears to be working okay so far. The main concern was that the tanker parks virtually outside the house to empty our vat and our children, Christopher (4) and Sian (2) sleep on that side of the house.

As to why we chose Zenith, I should first say we have been impressed by all three co-ops operating in this area. Indeed, of the fellow Wiseman recent resigners, some have moved to First Milk and many others to The Milk Group.

I feel comfortable with Zeniths proposed Project Gateway plans to raise capital for investment in processing. But I was rather disappointed that the blond lass who appears on their promotional material didnt turn up when it came time to signing the contract.

We have three blocks of land that have been designated open country by the Countryside Agency for the new Countryside Rights of Way Act. Although the agencys staff tried patiently to answer peoples concerns at a local road-show, it rapidly became clear there are more questions than answers.

One of the areas affecting us has no access other than from either a farmyard or productive pasture land. The guidance notes provided say the authority will negotiate public rights of way creation agreements or orders with landowners. It seems its not just the designated right to roam area, but also new footpaths across adjacent land.

An area of considerable concern for our landlords is the private reservoir on our fell, which supplies Dutton Manor Estate. Here there are issues of public safety as well as integrity of the water supply. We were advised that signs could be erected to warn of dangers.

The same applies to other activities such as grouse shooting, heather burning or drought spells, yet the Countryside Agency tells us it does not want to see the countryside littered with signs.

I would urge anyone who believes they may be affected by this act to attend the agency road shows in their area. &#42

The right to roam act may mean new footpaths too, warns Stephen Morris.

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Steve Morris

19 October 2001

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs, in

partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470 acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a further

20ha (50 acres) of rough

grazing. It is stocked with

50 dairy cows, 280 Lonk

ewes, 100 half-breds and

40 gimmer hoggs.

HAVING given three months notice to terminate our contract to Robert Wiseman Dairies, we are now looking closely at all our options. As from Dec 1, our milk will be going to one of the farmer-owned co-ops.

In this area, we have three options: First Milk, The Milk Group or Zenith Milk, all of whom appear to be more able to market our milk more effectively than the co-op we left four years ago.

High up the list of criteria that will influence our final choice of co-op is processing capacity, current and, perhaps more importantly, future plans and aspirations.

Another aspect that will sway our decision may be the option of every-other-day collection. Part of the reasoning here is influenced by our short but steep farm lane. Although access is generally good, the concrete road has deteriorated to the extent that replacement is imminent.

This is, of course, the tenants responsibility and looks like costing in the region of £4000. The current road has lasted for more than 30 years and was installed by the estate when Goodshaw was farmed in-hand. Any option which helps to ensure this is not an issue again in my farming lifetime must be considered closely.

I have no regrets about having been a direct seller since October 1997, only that we felt it was our only option. Wisemans has always treated us fairly and has paid, as it promised, a price that was competitive in league table terms. But that didnt stop the price from falling to well below the cost of production. Now that we have the chance to be part of the solution rather than the problem, we must make our move.

DEFRA vets are due here any day now to blood test our sheep as part of the 10km screening. They initially asked to come in early September, but we asked that it be delayed until fell ewes were gathered for flushing.

Also our own vets have resumed a limited routine visit programme. These have been sorely missed. With consultations being on a telephone call basis and visits limited to fire brigade tasks, any opportunity to get real value for money from extortionate drugs and vaccine charges has been virtually absent. &#42

Full marks to Dennis Bridgeford for innovation following his final assault on the barley crop with a silage mower.

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Steve Morris

21 July 2000

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs, in

partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470 acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a further

20ha (50 acres) of rough

grazing. It is stocked with

50 dairy cows, 280 Lonk

ewes, 100 half-breds and

40 gimmer hoggs

FOR the first time since we built our clamp in the late 1970s contractors have been hired to do our silaging.

In previous years I have been able to call upon my two younger non-farming brothers to lend a hand at short notice. But, as they have progressed up their respective career ladders – one is an accountant, the other an energy manager – time-off has become more difficult.

So, last year after a second successive year of minor but time-consuming breakdowns, we decided the future lay with hiring professionals.

Due to five weeks of regular showers, interspersed with occasional downpours from mid-May onwards, we found ourselves in a mini heatwave in the second weekend of June. But with soft ground and big crops, it was evident we should have ideally cut it two weeks earlier.

On reflection, hiring contractors was a good move. All our 20ha (50 acres) was clamped in one day with the sheet fixed early the next day, just beating the next downpour.

Another 2.5ha (6 acres) was big-baled for high dry matter silage, to be used while cows are at pasture from early August onwards.

Until this year we were using two forage wagons for silage making. One has now been sold to a farm just five miles down the road, where it will be used for zero grazing.

The same weekend, the compressor unit burnt out on our bulk tank, although I hadnt realised this until part way through Saturday morning milking.

Before washing through was complete, our refrigeration engineers were on site diagnosing terminal failure. The really bad news was yet to come; they couldnt get a replacement unit until Monday morning.

Yes, youve guessed it; three days hot milk down the slurry channel. Because of the soaring air temperature, even the plate cooler made little impression.

When Monday morning eventually arrived, a second-hand compressor in good order was found at a poultry unit near Preston for just £200, less than a third of the price quoted for a smaller new one.

Although infuriating at the time, at least it happened while we were producing only 600 litres a day, due to a large number of dry cows and heifers only just starting to calve. &#42

Stephen Morriss bulk tank compressor burnt out on the only hot weekend of the year, so three days milk went down the slurry channel.

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