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Tim Gue

2 August 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Steyning

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise

which includes wheat,

oilseed rape and 112ha

(280 acres) of maize, the

farm is stocked with 220

pedigree Holstein dairy

cows and 350 Mule ewes

TELL it how it is, I was urged by a good friend, who, like the rest of the industry is struggling to keep his business afloat in these times of unrealistic milk prices and increasing regulation.

While there are some positive signs, the fact remains that no one can sustain a business at 13p/litre unless there is a corresponding period of exceptionally high prices. This is as likely as Greenpeace recognising there are environmental benefits to GM crops.

United Milks Westbury plant is now running. This should put a floor in the market, however, prices need to be about 20p/litre to enable businesses to survive, reinvest and modernise and be able to deliver the ever increasing standards the industry or single issue pressure groups demand.

These are obviously not consumer demands or the supermarkets and wholesalers would think twice about purchasing from countries that cannot deliver our traceability or welfare standards and whose disease status is often, at best, unknown.

Pending Uniteds prices for July and August, I hope that with the factory open and on target, the directors have the confidence to meet their commitments and deliver a competitive and realistic price.

While its critical the factory is successful, it is also important that producers are in good enough shape to survive and supply it.

Back to standards, I was amazed to receive the proposed environmental module to be added to the dairy inspection scheme; yet another document that would involve a huge amount of producers time to prove they are acting within the law.

I used to think we were innocent until proven guilty. This proposal is incredible. It is put forward by the usual single-issue pressure groups with their own agendas and those who earn their livings on our backs in the audit industry.

There is no evidence of significant breaching of these laws and codes that are already policed by a number of organisations. If implemented, all they will achieve is to distract producers from tasks such as animal welfare and looking after the countryside. The fact that the NFU seems to be embracing them defies belief. &#42

Proposals for an environmental module in the National Dairy Farm Assurance Scheme are a step too far, believes Tim Gue.

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Tim Gue

5 July 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

SILAGE making was as difficult as I can remember in the 15 years we have been at Huddlestone. We aim to make mature silage with enough fibre to complement the maize and usually, by the last few days of May, the weather has become more reliable.

Not this year, so two weeks late and between showers and thunderstorms we finally managed to ensile it. Additives seem an expensive luxury and having opened the clamp it looks to have made well without them, but it will have low intake characteristics. The only plus is the remarkable 50% extra yield; no need for a second cut now.

Maize is looking well and despite cool, wet, weather, all but the last drilled field will be knee-high by Jul 1. Yet again, crops drilled in early April are well ahead despite the scorn poured on them by the too early brigade. Weed control, with pre-emergent atrazine and codicide, has been good and yield potential is huge, particularly if the warm weather forecast for Wimbledon fortnight materialises.

We have had two sessions spreading slurry from the store under slatted cubicles. The bubbler system is working well, keeping slurry liquid and easily spreadable with an umbilical system without any agitation. Nitrogen Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are here, so easy, accurate and measurable application is important. I hope to get a real understanding of NVZ regulations at forthcoming Maize Growers Association workshops.

My wife Marion and I have just returned from the Nuffield conference in France. The dairy tour bus contained 18 dairy producers with herds ranging in size from 25 cows to more than 3000, the group total being more than 15,000 cows.

We visited a farm which was the result of three producers amalgamating their 200 cows. Their driving force was a desire of all the partners to have more holidays. They measured their success by the fact that in the last two years they had each taken 10 weeks holiday a year. We still have a lot to learn. &#42

Tim Gue is hoping for a warm week or two to boost maize growth.

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Tim Gue

7 June 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

OUR new dairy is still on schedule. However, parlour equipment is not due until Jun 3, so there is plenty of scope for delay. We will be installing a 15000-litre milk silo next to the parlour which requires removal of an electricity pole, which is proving a challenge.

Three months ago I phoned electricity company, Seeboard and after only an hour fighting their call system, I managed to get the number for the correct department.

I phoned them immediately and explained about the pole, that was fine they said, could I give my customer number. Alarm bells began to go off in my head. I was not a customer, I replied, and was told to contact my supplier.

After 24 hours thought, I phoned back and managed to talk to the same helpful lady. I explained that the pole in question solely supplied three cottages on the farm, all of whom were their valued customers. Not to be deterred, she insisted that as the pole was on my land I would have to contact my electricity supplier.

My repost was to ask that she pretend that I owned a small plot of land on which there was nothing but a pole which connected electricity solely to their customers, and as such, I consumed no electricity. This seemed to do the trick and I sent off the required plans and maps.

Several months later I received a letter asking if I still wanted the work done. I phoned back straight away to confirm and asked whether I could make an appointment with the engineer. This would be impossible, I was told, he was off sick.

However, later that day, I had a call to say an engineer would phone to make an appointment shortly. I had hardly put the phone down when it rang again – the engineer – who wanted to come the next day.

After muttering that it would be very expensive, he suddenly realised it was the wrong sort of pole carrying the wrong sort of wire and so was outside his jurisdiction. Another office would have to quote it. When, I wondered, would their engineer be out? I received a look that told me not to get my hopes up. &#42

Dealings with electricity companies over removing a pole to install a new milk silo, have been trying Tim Gues patience lately.

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Tim Gue

10 May 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

THE best time to kick a man is when hes down and the current milk prices certainly come as a body blow.

We expected low prices. But the combination of low global prices, very high UK production and lack of processing capacity capable of producing intervention quality powders has allowed UK prices to free fall to levels that cannot happen elsewhere in the EU.

The dairy industrys claim that there is ample capacity in the UK has been shown to be self-interested cobblers.

Timing is everything. What a pity the new United Milk factory at Westbury, although on schedule, will not be processing large volumes of milk until July. The profit margins on spot milk at less than 10p/litre would be high. However, with the first tanker loads of milk due to go through the factory this month, the whole supply side should breathe a sigh of relief.

As an investor, I look forward to a respectable milk price, either as a result of profits on cheap milk or the sale of high quality milk powders into the food industry. Either way, something must be done to take us back towards the top of the EU milk price league, instead of languishing at the bottom.

While we keep hearing that co-ops are keen to own processing capacity, at present they are only tinkering. Further merging of groups will give them more strength and resources.

But the supply side must take ownership of state-of-the-art high capacity plant, if we are to catch up with the efficiencies of the best of the rest of the world. It will be interesting to see whether they take the initiative to restructure our industry or leave it to the likes of United Milk and Wisemans.

On the farm, timely rain has encouraged grass growth after a very dry April which, coupled with a long succession of frosty nights, had reduced growth to almost zero. You can almost hear it growing now, which is a relief, as silage clamps are almost empty. Thankfully, most of our maize has been sown into great seedbeds, so prospects for forage yields look good. &#42

Something must be done to take the UK back towards the top of the EU milk price league, rather than languishing at the bottom, believes Tim Gue.

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Tim Gue

12 April 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

AS A result of keeping all beef crosses – due to foot-and-mouth and low prices – and higher cow numbers, forage stocks are low.

Exacerbating this, feed intakes are greater because of three-times-a-day milking. However, yields have responded well to the milking routine, with autumn calvers up by more than 12%.

To ease the forage situation, we will sell 44 Simmentals while store prices seem reasonable.

Spring does seem to have arrived and low yielders have been out days since the last week of March, grazing an Italian mix, sown last spring. This is growing so fast that we were able to get high yielders out in early April.

We must also maximise silage tonnage and make some whole-crop to get us through to maize harvest. Fortunately, we have an extra 20ha (50 acres) of grass seed, which will help the grazing and silage situation.

Far off dry cows have been out since the middle of March. They are grazing a field that was poached in winter, while waiting for cubicle buildings to be finished. This field will be sown as early as possible to Dixit maize. This variety is normally too low yielding for our conditions, but in this case it should give us early maize and allow plenty of time for an autumn reseed.

Our 340 ewes lamb outside and typically began in the middle of torrential weather. When it wasnt raining, water was pouring out of the ground, making it depressing and hard work. Despite a low ratio of tups, they lambed thick and fast, with a high percentage of triples.

Initially, my wife Marion took one lamb off each triplet because of the appalling weather. So the pet lamb pen is full. However, as the weather improves, we are making a triplet group which will receive extra TLC. When lambs are even in size and ewes milky, this system works well. Anything rather than more pet lambs.

Lastly, congratulations to the government on their recent proposals for the industry (News, Mar 29). I didnt think it possible to spend so much time and money deciding to create yet more think-tanks and action plans; when what is needed is action. &#42

Spring has sprung and Tim Gues milkers are enjoying the sunshine, but forage stocks are low and grass seed must be sown.

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Tim Gue

15 March 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres) of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

IT is encouraging that there have been three planning applications for abattoirs locally – good news in a county that has no abattoirs at all.

Two of the applications have been approved, but the third has met strong local opposition, mostly from people who live miles from the site and make no attempt to understand the issues.

NIMBYism is one of the biggest problems facing many common sense projects. In this case, so far, the planners seem to have taken a positive view. Hopefully this will continue and it will also be approved.

Back on the farm, our ewes must be in good order because we have to check them three times a day, to tip them over when they are stuck with four feet in the air. They are due to lamb outside in mid-March, so we are hoping for a change for the better in the weather.

The cubicle building is complete and has 150 very contented cows in it, with only a couple unconvinced that they should sit all the way in the cubicles all the time.

Now all milkers are in cubicles, we have started to see a reduction in mastitis and are looking for further improvements as we move to three-times-a-day milking.

Cows have milked better than ever, with many heifers peaking at over 40 litres on twice a day milking. However, fertility can only be described as disappointing.

The many changes we have had to make during winter as a result of the building programme, such as amalgamating groups, changing housing and cubicle training will all have had an effect.

Our vets have been monitoring BVD status via bulk milk and blood tests and we must soon decide whether to vaccinate or not.

The Maize Growers Assoc-iation conference was well supported and feedback from farmers was positive – knowledge transfer being the name of the game. It was a worthwhile event for those who were able to get off the farm for a day. &#42

Although cows are content in new cubicles on Tim Gues farm, some remain unconvinced they should occupy the whole cubicle.

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Tim Gue

15 February 2002

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres) of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

JANUARY and February are the worst months of the English calendar.

January because you think winter will never end and February because you think it is over, then freezing fog or torrential rain remind you that although spring is just around the corner, it is not here yet.

Its a good time to get off the farm, so for the first time I attended the British Cattle Breeders Conference. I returned injected with enthusiasm and new ideas. Just what the doctor ordered.

Delays in the construction of our 190-cow cubicle building have been frustrating, but the incredibly dry weather in December and early January allowed dry cows to stay out on a field which will now grow maize.

They were fed silage bales in feeder trailers and seemed to thrive in the cold. Thankfully, 100 cubicles were completed in mid-January, allowing these cows to be housed as the monsoon broke.

As this phase of our expansion nears completion, we have placed an order with Westfalia for a 32-point, internal milking rotary parlour. The aim is to be milking in it in late September. Watch this space.

We are conscious of the need to increase output quickly, but are loath to introduce problems by buying cows because we have a lot of heifers in the pipeline. While learning to manage the new system and to maximise output, we are considering a move to three-times-a-day milking.

Cows are milking well, averaging 30 litres, including 40 spring calvers that are nearly dry. We really are making progress in breeding the right type of cow for our high output system.

We recently classified 34 very good (VG) cows and three excellents (EX), bringing the herd up to 61 VGs and six EXs, thanks in no small part to the efforts of herdsmen Ron and Rob to present these cows well. We constantly review the cost of classification, however, this visit has considerably increased the value of the herd. &#42

Breeding for high output and high type is going in the right direction, as recent classification results show on Tim Gues farm.

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Tim Gue

21 December 2001

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Steyning

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

SPRING calvers stayed out during the day until Nov 30, saving feed and straw, and are still milking well.

The autumn block are also milking well. High quality maize silage and crimped maize grain are producing good milk proteins and, hopefully, minimising negative energy balance. We have just started serving, so fingers crossed.

My wife Marion, herd manager Ron and I were due to go to Holland to look at rotary parlours, but at the eleventh hour we were told we were not welcome due to foot-and-mouth.

I pointed out that all Dutch farmers have been closer to F&M than us, but to no avail and I cant say I blame them. Instead, we hastily arranged a trip to Dorset and Oxon.

The Dorset unit was a 24-point internal milker. It had a relaxed atmosphere and good cows. One man was able to milk 120 cows/hour competently and effortlessly. The unit in Oxon was a 60-point outward milker with two operators. This is a serious piece of kit capable of milking 250 cows/hour and many more with an extra man. It was awesome. Many thanks to our hosts.

So, having seen several rotary parlours, decision time is near. The choice is low-tech, two-man very high output, or high tech, one man with lower output. At this stage we are leaning towards the inward milker, mainly because of the skilled labour shortage, particularly in the south-east.

The last of the lambs are due to go, along with cull ewes. We would still normally have half our lambs to finish on turnips, but lambs have done so well this year we havent sown any. They have finished on the abundance of autumn grass.

Marketing has been difficult because of F&M restrictions and an abattoir shortage in the south-east. Low prices and a two-and-a-half hour journey means filling lorries has been as important as premiums.

We usually buy tups at Kelso, but this year, instead of choosing from thousands we could only choose from 17. We look forward to being at Kelso next year and wish you a great Christmas and New Year, you deserve it. &#42

With building work almost finished, Tim Gues thoughts have turned to new parlours and its looking like an inward milker rotary.

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Tim Gue

26 October 2001

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Steyning

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

TO GET the moans over first, DEFRA should look up the word "relax" in the dictionary. I certainly did not feel relaxed trying for three weeks to move stock in situations that had presented no problems under the old rules.

The man on the DEFRA helpline – another word they should look up – told me he didnt make the rules. I have found a useful tactic is to tell them at the beginning of the conversation that I have a button on my phone, which will deliver an electric shock to irritating bureaucrats – patent pending.

My second complaint is about milking machine manufacturers. At a time when most of the ancillary industries pulled out all the stops to ensure the Dairy Event was a great success, where were they? Having decided jointly to save themselves some cash, those of us looking to expand, renew or update our plant were disappointed. Well done to the few who did exhibit.

While at the Dairy Event, doing a stint on the MGA stand, I met a vet who is dedicated to large animals and practises within easy reach of our farm. We had our first visit this week and it was encouraging. We had given up hope of being able to work with such a practice in the south-east.

I hope this vet will be able to have a real impact on the dairy enterprise. Our largest reason for culling cows is mastitis and high cell counts. Any improvement means fewer replacements and significant savings.

The new cubicle building is progressing and, while it is a little behind schedule, panels for the underground slurry tank are mostly in place and the frame is nearly up. The roof should be on within the next two weeks, which will remove the influence of the weather. It will be a relief when it is completed.

Despite rain, maize yielded well, averaging 45-48t/ha (18-19t/acre) and cows are milking well on it. Ground ear maize is ready, but the contractor cannot be with us until Oct 22 so we will have to be patient.

On a sad note, our herd manager Philip is leaving us to be in sole charge of a large new unit – we wish him well. Anyone fancy a challenge? &#42

Tim Gue is becoming increasingly irritated by the latest round of movement rules.

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Tim Gue

28 September 2001

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

WITH harvest almost complete, our priorities turn to cows. Before calving started on Sept 15, our herdsmen Phillip and Rob carefully managed our two dry cow groups. The aim with the far-offs is a slight condition improvement of about half a score from grass and a little silage when necessary.

The close ups receive 22kg maize silage, 22kg grass silage, 2kg soya, high quality minerals and whatever grass they can find. The straw shortage means we will calve outside for as long as possible, cows being fed with feeder trailers.

Calving started a week early and heifers, mainly by sires Bellwood, Winchester, Formation and Lord Lily look promising. Now calving is upon us, cows are being housed and fed a high density maize-based diet. Maintaining fibre levels will be critical, particularly in cubicles, and with straw so expensive we are trying to source lucerne.

Work has begun on a three-year dairy expansion project and cow numbers will eventually rise to 450. The first phase will involve a 170-cow cubicle building over an underground slurry store with a whole winters capacity. Cows will be on slats and cubicles will have mattresses and sawdust.

Completion of this stage will mean few cows in loose housing and hopefully a reduction in mastitis and cell counts. This is our biggest headache at present with cell counts exceeding 200 rather than our target of 100.

It will also allow cattle to be housed at home, saving constant travelling to and from outlying farms. Additionally, it will eliminate slurry lagoons. As cow numbers have expanded and following a series of wet winters, these have become difficult to manage.

With maize harvest almost upon us, I attended an MGA harvest workshop. We were surprised by maize maturity and how we always underestimate dry matter. Our maize has matured quickly with Illias ahead of other supposedly earlier varieties for the second year running and looking a huge crop. Contractors started on Sept 17.

However, some crops could have done with more nitrogen following last winters leaching. Estimating nitrogen requirement for maize is always difficult, so I am pleased MGA will evaluate new systems of calculating requirements to enhance its N-Predictor service. &#42

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