Alan Montgomery runs
a 300ha (750-acre) mixed
farm near Downpatrick, Co
Down, Northern Ireland.
As well as cereals and
potatoes, the farm supports
a 130-cow suckler herd, 800
breeding ewes and
1000 store lambs
FOLLOWING my writings on the upgraded farm quality scheme, we have been visited by an inspector. With some insight into what was expected from our farm, I was fairly confident of meeting the criteria.
I was lulled into a false sense of security when after a 15-minute walk through the yards, the inspector commented on the farms tidiness and contentment of livestock. The 1.5-hour questionnaire was a different matter, as farming practice and recording was brought under the microscope.
It soon became apparent that things were not going well and I felt shattered and drained by the end of the visit. We have six months to produce photographs or documentary evidence on the rectification of three major non-conformances.
The first non-conformance was having no record of purchased feedstuffs in the required format. Secondly, we were deemed to have no suitable run-back area for sheep on root crops and finally the farm is not registered with the Department of Environment for spreading used sheep dip.
Number one will be easily rectified as we home mix using mainly our own cereals. Number three is possible, but will cost in excess of £300. Lack of grass run-backs will pose the greatest difficulty, as in certain fields they are not available.
I believe transparency about farming practice is necessary to maintain consumer confidence. However, I cannot help but feel these schemes are all competing against each other for the same markets. Hence the need for each scheme to appear superior to its rivals.
A much more serious matter is a suspected case of caseous lymphadenitis in a pedigree ram, sourced at a premier show and sale in early August. He has been closely scrutinised by a government vet and is showing no symptoms of the disease to date.
However, it can take up to four months for swellings to appear and they are not always obvious as they can grow internally as well as externally. The offending male has many more checks to go through before he is in the clear. *