Archive Article: 2000/04/14

14 April 2000

Barmy logo just beggars belief…

It was with absolute disbelief that I read your article (News, Apr 7) regarding the new British farm standard logo.

I would have expected the logo to represent Great Britain and her farmers. But it is more likely to induce childhood memories of Lego building in the nursery, rather than appeal to the patriotic sentiments of our customers.

Why this barmy design was ever approved by serious-minded grown-ups beggars belief. We in this wonderful country have the finest trademark in the entire world, the Union flag, which immediately conjures up images of quality and reliability wherever it is displayed.

I have no doubt that those sad individuals willing to surrender our sovereignty to the US or Europe, will find this Lego-like image represents the kind of emasculated nation they want to see.

Dick Lindley

Birkwood Farm, Altofts, Normanton, West Yorks.

Kitemark is appropriate

At first glance (News, Apr 7), I thought how awful and poorly designed, the new British Farm Standard kitemark logo was.

However, as the logo is largely composed of a letter F, lying on its back, I then thought how appropriate it is, as this is exactly the position that British farming now finds itself in.

Clive Trollope

Broomclose Farm, Longbridge Deverill, Warminster, Wilts.

Helping farmers in hard times

Those many people who listen regularly to The Archers on BBC Radio 4 will know that the Grundy family is in trouble because they could not pay their farm rent or feed bills. Their circumstances are fiction but, in reality, many farmers throughout the country face similar difficulties in the current farming crisis – the worst since the 1930s.

The Royal Agriculture Benevolent Institution (founded in 1860) is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland dedicated to helping members of the farming community suffering hardship. In real life, we are helping people like the Grundys every day of the week.

We are not able to pay off business debts, but we can help a farming family through a difficult period by making a contribution to household expenses. We are also helping many like old Joe Grundy, who have retired from farming through age or disability and have a low income and little or nothing put by for emergencies.

J D Wallis

Chairman, RABI, Shaw House, 27 West Way, Oxford.

Simple solution to rampant £

Media coverage of the disastrous effects of the overvalued £, making UK exports from industry and agriculture uncompetitive in world and EU markets, has omitted to identify the main cause or the solution.

This economically incompetent government seems oblivious to some simple and easily implemented procedures. Some measures could easily be taken to bring sterling back to realistic values without inflaming the domestic economy.

At present, we see an even more absurd inflationary housing market than in the late 80s. That is created not by shortage of supply, there are more than 1m vacant dwellings, but by a hyped frenzy of misinformation and near hysteria.

Inflation is at a historically low level and on target. But the Bank of England monetary committee, because it can only set one interest rate, is now clobbering industry and agriculture with a rate which is at least 2% too high. That is solely in an attempt to control the over frothed house price spiral.

There are two simple solutions. First, the Chancellor should give the monetary committee the power to set a separate rate for all housing mortgages and loans. These could be varied up or down on a regular basis to maintain a stable and non-inflationary house market.

Second, the Chancellor should introduce a separate stamp duty rate for housing which could be varied on a regular basis as required by the house market at any given time.

None of the frothed up companies will thrive unless the UK manufacturing and agricultural industries are able to compete with a lower valued £. Your readers and those involved in manufacturing should canvas their MPs and ministers to implement these two simple solutions.

J L Wright

Riverview, Toad Row, Henstead, Beccles.

Simply positive about pulses

Your editorial comments (Opinion, Mar 31) coupled with the observations (Arable, Mar 31) of Barometer grower Mark Stevens give a welcome boost to home-grown pulses. Even if it comes a little late for spring 2000 drillings.

There is currently little for the arable farmer to enthuse over. But, at least in home-produced peas and beans, we have a source of genetically modified free protein with a ready market and the potential for premium prices. Long may it continue.

John Manners

President, The British Edible Pulse Association, c/o United Oilseeds, William Road, Devizes, Wilts.

Right track for farmers

For some time Ive heard farmers complaining about the strength of the £ and its damaging effect on their export markets. Is a population of 57m too small a challenge?

Farmers should not attempt to set up stall in a global village reliant on a fickle foreign market. Instead they should produce good quality food for sale in their home.

The public should also be educated to realise that quality and availability of food can best be maintained by buying from a local source with a first hand knowledge of its market.

The waste of time and resources incurred by the excessive movement of foodstuffs, the paperwork, bureaucracy and now complicated electronic tagging can only be guessed at.

Im not suggesting we should give up eating bananas or that Welsh lamb should never be served in Paris. But farmers, politicians and the public should be reminded of the dangers of straying from a home-based agricultural economy, where international currency fluctuations are of more minor importance.

David Boulton

c/o 24 Camerton Road, Greenbank, Bristol.

Brit Friesians deliver goods

Although I was interested to read the article on the rearing of Holstein bull calves (Livestock, Mar 17), it is the British Friesian calf that is able to deliver the more profitable system.

Its ability to finish from 11 months of age, together with superior grades, affords an opportunity for dairy farmers able to claim the beef premium, to achieve a gross margin on 90 animals of about £20,000.

Many British Friesian breeders have been following the policy of breeding all their cows to black-and-white bulls, with a private trade for surplus heifers and rearing on the bull calves. Alternatively, due to low replacement rates, they cross with beef bulls whose calves sell well, the heifer calves being particularly sought after for suckler dam replacements.

Dairy farmers know that all too often longevity has been sacrificed for production but the advantages of the first outweigh the second in terms of associated costs.

Over the years the Friesian has proved to be the ideal dairy animal for this country, able to sustain high milk yields over a number of lactations.

The fact that the index system was designed for the marketing of semen, (which farmers ought not to overlook), the Friesian has been continually disadvantaged due to comparison with the Holstein cow. This is something that many dairy farmers will not forgive our advisers for.

Clearly, type merit figures are totally misleading and in addition no allowance is made for the lesser energy requirements of body maintenance, for the smaller animal. On closer examination of the formulae used, it appears that the Friesian has been cheated of a more than 1000kg of milk.

Surely the time has come to examine the Index system, in the light of overall farm profitability.

Trevor Griffin

Kirkby Fields Farm, Newbold Road, Kirkby Mallory, Leics.

BLUP starting to prove worth

Graham Stratford (Letters, Mar 24) is correct when he describes BLUP as a computer program. But the estimated breeding values it produces represent the most accurate method of predicting the genetic merit of individual beef animals. BLUP itself is widely accepted by geneticists and breeders throughout the world as the most sophisticated system of evaluation available.

The correlation between beef value and price, as reported by FW following the Perth bull sales, simply shows that commercial producers are developing a growing awareness of the benefit of using BLUP performance data when choosing herd sires.

EBV figures are generated from an increasing number of members from all the main beef breeds enrolled on the Signet Beefbreeder scheme. This growing bank of data, combined with an intensive level of recording, including routine weighing of livestock and ultrasonic scanning for muscle and fat depths, helps to increase the accuracy of results.

It is not only Hereford and Aberdeen Angus breeders who import significant numbers of sires. However, UK data is soon generated depending on how well the imported sire is related to other animals in this country and how extensively he is used. The annual sire and dam summaries for all breeds include numerous imported sires in the rankings, born from 1993 onwards.

The development of international conversations, to estimate the potential UK ranking of a foreign bull, and international comparisons, to allow across country evaluations, are under way. But it will take time to come to fruition, because of different identification systems and recording protocols.

The UK BLUP evaluation system was developed after extensive consultation with the industry, and we believe that the present system has strong support from breeders and breed societies. Additionally, MLCs involvement with ICAR (the international livestock recording body) will ensure the future effectiveness of Beefbreeder and BLUP within the UK and internationally.

Jim Stark

Signets breeding services manager, Signet, PO Box 603, Winterhill, Milton Keynes.

NFU protects democracy

I write in reply to John Redmans letter (Mar 10) about NFU Officeholder voting procedures.

The NFU operates democratic election procedures that are fully laid out in its constitution. They are similar to those used in most other membership organisations and unincorporated associations.

All members are given notice of the day of the national officeholder elections and invited to nominate candidates. On the day of the election, elected representatives on the NFU governing body, the council, vote in a secret ballot. The number of votes cast for each candidate is not disclosed. Neither are council members obliged to reveal the way they have voted.

This system is designed to protect the democratic process by allowing council members to use their judgement after considering the views of the farmers they represent.

Alan Roberts,

Secretary of the NFU, Agriculture House, 164 Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

MAFFs local links severed

Is the closure of the MAFF regional service centres throughout the country a demonstration of government support for agriculture?

Their replacement by offices in Newcastle, served by a call centre, will force all producers to use e-mail for their IACS or livestock forms. They will either have to invest in computers or use a third party at extra cost. Any problems could not be sorted out face to face as now. Could a call centre deal with the unique problems of each individual?

Would it not be more sensible to move to IT and one centre but serve it by smaller local centres as there used to be? This would allow a local office, which could deal with queries and email the forms of those without computers.

More importantly, the centres could be a source of information to enable farmers to understand increasingly complicated schemes from Europe, and help the rural community get its fair share of support.

Surely this would be a demonstration of ongoing government support for rural areas and at the same time safeguard the jobs of the MAFF staff who themselves are an integral part of the agricultural community.

John Yeoman

Barnspark, Soar, Malborough, Kingsbridge, Devon.

UK not taking kindly to metric

I am responding to your article "Metric now compulsory for meat" (Business, Mar 3). Of particular interest is the comment that compulsory metrication may "seem like another Brussels inspired whim to boost consumer confusion". Also that it has the fundamental aim of "removing confusion".

As recent consumer surveys conducted on behalf of the British Weights and Measures Association and others have shown, there is opposition to compulsory metrication from up to 90% of the population. Despite more than 20 years of attempts to compulsorily metrify the British people, the vast majority still think in terms of pounds and ounces, feet and inches.

Confusion has been caused solely by attempts at compulsory metrication; unsupported by British people. The introduction of compulsory metrication is at the behest of Brussels and their 1989 Directive, which orders the obliteration of British weights and measures at the point of sale.

More than 40% of independent retailers are still trading in British weights and measures, so strong has been the resistance to compulsory metrication. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that there is a drift back to trading in British weights and measures. For independent information on the legality of the weights and measures (units of measurement) regulations 1994, please contact us.

Jeffrey Titford MEP

U.K. Independence Part Office, Rochester House, 145 New London Road,

Extensification scheme defence

Mr Walford complains (Letters, Mar 24) that farmers have not yet received full details of the extensification scheme nearly a quarter of the way through the claim year.

Beef farmers were sent an outline of the scheme before mid-January. By early March they were sent fuller notes for guidance with information about how to qualify for the premium. On 20 Mar we announced that the first of the six check dates under the standard scheme was 2 Feb. We will shortly be issuing further information on points flagged up as still being clarified when the Notes for Guidance was sent for printing.

MAFF does not have the information to make the calculations itself. That may become possible once all cattle and movements are entered on the cattle tracing system, and the European Commission has approved it. As soon as that is done, we will consider how the extensification scheme, and other livestock subsidy schemes, can be streamlined.

Joyce Quin

Minister of state, MAFF, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London.

BSE & warbles treatment

During a recent visit miles away from home I was talking to a group of farmers about BSE. As we all know, it was compulsory once to treat cattle with organophosphate with the aim of eliminating the warble fly.

One farmer said: "I did not treat my cattle for warbles and Im the only one in our area compared with similar farms who did not have a case of BSE." Another farmer said: "I didnt treat mine either and I didnt have BSE".

So, all you guilty people. How many with closed herds didnt treat your cattle for warbles and didnt have BSE? We had 10 cases of BSE and treated for warbles.

Mrs Hilda Thomas

Stupping Farm, Coxhill, Marberth, Pemborkeshire.

OPs to blame for mad cows

There are plenty of examples like Edward Godsells on BSE (Letters, Feb 18) pointing to OP. When the Phillips BSE inquiry reports next month, too late to make much difference anyway, OP will resurface as the most likely cause of BSE and variant CJD. Some of us are waiting to examine its reasoning.

The politically correct version of infective feed was dreamed up by the pharmaceutical research agencies, without research, since OPs would implicate the companies making them. Why would British cows alone react to infective feed supplied worldwide? No other case of disease discriminating by nationality has ever occurred. Science can be fiddled like everything else in the EU. The inquiry itself was rigged from the start with a brief to stick to inter-party games and leave the science to scientists. Learned judges, with no science, can be relied upon to shirk the issue. You must remember MAFF, too, had responsibility for OP douching.

The liabilities are so huge governments as well as multinationals will fight to stop the truth getting out. There is evidence of orchestration, but its devilish hard to prove.

Two variant CJD victims were vegetarians for goodness sake. Anyone with the persistence to wade through over a thousand pages should read The River examining the alleged establishment cover up of vaccinations against polio in the Congo starting AIDS. Worldwide liabilities there, perhaps even great enough to bankrupt the US, make it hard for truth to survive.

Lord Walsingham

The Hassocks, Merton, Thetford, Norfolk.

Tough decisions for abattoirs

We are a low volume abattoir in Caerphilly, South Wales, oval stamp number 7182. We supply local butchers, farmers and a large wholesaler.

It seems there is no answer to the crippling charges of the Meat Hygiene Service. Due to the inflexibility of its attitude to charging, I am faced with two choices.

Either I close my abattoir down and put 10 men out of work. Or, I send the MHS an amount of money towards inspection and vet costs that I can reasonably afford and stay in business. Due to the urgency of the situation, I would advocate that all abattoirs unable to face these costs to do the same.

A D Havard

The Abattoir, Black Brook Road, Caerphilly.

Horses offer income boost

I read with interest the letter (Mar 24) entitled Whats wrong with horses? If the author would care to write to me at Harper Adams I may be able to provide him with some information that could help.

Additionally, the failure of the authorities to classify horses as agricultural animals is doubly illogical, given that they are just so classified in Europe. That means they do not receive the same protection in terms of transport and slaughter that they do in the UK.

Planners may like to rethink their approach to horsiculture, as it offers some hope for ensuring income and employment in rural areas while agricultures role declines.

From the point of view of landlords, if they wish to maintain the rental value of their land in the face of falling farm incomes, a more open-minded approach to farm diversification could benefit their wallets.

Alison Monk

Senior lecturer in agricultural economics, Harper Adams.

Costs lurking in contract work

I found your article "True cost could be more than thought" (Machinery, Mar 24) most interesting. Several years ago, I conducted a similar exercise when a neighbour asked me to quote for his combining.

The article made me realise that I had made some errors in calculating the cost of extra work, but I think the article does too. Several specific items in your article demand comment. First, your article suggests depreciation would be constant for the two situations. I cannot agree with this, due to reduced machinery life expectancy.

Second, you suggest that insurance would be constant. My insurer doesnt like that idea, and charges a flat £500 for contract work. But I pay far less for farm insurance than I have seen in your overhead management articles.

Third, I wish I could put a competent person on a combine seat for £6/hr including all expenses. Taking on extra work would mean a greater amount of overtime, so the charge would not be constant.

Your cost per hectare for the increased areas includes the whole acreage, not just the increased areas included. However, the marginal cost for the extra hectares is less. Charging your neighbour should perhaps be based on that figure, adding a suitable profit margin.

Your article does not address what I consider the most important practical implication of taking on extra work at such a busy time of year. Can the staff cope? While you recognise that work on the core acreage may suffer, you take no account of the fact that you may overload your staff with far more serious consequences, perhaps through effects on family life or health. The working time directive recognises that problem but UK agriculture is not well placed to implement it. I would caution any farmer against risking the long-term usefulness of good staff to a marginal or non-existent profit.

When calculating what benefit might be possible, it is important to be cautious. You use a work rate of 1.2ha/hr.

That may be realistic for the more expensive combine you describe. I have used 0.8ha/hr, as experience has sown that this is what is achieved after allowing for downtime such as maintenance, repair and moving fields.

M A McDowall

Townhead (McDowall), Townhead, Gifford, Haddington.

Scholar given a raw deal

Your correspondent George Scales letter (Mar 17) entitled "Chickens are not kangaroos," is misinformed when he attacks Nuffield Scholar Pamela Gladwin. He criticises her for not considering all the factors that tend to make UK producers uncompetitive compared with producers in North America, France and Poland. She has indeed considered all the economic costs of production, though the report may not have majored on these.

The important point is that she has illustrated the areas where UK producers have advantages and where they are at a disadvantage. She suggests that we can become more competitive by lateral thinking in many of the areas that are usually classed as fixed costs.

I believe that Pamela intends to keep the costing comparison updated and I am sure that this will be a project that will interest FW readers.

I will send Mr Scales a copy of Pamelas report. For others, it is available from the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust for £5.00, or can be downloaded from the trusts web site:

Steven Bullock

Be extra wary with badgers

The article "Badgers Dig into Farm Profits" (News, Mar 17) highlights an increasing problem for farmers and landowners.

There are actions that can be taken to mitigate the losses, but farmers must be aware of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Under this Act, it is an offence to kill, injure or capture a badger or attempt to do so. It is also an offence to interfere with a badgers sett, which includes obstructing access to the sett. These activities can be carried out to prevent serious damage to land and crops if a licence is obtained from MAFF.

MAFF cannot unreasonably withhold a licence but it can impose conditions and it will not grant a licence if other methods of control have not been attempted unless they are impractical in the circumstances. MAFF can also grant licences to interfere with setts for the purpose of agricultural operations.

If farmers contravene the provisions of the Act, by acting without a licence when one should have been obtained, or does not comply with the terms of the licence, they may be liable to a fine of up to £5000 per badger affected and/or imprisonment of up to six months.

Self-help without careful consideration is not advisable.

Alison Bailey

Wilsons Solicitors, Steynings House, Fisherton Street, Salisbury, Wilts.

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