Archive Article: 2001/11/02

2 November 2001

Bring brain blunderers to book, too

What a good idea to jail the anthrax hoaxers for up to seven years. Is it too much to hope that the scaremongers who have plagued farming over the past decade can be included? Particularly the ones who caused that almighty blunder between cattle and sheep brains, which very nearly caused the end of the sheep industry.

Have we ever witnessed a scandal of such magnitude being hushed up so effectively?

I Owen

Glantraeth, Bodorgan, Anglesey.

Yet another DEFRAfiasco

As yet another DEFRA fiasco is revealed, is there anyone who can correct the deliberately misleading comments about maternal transmission of BSE? The original experiment involved a number of weaned calves from BSE dams and a number of calves from healthy cows, with both groups being fed contaminated feed. When slightly more in the group from BSE dams developed BSE than from the other group (some of which also, not surprisingly, developed the disease), MAFF decided that this represented 1% maternal transmission. To most people the only valid conclusion was that there may be a percentage of genetic susceptibility.

The second experiment required imported heifers from New Zealand to be implanted with embryos from BSE infected cows, sired by BSE in affected bulls. All these heifers produced offspring, which have been reared to five to six years of age and slaughtered. None of these cattle showed any evidence of the disease. So in the public domain, theres no other evidence of maternal transmission.

MAFF/DEFRA has adopted an embarrassed silence. And if it can find BSE in sheep brains all the sheep in the country must be slaughtered. Why?

The only certain thing that has been discovered is that BSE is spread within species by ingesting infected meat and bone meal, which has been banned since the late 1980s. How long do they think sheep live and how often do we eat old ewes?

We are all in the hands of idiots. I would like to start a revolution – anyone care to join?

Mrs Pat Rickett

The Juniper Herd, Wood Farm, Everdon, Daventry.

Stress factor is real BSE cause

Never mind sheep with or without BSE. There is still no herd of cows that definitively demonstrates meat meal is the cause of BSE. Why? Proof of the possible in the lab is not evidence of the inevitable in the field. Therefore, this following theory, based on chance observations, remains valid.

The simple truth about BSE is not that a single stress factor in one cow generations ago caused malformed prions that multiplied unnoticed over many generations. The truth is that almost all farm-occurring BSE is caused and accumulates by the stress factor.

The stress factor is an artificial fat known as rumen protected fat or bypass fat which was first fed on a commercial scale in the mid 80s. It does not contain any natural antioxidants. So cows that for other reasons are not ruminating, absorb this fat without other foodstuffs and lack adequate antioxidants such as vitamin E and selinium.

In chicks, high fat diets with low levels of vitamin E caused the once common problem of chick encephalitis or crazy chick disease. That suggests that CJD may be caused by rancid fat consumption or the DINO effect; dietary induced negative oxygen.

Owen Fabb

NZ tail docking not free range

With reference to your article (News, Oct 12) concerning the New Zealand Anchor butter advertisement, I agree with the Cheshire dairy farmer as regards tail-docking.

My husband and I were out in New Zealand for three weeks last year. The way they run their dairy industry has to be admired but the one thing I disagreed with was the way they cut the tails off many of their cows. We noticed this as we travelled around both the North and South Islands.

How can New Zealand Milk advertise its butter as being from "free range" cows if they cannot swish the flies away because they have no tails? I think of this as being cruel and wonder what would happen in this country if we did the same?

Mrs Mair Reed

New Mill Farm, Monknash, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan.

VAT is cause of 1000s of deaths

If the farming and meat industry had been made to charge VAT on animals and meat products before the BSE crisis, would the government have been as keen to give the press and public as much knowledge? If the answer is Yes, why do they not take tobacco products off the market as they must have caused the deaths of thousands?

David Prince

Tenants fight a losing battle

My husband and I, as first generation tenant farmers, have fought for the past 13 years with quotas, BSE, landlords and banks to enable ourselves to build up a farming enterprise that we are proud of. We have unfortunately lost our battle through the inadequacies of farm business tenancies to protect us from the greed of landlords.

Through no fault of our own we have lost everything that we have strived for with no help from any sector. Our home has been sold for a huge profit with the normal Sussex barn for conversion and our attempts to buy were ignored as it was sold to the highest bidder. We have sold our stock for a fraction of their worth and are unable to pay off our bank borrowings.

We look forward to an uncertain future but must strive to ensure that our children do not suffer from the loss of their home and the animals that they love.

We took over two neglected farms, stocked them and farmed them efficiently and sensitively in keeping with the ways in which our landlords had led us to believe was important to them. We farmed these farms with a passion as if they were our own.

Our only consolation can be that we have enjoyed, with our children, a type of farming rarely to be seen in the future unless someone in authority has the courage to fight for the mixed family farm so wanted by most people in this country.

How many first generation tenant farmer members does the Tenant Farmers Association have and how many does it envisage having in future? We have lost the interest of our young farmers and I believe this is the biggest threat to our industry now.

Julia and Simon Feakes

Northfields Farm, Burnthouse Lane, Cowfold, West Sussex.

Right to roam Act falls short

Although I share Charlie Flindts exasperation with walkers (Talking Point, Oct 19), the press has exaggerated the licence that the right to roam act will bestow. The act, called the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, received royal assent on Nov 30 last year.

Part one of the act contains provisions to introduce a new statutory right of access for open-air recreation to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land. This right will not come into force until access land has been defined on maps. Final maps for the whole country are expected by autumn 2004.

The act defines behaviour that is prohibited on access land. A person is not entitled to be on any access land if in or on that land he "intentionally or recklessly takes, kills, injures or disturbs any animal, bird or fish, has no reasonable excuse or interferes with any fence, barrier or other device designed to prevent accidents to people or to enclose livestock". Also visitors should not do anything without reasonable excuse "which disturbs, annoys or obstructs any person engaged in a lawful activity on the land".

The act states that dogs must be kept on short leads on all access land between Mar 1 and Jul 31 and at any time in the vicinity of livestock.

These are legally enforceable restrictions – perpetrators lose their right of access. It is unfortunate that behaviour on existing rights of way is only defined by a code of conduct. It seems silly to have different rules for access land and rights of way. It is highly desirable that the original 1980 Highways Act be amended to incorporate relevant dos and donts from the 2000 act. Any chance of some lobbying from NFU and CLA and others?

Robin King

Proctors Farm, Beauchamp Roding, Ongar, Essex.

Immature cob drawbacks

With reference to Peter Schofields comments (Letters, Oct 5) on cob maturity, I would like to highlight the drawbacks of harvesting immature maize for silage.

First, lets remember that the purpose of growing maize is, predominantly, to feed to dairy cows. Allowing the crop to reach adequate dry matter content to ensure maximum starch content is important, as it is the starch that converts into utilisable energy for the animal.

Cutting maize too early means it will be immature and significant feed energy will be lost via effluent from the clamp. Soaking it up with straw is not a solution as straw is expensive or unobtainable.

As immature maize is high in sugars, it makes acidic silage. This lowers dry matter intakes and adds to the acidic loads already incurred by grass silage and ground cereals, whereas waiting until the cob has matured results in higher starch levels in silage. Much of the grass silage cut this year is high in sugars so it is all the more important to ensure maximum levels of maize starch to counter that.

Also, cut too early and the fibrous fraction (or scratch factor) of the plant, which stimulates rumen activity and improves feed utilisation, will not yet have developed. Farmers, who want to bring forward their maize harvesting dates but not lose out on cob maturity or yield, should select one of the many early maturing varieties, with a good performance record.

Finally, many dairy farms do not rotate their maize crops. So although harvesting in October may be necessary to ensure crop maturity, especially in marginal growing areas, there is no rush to sow a follow-on crop.

Tim Richmond

Maize product manager, Advanta Seeds UK, Sleaford, Lincs.

Milkmans price never falls

I stopped to talk to our local milk delivery man this morning to inquire the price of a pinta. He told me it was 42p. I mentioned that some milk buyers were warning of possible price cuts to farmers, and asked whether doorstep prices dropped in line with the buying price. "In 15 years of delivering milk Ive never known my prices to go down, mate," was his reply.

I am told that an executive of Milklink has said that current prices are unsustainable. He is wrong; it is dairy farming that is unsustainable at these levels.

John Reading

Moors Farm, East Knoyle, Salisbury, Wilts.

HSE inspectors of little help

Congratulations on your Health and Safety supplement (Oct 5) marking European week for safety and health.

The supplement raises points that are worth discussion. There have been serious injuries, some fatal, to workers and farmers who become trapped in the grain tank of a combine. Can we suggest that the real answer is not a safety interlock on the cover but an unloading system that works without the need for intervention by the operator.

If the designers are unable to develop a fault-free system that will work with all conditions of crop, perhaps the tool kit should include a big stick for poking purposes.

Forum members, and other farmers that we know, have already taken up Andrew Williams suggestion of inviting HSE inspectors to visit farms. However, the HSE was unable to accept a recent invitation, because it did not have an inspector appointed in that particular area.

We have also had problems with inspectors, many of whom have little knowledge of farming practice, who have suggested unacceptable recommendations.

John Beaumont

Farm Safety Forum co-ordinator, Tuckingmill, Tisbury, Salisbury.

Everyones a winner

Your Opinion (Oct 12) that lawyers are the only winners in patent disputes is incorrect. Many British agricultural machinery companies have struggled in recent years because they have failed to be innovative, failed to develop new ideas and, as a result, ended up producing equipment that was similar to their competitors. Consequently they have had to trade on price. Many have failed.

But innovation costs money. At Simba we have a design team and an active research and development department. This is essential to the companys continued business. When that team produces genuine innovations, like the Cultipress or the DD press ring, we protect our investment by patenting unique features of such equipment.

As our success in a recent case against Dowdeswell Ltd. over their infringement of our Cultipress patent proves, we will fight to protect the innovations through which we aim to ensure our future.

The beneficiaries of this are widespread and not limited solely to the lawyers. Simba, its employees and dealers all benefit, because the companys intellectual property is protected, enabling everyone to gain appropriate rewards for its considerable investment in innovation.

Those companies who have struck licensing agreements with Simba for use of the patented element of the machine in their own equipment also benefit, through the potential to gain extra sales.

And farmers benefit, because Simba regularly re-invests in the development of further new models to help them achieve ever better crop establishment. Without the protection afforded by a patent, there would be no point in investing in innovation or product development. Machinery companies would resort to copying each others equipment, and as a result the rate of machinery improvement would be far slower.

Rod Daffern

Chairman, Simba International, Woodbridge Rd, Sleaford, Lincs.

Rats make hay in whole-crop

My brother and I were pleased with our first attempt at whole-crop barley and peas which produced a respectable 11 round bales/acre. We recently housed our fattening cattle and removed the outside bales from the stack. That revealed no less than a vermin motorway and chaos with black, hanging plastic and decaying fodder as far as the eye could see.

We must have been miserly on administrating the "blue corn" this year but I assure you, my long-tailed friends, we will be back. To put this years experience into context I think round bale, whole-crop silage is central heating for rats.

Rodney Stanbury

Ladycross Farm, Werrington, Launceston, Cornwall.

Point scoring fuels biofuels

Paul Coates is right about biofuels (Letters, Oct 5). A con, as he says, motivated by the political wish to score points on the carbon dioxide emission stakes.

Burning crop residues in an efficient furnace on the farm may be a money-saving and environmentally friendly use of waste products. But growing crops for biofuel is a very different matter.

Consider oilseed rape, yielding 2-3t/ha of seed. If that contained even 50% oil it would provide little over 1t of oil/ha. However, the UK burns about 75m tonnes of petroleum oil each year. To supplement that with 1.75% biofuel by 2010 would require 1.3m tonnes of crop-derived oil.

This is the oil yield from 13,000sq km and, as our total UK cropland is only 50,000sq km, the figures speak for themselves. There is also the further energy cost of cultivation, weed control, harvest, residue-disposal, transport to a centre and refining.

The land area required might well be a third of all cropland to "save" less than 0.01% of the nations total carbon dioxide emission.

Those who support such a scheme are not numerate.

Dr John Etherington

Parc-y-Bont, Llanhowell, Solva, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.

What is normal in farming now?

What is the normal lifestyle of British farmers? For many years farmers have had to battle with many problems including stock diseases and big changes in the weather, which is a crucial factor in good farming.

All these problems have been going on for a long time. Someone would need to tell me the last time a farmer experienced normal times. But having a strong government could help many of the problems.

The foot-and-mouth epidemic brought the farming industry to its knees and that terrible event in America on Sept 11 is going to take a lifetime to get over.

Tony Blairs attention is focused, along with other world leaders, on finding a solution to terrorism. This means it is going to take much longer to solve the problems of rural Britain.

Despite all the problems in our world, my heart will always be with the British countryside for, like most farmers, I am very fond of nature.

Jim Braid

Croft House, Bridgend, Perth.

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