Archive Article: 2002/09/06

6 September 2002

Second life in farming starts now

While recovering in hospital from a near fatal heart attack, partially brought on by the stress and worry of trying to run a tenanted dairy farm with my son, I watched the TVprogramme Dairy Wars.

I must congratulate David Handley and his wife for being so frank in explaining their plight. The pain and worry shown on Mrs Handleys face said it all. I feel ashamed that David did not get the support from his fellow farmers that he so richly deserved.

I am told by my doctors that I am now starting my second life. I can only pray that it will bring a better future for farming in general. And that my sons future as a dairy farmer will be a lot brighter.

David Hope

Cardiac Unit, St Lukes Wing, Cheltenham General Hospital, Cheltenham, Glos.

Dairy farmers cant take cuts

The events of recent months have highlighted the impossible position of UK dairy farmers. At the top end, we have the Office of Fair Trading telling supermarkets that any joint move to raise our prices would be seen as price-fixing and fines up to 10% of turnover could be imposed. And at the bottom, a single dairy company seeking more market share can go to the retailers offering lower prices knowing he can strip it from the backs of the primary producers.

The last price cut in July was just such a case. Even Express said that there was no justification from the market for such a move but within a week every major milk buyer followed suite. You can change whom you supply, but when you have a contract that requires months of notice, you have no power to influence their actions.

I have read the reply from Robert Wiseman to the FFAs request that the company reinstate the money cut. It suggests that because some farmers had bought new parlours and quota prices had remained stable, the industry was not about to meltdown. This attitude is like the one displayed by a mediaeval baron to his serfs. Two, perhaps three, dairy companies, control the prices we receive, if one of them drop it, they all do.

We need an independent body that can look at the actions of the dairy companies and award compensation to all who lose out as a result of their actions.

M W Fisher

Ivy House Farm, Stoke Golding, Nuneaton, Warks.

NFU trying to rule the roost

The NFU has just made another £10,000 available to help tenant farmers with forthcoming rent reviews. This extra money was approved by the NFU Legal Committee which has a budget of £20,000. Sounds like a positive idea? No, it is not.

Those old enough to remember will recall that 21 years ago the Tenant Farmers Association was formed under the leadership of Dick Whittle. I was an original member and later became chairman. The TFA was formed because the NFU was not serving the tenants interests and could not be persuaded to do so.

Since then the TFA has done an outstanding job. It provides an excellent advisory service and has a team of experienced land agents skilled in operating on tenants behalf. Many tenants have good cause to be grateful.

So, here we are in an industry fighting for survival. I am told that there is not enough money to fund the professional media relations unit that the industry desperately needs. The main reason not enough money is available is widespread and senseless duplication.

The NFU is trying to compete with the TFA, with the equally professional National Sheep Association and with the Country Land and Business Association. The scope for economy, to say nothing of greater efficiency, must be huge.

Divide and rule is known to be a successful strategy. Our opponents must be laughing their socks off.

Henry Fell

Church House, Horkstow, Barton on Humber.

Union queries road blitz

The NFU South East Regional Office has raised with the Sussex police a number of the points set out in John Beaumonts letter (Aug 23) "Sussex road blitz senseless". In particular, we have asked what statistical justification exists for targeting East Sussex farmers and why this initiative coincides with harvest?

We have also want to know why HSE inspectors are not making such checks on farm premises as part of their standard procedures during the rest of the year? In at least one case recently the police and HSE trailed a farmer back to his holding and after conducting lengthy checks found nothing wrong.

None of us can be apologists for dangerous vehicles or machinery. But a more common sense approach to this matter would avoid alienating farmers unnecessarily.

Shaun Leavey

Regional director, NFU South East Region, Station Road, Liss, Hants.

MLC backing auction marts

Mr Williams comment that the Meat and Livestock Commission wants livestock markets to end (Letters, Aug 23) is wrong. The MLCs opinion is clear – auction markets continue to have a vital role in any future structure of the British meat industry.

The MLC was at the forefront of activity aimed at delivering a role for auction markets as cleansing and disinfection centres and collection centres during the foot-and-mouth crisis and also in getting auction markets restarted following the epidemic.

MLC Economics has a long-standing working relationship with the Livestock Auctioneers Association to collect, process and disseminate price information. We have always worked closely with individual auction markets, helping them with specific projects.

In the past three years the MLC has helped secure a £150,000 DTI grant for improvements in information technology at auction markets. And we have been technical advisers to the LAA on its web-based trading platform.

Both the MLC cattle and sheep strategy councils have approved the use of levy funds to be used towards helping to implement a quality price reporting system. That will help clarify the detail of the price/classification relationship through live auction. MLC Cymru secured a £25,000 grant from the Welsh Assembly to do the same in Wales.

All sectors agree that our industry is in a state of change. Post F&M, auction markets, along with all other sectors of the meat and livestock industry, are being forced to challenge what they are doing and how they can contribute to the long term future of the British meat industry.

Guy Attenborough

MLC communications manager, PO Box 44, Winterhill House, Snowdon Drive, Milton Keynes.

Trace elements far too scarce

Three articles published recently illustrate the need for joined-up thinking in farming. Your article "Vaccinations ineffective if selenium levels low" (Livestock, Aug 9) contains compelling evidence about how the immune systems of sheep and cattle are depressed through selenium deficiency.

The article "Get your mineral balance right for herd health" highlights the mineral deficiencies plaguing health and performance of UK herds. Your article "Selenium worries over UKs wheat" concerns the cancer risk caused by the paucity of this mineral in UK and EU wheat crops, but then concludes that the catastrophic drop in our soil selenium levels may be due to reduced atmospheric pollution.

Detailed soil testing reveals chronic deficiencies of many trace elements/micronutrients. The available mineral content of our soils has reduced by about 75% in the past 100 years, so it is no surprise that crops and animals fail to thrive.

The most likely causes are tillage and the removal of crops and animals off-farm. That plus pollution, the use of synthetic fertilisers and agrochemicals have reduced mineral availability to plants and animals.

We are stripping out trace elements at a higher rate than nature can replace them. Fifty years ago we fed our animals on home-grown forage alone and made a profit. This was possible because the right nutrients were present in the soil. But now essential minerals, such as selenium, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, magnesium, boron and iodine, are deficient and farming suffers.

The only logical answer is to replace the missing minerals in the soil on a bespoke basis. Correct soil mineral balance produces healthy, high yielding crops and animals, giving farmers an easier life and benefiting human health.

Martin Lane

Field Science Ltd, Downsview House, Grove Avenue, Coombe Dingle, Bristol, Avon.

Get nutrients back in soil

I write regarding the debate concerning organic farming and modern methods, which denude the land of necessary nutrients and minerals. Although organic farming is commendable, in that no pesticides or herbicides are used, it is not the whole answer.

The answer is complete farming – by which I mean every nutrient has to be available to the soil and therefore to bacteria, plants and animals. That can be achieved by addition to the soil of hydrated lime, phosphate, potash sodium, magnesium, sulphur and every trace element in an acid medium, with calcium the dominant factor.

As this application would amount to an expensive fertiliser, it should be the basis on which subsidies are paid to farmers. Use of those nutrients would eradicate much disease by strengthening the immune system of man and beast.

C &#42 Bell

Baligrundle 4, Lismore, Oban, Argyllshire.

Molybdenum toxicity test

I write regarding your article (Livestock, June 14) about copper.

As an independent dairy adviser, I know the confusion regarding feeding copper to dairy livestock. Many scientists, vets and feed advisers talk about copper for absorption. Chris Liversy is correct in stating that molybdenum is an antagonist to copper metabolism. Copper deficiency symptoms are the same as molybdenum toxicity symptoms. Molybdenum becomes a problem only when it combines with iron and sulphur in the rumen. Copper is then needed to mop up the molybdenum and render it non-toxic before it gets into the blood. Peter Edmonson doesnt appreciate that this is the case, copper injections are a last attempt to solve the problem.

Molybdenum toxicity is on the increase. Thats due to soil compaction, attempts at making dryer silage by spreading and raking up grass, the improper setting of machines, causing soil contamination, and the increased use of sulphur fertiliser. Another factor is the drive for high and economic milk yields using higher forage dry matter intakes. All systems are affected including high and low input and organic units.

Copper is used because farmers see a response to fertility levels, but much copper is added to diets without regard to the forage mineral status of the forages fed. Thats why copper poisoning is increasing.

The standard test is to measure the blood copper levels. I have seen many adequate blood copper levels in cows which display the symptoms of copper deficiency. The reason is molybdenum toxicity where herds have fertility problems and poor energy utilisation of their diets. The only test indicating molybdenums presence is the Leeds University test but unfortunately it is not recognised by the established experts on copper matters.

Barrie Audis

BMA Consultancy Service, 2 Lower Broad, The Knoll, Cutnall Green, Droitwich, Worcs.

Beef is not to blame for CJD

Spongiform diseases occur in both animals and humans. The disease is given a different name according to the species. Those include CJD in humans, scrapie in sheep, BSE in cattle and CWD (chronic wasting disease) in deer and elk.

The same disease occurs in elk and deer yet those animals are herbivores. Eating meat is obviously not causing the disease in vegetarian elk or deer. Therefore, eating meat alone cannot cause it in cows, sheep, humans, or any other species.

Eating British beef alone did not cause new variant or any other form of CJD. We can also prove that it was never experimentally transmitted. What appeared to be transmitted was in fact an induced teratogen which was unfortunately mistaken for a new infectious transmissible agent.

The real cause was revealed in our 1996 Discovery proposal, which was rejected. British meat and bone meal (MBM) content within the feed had doubled in the early 1980s to help boost milk yields. Before that during the 1970s, a new solvent free MBM feed process was introduced without major toxic impact. That change had already allowed bio-accumulated dioxins and other free radicals to survive within the fat component of the MBM.

The third toxic change was the governments compulsory organophosphate prophylactic warble fly eradication campaigns during 1978 and 1982 in England and Wales. These three toxic events when synergistically combined produced the BSE epidemic trigger factor. The poisoning was embryotoxic causing the disease to manifest a few years later in the calf but not in the dam. The Discovery proposal can be viewed in full at:

Anthony Parish

The Archers antics continue

If only Brian Aldridge of BBC Radio 4s The Archers could find time in his busy schedule to read farmers weekly. He might have been able to harvest his precious cereal crops much earlier after having had his own combine burnt out.

Had he read a recent copy, instead of going online to get a replacement machine from Hungary, he could have offered Stewart Hayllor (Arable, Aug 16) a few bob to borrow his all-singing-all-dancing machine that was unable to work because of heavy rain.

It might also have kept Brian away from Sioban. There is no way he would have let a mere woman such as his daughter Debbie drive a Ferrari of the combine world.

Ella Lenton

The Bungalow, Great Bramshot Farm, Bramshot Lane, Fleet, Hants.

Concerns over creep-feeding

It worries me that about one-third of our lamb crop in this country is creep fed on concentrates to fatten them for slaughter. This unwanted practice ruins the healthy taste that lamb used to have.

The MLC and National Sheep Association should do something about the situation or do they not realise what is going on in the sheep industry?

The trouble with our industry is that we let so-called experts dictate to us. Do we want our sheep industry to go down the same road as pigs and poultry?

Gwyn Davies

Hafod-y-Wern, Penrhyndendraeth, Gwynedd.

Towns are no good for hunts

Let me help John Fitzgerald (Letters, July 12) with some of his anomalies. No hunt would consider towns and city suburbs a good environment, because scent is poor from pollution and unsafe for hounds and horses from speeding traffic.

Only a dead shot fox is satisfactory. An injured fox will die, slowly, and in great pain from gangrene. Does he know that urban foxes are being collected and taken to the countryside in large numbers? A Lake District farmer woke to find 14 dazed foxes in his field.

Ruth C Tilston

Raeburnfoot, Eskdalemuir, Nr. Langholm, Dumfriesshire.

TV hunt scenes a travesty

On Tuesday Aug 6, an ITV programme attacked field sports by depicting a stag hunt and argued barbaric actions and stag hunting should be banned.

There are always two sides to every story and the media shows what it wants us to see. In this case the film came from some anti-hunt supporter.

Does anyone believe that unacceptable behaviour is going to be carried out on the hunting field, especially when hunting is very much in the public eye?

I doubt the authenticity of this cobbled-together film. The Exmoor Hunt should speak up and defend itself if, in fact, it was Exmoor. Some people do jump to hasty conclusions from inaccurate spin, dont they?

Graham MacDowel

31 Preston Lane, Lyneham, Chippenham, Wilts.

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