Mike Allwood is owner-
occupier of 82ha (200-
acres) near Nantwich,
Cheshire. The 175-cow dairy
herd block calves during
May and June. Besides
converting to organic
production, he is also
planning to produce
IT IS an ill wind which blows nobody any good – was that Shakespeare or anon? Some benefits have resulted from the foot-and-mouth crisis. One is I havent wasted any time wondering what to write about this month. Another is my bank manager has been relegated to the category of non-essential caller.
We had begun to think Cheshire might stay clear of the dreaded disease, when on Tuesday we were served with a D notice because we were within 3km of a suspected case. Foot-and-mouth was subsequently confirmed on a local sheep farm, so we are now checking stock with foreboding every day.
We took the view two weeks ago that we must batten down the hatches because foot-and-mouth would be disastrous to our enterprise, never mind the trauma of seeing the herd slaughtered. The shop was closed, just as trade was starting to grow.
The cheese dairy was shut for one week while we assessed the situation and waited to see what happened to customer demand. All non-essential deliveries and trips out were cancelled. Sadly, this included the rowing club. The milk tanker and corn delivery wagon have been subjected to a thorough soaking with approved foot-and-mouth disinfectant.
Cheese orders have, if anything, increased and customers have generally been supportive and helpful, so we decided to open the dairy again and keep staff separate from the farm. The shop will sadly remain closed until the crisis ends.
As we live close to a busy main road, our precautions with vehicles do seem somewhat irrelevant because there is a constant stream of potentially infected cars, lorries and tractors trundling along 27m (30 yards) from our cow shed. If the government was serious about controlling spread surely they would close roads in infected areas as the French appear to be doing.
All animals are still inside to keep them away from virus spread, but silage stocks are getting low and we will have to turn out soon. The warmer weather has greened up paddocks, so hopefully there will be enough grass when calving starts on Apr 1. We have not yet decided what to do with calves which cant be sold. *
Bill and Jonathan Metcalf
Bill and Jonathan Metcalf
rent 89ha (220 acres) of
grassland, plus moorland
grazing, near Barnard Castle,
and own a further unit 12
miles away, both are
situated in the Less Favoured
Area of Teesdale. The farms
are stocked with 120
sucklers, including 20
pedigree Blonde dAquitaines,
and 1200 ewes with
DESPITE the current problems concerning foot-and-mouth, our thoughts have focussed on looking back, due to the death of our father, William, who was born at the farm in 1913 and farmed here for his whole life.
He had great enthusiasm for all livestock and was well known for the Masham sheep he produced with his brother John. His ability in lambing sheep was locally renowned and was appreciated by several neighbours who called on his experience. It was never too much trouble. However busy things were at home, he always had time for others.
He always seemed to have tremendous patience and was rarely flustered. When we were having problems or worries about losses on the farms, he told us of his fathers advice when only a handful of live lambs were born to his first dozen ewes and he was becoming pessimistic. This was to get on with looking after the live ones, where he could make a difference, and not to worry about anything which he could not influence.
Due to suspected foot-and-mouth cases locally, in the few days after Dad died, the family decided to hold his funeral in private with a memorial service in the village church to be arranged at a later date, a decision with which we are sure he would have agreed.
It was comforting, however, to have Colin and Mark, the sons of my fathers farming friends and neighbours at the funeral, as their fathers were both examples of people we have looked up to and had great respect for.
The farm at Barningham is now in a restricted area due to a confirmed case of foot-and-mouth near Hawes, more than 20 miles away. We have, therefore, been unable to take our remaining lambs for slaughter and these will be turned back out to grass as we need the space inside for lambing ewes.
As we continue to watch the daily news bulletins and read the frequent NFU updates, we can only hope Nick Brown and MAFF have the situation under control. Our thoughts are with those already affected by this terrible and devastating outbreak. *
Andrew Groom has managed
Purlieus Farm near Swindon,
Wilts, on contract since
1991. The 138ha (342-acre)
farm, owned by P&A
Crocker, is stocked with
200 dairy cows with
replacements reared on a
separate 26ha (65-acre)
farm. His interests include
whole-crop cereals and
cross-breeding cows using
a Brown Swiss bull
AS WE move into the third week of this dreadful crisis, exclusion zones that appear to be creeping slowly towards us surround us on three sides.
A nervous couple of days were spent at the end of last week when a near neighbour was put under Form A restriction. How he must have felt is unimaginable.
Talking to friends and family all over the country makes me realise how small an island this is. Any disease of this nature is going to have a devastating effect. I only hope those who profit by importing cheap infected products are identified and brought to book.
Little other than routine stock work has continued over the last week. I was pleased we were able to apply fertiliser to grazing and silage land at a rate of 260kg/ha (110kg/acre) during the dry spell, particularly as wet weather seems to have returned.
Repair work to the calf shed is on hold while foot-and-mouth continues. The end wall was brought down in the high winds of January and the builder is catching up on jobs away from farms.
I can see it being a problem if, as Mr Brown predicts, it lasts months because Ive lost 25% of my calf capacity which wont help if animals are held back on farms. I hope to move some cows close to calving back from Home Farm by filling in a licence application downloaded from the MAFF web-site.
There seems to me to be a secondary infection to foot-and-mouth disease, one that is just as devastating and just as widespread which I will call PRP – processor/retailer profiteering.
My local supermarket had a sign saying they were having to pay more and so would the customer, when deadweight meat prices are down 25p-80p/kg.
The milk processor has said there may not be an increase in April because tanker drivers are doing one-and-a-half hours extra overtime disinfecting. If there is 2p/litre in the market place these drivers must be being paid £266/hour. There seems only political will if you make billions of £s profit. *
Giles Henry rents 105ha
(260 acres) on a 10-year
lease and 114ha (280
acres) of heather moorland
near Selkirk in the Scottish
Borders which is in organic
conversion. Cropping is
mainly grass with 14ha (36
acres) of spring barley. The
farm is stocked with 450
breeding ewes, 85 hoggs
and 50 Luing cows with
followers and finishers
TODAY has been a bleak day in the Ettrick Valley. Mike Orr at Howford has had his sheep flock slaughtered because they have been designated a dangerous contact.
I know that scenes like this have been occurring throughout the UK during the past four weeks, but it is not until it happens on your doorstep that the enormity of the crisis hits you.
Many families will be facing absolute heartbreak as foot-and-mouth, and all the consequences that it brings, marches on.
The full extent of the crisis is not yet apparent, but hopefully many lessons will be learned from it. The importation of meat should cease – we are quite capable of producing enough to feed the nation. But it may be that the governments policy of cheap food for all will need to be altered so costs of production and processing can be adequately covered with a margin to leave a healthy profit all concerned.
I believe that all primestock should be sent directly from farm to abattoir and then the temptation for some people to play the market will be removed. If co-operation between producer, processor and customer occurs then every sector will get a fair bite of the cherry. The auction marts will still be there for store and breeding stock. The whole industry is going to have to be leaner and fitter with traceability and quality paramount.
Meanwhile, everyday jobs continue between renewing disinfectant mats and foot dips and battling with the vagaries of occupational and local movement licences. There is also the planning of calving 50 cows which have been here all winter for "bed and breakfast" and cannot return home.
Gimmers have lambed in the last 21 days and when we get some milder weather will soon be outside. The Borders saw its worst snow storm since 1963, with drifts in places up to 4.5m (15ft). With freezing temperatures following, things were pretty difficult for several days. *