29 June 2001


Chris Knowles

Chris Knowles farms in

partnership with his parents

in the West Penwith

Environmentally Sensitive

Area near St Ives, Cornwall.

The farm consists of 97ha

(240 acres) of grassland and

45ha (110 acres) of rough

moor land, stocked with 160

dairy cows, 80 followers and

50 assorted beef animals

MILK production during May this year has been excellent, with cows averaging 28 litres a day. Our milk price, however, has been disappointing.

This is partly due to the seasonality payment reduction of 2.2p/litre, but mainly due to the fact that butterfat has dropped to 3.3%.

Why it should be so low is a mystery and what to do about it is a dilemma. Introducing a fibrous forage would help, but I am loath to go away from the simplicity of grazed grass and concentrates.

Mid June was a critical point for the grazing season. We took a silage cut from 30ha (75 acres) and grazing fields were starting to look stressed, as we had only had 30mm rain since the end of April.

Growth rates slipped from 80kg DM/ha/day in late May to about 35kg DM/ha/day in mid June. But two days of steady rain from June 14-15 and two busy days with the fertiliser spreader have helped build covers as we enter the summer period. We also have 3.5ha (9 acres) of stubble turnips and 150 bales of silage on hand if a dry summer lies ahead.

After a two-week delay we now have a Limousin bull sweeping up cows. Last months form D notice and movement licence delays were to blame for the hold up. For six weeks, cows were served using NZ Friesian semen and some British Friesian semen.

For those extra two weeks, I chose Limousin semen, primarily because I wanted all replacements to be born in a tight six-week block. Also, everyone seems to be serving every cow, regardless of quality, to black-and-white, hoping to fill the void left by the foot-and-mouth cull.

The most dull and uneventful election for some time has come and gone since I last wrote this column. After my election contribution to farmers weekly, I am now known as Tory boy.

The most eventful part of the election was MAFF being replaced by DEFRA and Nick Brown being replaced by Margaret Beckett. I cant help thinking within the space of a few days, agriculture has been kicked into political obscurity. &#42

Steve Morris

Steve Morris farms in the

Forest of Bowland, Lancs, in

partnership with his wife

Valerie. Over half of the

190ha (470 acre) LFA farm

is heather fell, with a further

20ha (50 acres) of rough

grazing. It is stocked with

50 dairy cows, 280 Lonk

ewes, 100 half-breds and

40 gimmer hoggs.

ALTHOUGH foot-and-mouth has disappeared from the headlines in the national media and is tucked away inside farming journals, it continues to wreak havoc here in Ribble Valley and over the county border in North Yorkshire.

The first Lonk flocks have now become casualties of the disease, both on infected and neighbouring farms. Here at Goodshaw, we have been the subject of more Form D notices.

First our silage contractors, who are also dairy producers, rang to say they were unable to take equipment on to other livestock holdings because of a D notice issued due to a milk tanker contact. Apparently this vehicle was responsible for the issuing of 27 D notices.

Then we were given a D notice due to our vet having previously been on a farm at Bolton-by-Bowland, which subsequently proved to be infected.

It seems most farms in the area have been served with a D notice for some reason or another. Here, in what has become know as the Settle rectangle, all local and longer distance movement licences are being refused.

Immediately after drawing off our first batch of finished lambs, MAFF informed us nothing could move off the holding, so adding to our grazing shortage concerns.

Only 16ha (41 acres) of silage ground was ready to cut in early June, including the 4.5ha (11 acres) of short term let on the far side of Longridge. I have nothing but praise for the contractors thorough disinfection procedure, which added considerably to the time taken to complete the task. Hopefully, another 10ha (25 acres) will be clamped by the time you read this.

Back in the early 1990s, our local NFU group secretary suggested I should attend our county milk committee. While there, I tried to persuade others that post vesting day, the NFU should be active in establishing closer communication with the Dairy Crest board, given our major shareholding at that time.

At the time, I received no support, but when I read of Dairy Crest promoting cut-price lamb from New Zealand, it only served to reinforce my belief that we missed an opportunity. &#42

Richard Hinchion

Richard Hinchion milks 60

dairy cows and rears 40

replacements on 34ha (83

acres) at Crookstown, west

of Cork city, in southern

Ireland. With a fixed quota

of just over 300,000 litres,

the emphasis is on low-cost

production. Cows yield

6000 litres from 650kg of


NEVER before was I so delighted and excited to see rain falling from the sky as I was today (Jun 15). It looks as though my prayers have been answered, as 40mm of rain has fallen to date.

Before this we had gone 6-7 weeks without a reasonable rain shower in this area, leading to drought-like conditions on the farm. The ground is rock hard and grass covers are stemmy.

We are currently running out of grass rapidly. We topped many paddocks in mid to late May to improve quality, which compounded our problems.

To cope, we feed 4kg/head a day of citrus pulp, costing £110/t, to milk cows. We lax graze poor quality grass on the rented farm by day, with access to baled silage at milking. Cows receive a small treat of good quality grass by night, but this is also becoming scarce.

So far our plan is working and milk yield is holding up at 27 litres/day. But I am waiting patiently for milk test results, as protein dropped 0.3% in June to 3.27%. This is due to the type of grass cows have been in over the past two weeks.

Hopefully, by next week, with silage aftermaths in the system and good grass growth following rain, we should be back on track again.

There is a great sense of relief at the prospect of markets re-opening and everyone is waiting to see what prices will be like. We tested the last 12 of our young calves for TB so we have the option of selling them if prices are good.

Calves received their first worm injection which will be repeated twice at five weekly intervals. The strong group of calves are receiving 1kg of beef meal/head a day to slow their grass intake.

We took the first silage cut on May 29 which yielded 30t/ha (12t/acre) despite poor growth in April and early May. No additive was used.

Ryegrass on some silage ground is becoming sparse, so with extra rented pasture available we may seize the opportunity to reseed 4-5ha (10-12 acres) this autumn.

Amid my grass problems it was good to hear that due to buoyant milk markets, Dairygold Co-op has increased the May price by 0.44p/ litre. Nice touch Dairygold. &#42

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises a 480-sow

indoor unit producing 95kg

pigs for one outlet and 85kg

pigs for a local abattoir. A

further 320 sows are run

outdoors. Land not used for

pigs grows spring barley

THE elections have come and gone; a bit of a non-event really. I usually stay up well into the night waiting to see those who thought they should have won losing and coming up with lame excuses about why. But the thought of a comfortable bed was far more welcoming.

I have received quite a bit of stick for not announcing which party I would vote for prior to the election in FARMERS WEEKLYs coverage. I was at a loss to decide who would be best suited in the end. It didnt matter. It was pretty obvious who was going to come out ahead; for better or worse only time will tell.

We have at last managed to move a load of cull sows. The price was at rock bottom, but they were strong sows, well past their sell-by date. With the amount of feed they were consuming and no immediate sign of a price rise, it was time for them to go.

Its amazing how all the "comic singers" appear when there is some adversity about. The price was holding up until the dealers launched into action, promptly cutting it by at least 40%. Its little wonder that I have always had a pretty low regard for this type of animal movement.

As I write, we would normally be racing against time to get things up to date to allow me to go to the Highland Show at Ingliston with a clear conscience. But alas, this is not the case this year.

This would have been my 30th consecutive year, going back to the days when father and myself went off to show gilts and more importantly, boars. The modern pig industry has come a long way over the past 30 years, but nothing beats the enjoyment of preparing animals for showing.

PMWS scares the pants off me. I am glad we have a breeding programme in place for all gilt replacements. However, boar lines are a problem and how safe is AI? Any movement of pig genetics is worrying. If nothing else, the pig industry is resilient and I am sure we will find ways of dealing with these new problems. I only hope it doesnt take too long. &#42

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