6 July 2001


Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. Main enterprises on

his 370ha (915-acre) Oxon

farm are 250 milking cows

and followers, 80 beef cattle

and 200 Mule ewes. Wheat

and beans are also grown

WINTER forage stocks look exceedingly tight at present. First-cut silage was at least a third down on the Past few years and with no carry over from last year that is not good news.

We have had only one days rain since the first cut was taken at the end of May. Most of that rain disappeared down the cracks or transpired away. The net result of this is the silage leys have grown about 500kg/ha (202kg/acre) in a month. Although there are still three months left in the grass-growing season, there is a lot of catching up to do.

Fortunately, I do have some flexibility with the use of wheat whole-crop and the possibility of trying some bean silage if necessary. If things do not change, the youngstock and dry cows will go through the winter on a straw-based diet. I do have some organic straw left from last year and along with this years straw harvest I will be able to cope.

The staff have been working hard emptying the main slurry lagoon, with a Hymac and Matbro. We are looking at the possibility of using a contractor with an umbilical system and stirring the lagoon next year.

The solid manure from the yards will still be transported up the road to another block of land where it will be composted.

One of our Simmental bulls has had a fertility problem this spring. Although he was serving, he fired blanks, which means that the only heifers in calf are those that were AId. I should still have enough heifers coming into the herd though.

On the bright side, if they were all in calf numbers of milkers would be too high for the coming season. I do not see any demand for organic dairy heifers at present while the supply and demand of organic milk levels out again. So these heifers not in calf will wait until October for service. This may also help with the winter feed if silage is short, as the heifers will be on a straw diet rather than silage. &#42

Christian Fox

Christian Fox manages 130

spring-calving cows and

followers, on a 200ha

(500 acre) mixed farm in

West Sussex, with 150ha

(380 acres) of arable crops.

He is aiming for high profits

and low costs by maximising

use of grazed grass

ARENT movement licences brilliant. I phoned up about a licence last week and was greeted with a well rehearsed introduction to the Department of the Federal Republic of America or whatever it is. When I was put through to the licence office I was hailed with the usual, slightly depressed "MAFF, can I help?". When I questioned his still being MAFF he suggested that they had been told nothing. Reassuringly kept in the picture.

I have just returned from my Nuffield Scholarship induction week at Wye College, Kent, and Brussels, which was very enlightening. Any misgivings I had about the European Parliament and its workings have been magnified ten fold. The parliament makes no law, but makes some very nice suggestions. These suggestions are debated by all colour of political specimen from Communist to Fascist through a vast team of interpreters. If say, the Greek interpreter is not available, then perhaps the Danish linguist will listen in to someone interpreting from Greek to Danish and interpret that into English. If that was not enough confusion, the whole circus packs up and moves to Strasbourg once a month, keeping the French happy because they built a European Parliament building too. Monty Python where are you?

Back in the real world, we have cut and clamped about 250t of silage. This will not be rocket fuel, but will form a vital part of our organic in-conversion feed for next winter. It will mainly be used when the herd is dry during the early part of next year.

I think organic grass-based dairy farms are in a better position during a dry spell or drought than the conventional farm. All the nitrogen in Lithuania will not make grass grow without moisture so you get similar growth rates to the organic farmer but with double the stocking rate.

I have finally got to the bottom of my computerised record keeping, having taken delivery of about 300 animals some with duplicate brands and some with none. To add to the confusion some had brand numbers written on the passports and some did not.

Still, at least the cows all speak the same language. Perhaps we should introduce movement licences for MEPs! &#42

The Capsticks

Gordon and Mary Capstick

farm 230ha (569 acres), at

Milnthorpe in south Cumbria.

Stocking is 100 suckler

cows, with calves finished

alongside 100 purchased

stores, and 1200 Mule ewes

producing prime lambs.

About 10ha (25 acres) of

barley and 6ha (14 acres) of

soft fruit are also grown.

WE have marketed the first of our spring lambs, which is really early for us, but we lambed 100 or so in February.

We have been a bit caught out by the size of some, obviously singles, which were over 50kg on the farm scales. The price varied between £39.50 and £48.30 to average £43.50. Maybe just a bit disappointing, but then there is only the home market to supply. We really do need exports to provide some competition.

Silaging went well, with only one missed day. It was not supposed to rain in any quantity, but it did. We also made a small field across the main road into hay.

We are now well into clipping and the ewes have really fleshed up well in the past month and so far there has only been one with a bad bag. It really does go against the grain when a sheep away from the farm is ill and has to be left there. Under normal conditions it would be brought home into intensive care, but because of movement restrictions this cannot happen. Surely there is a case for common sense.

We are right into the pick-your-own season, with a good crop of all fruit, about 10 days later than usual. It has not been easy to get the necessary biosecurity in place, but we have managed to satisfy DEFRA, which I must say was very helpful.

The much publicised high fells are now open through managed points of access, so pressure is now on lowland footpaths. I was surprised that the official Ramblers Association say they are in no hurry for access until foot-and-mouth is over.

Cumbria has just had a visit from junior minister Elliot Morley to see the newly hatched osprey. Apparently they have not hatched young for 150 years. I would have though they would be past it by now. Was it because there have been no walkers to disturb them this spring?

Now theres a thought. &#42

John Yeomans

John Yeomans farms 89ha

(220 acres) of mixed hill

and upland near Newtown in

mid-Wales. The farm is split

between hill and upland,

with the hill land in two

blocks running up to 426m

(1400ft). It is stocked

with 70 suckler cows,

including some Limousins

and 540 breeding sheep,

mostly Beulahs

OUR welfare scheme stock have gone – a very sad time for us.

We did not breed them for this. The people who came were professional and sympathetic, unlike some of the organisers. Someone sent a telescopic loader to handle carcasses at a cost of £1000 a day, even though we had told them we already had one.

After my wife Sarah made calls begging MAFF to blood-test stock so we could move them, we were at last given a licence. The call to let us know lifted our spirits and we could just make out a small light; up to then we could not even find the tunnel.

Shortly before stock moved we lost a first-calved heifer with listeria and then, when loading cattle, a bull we bought in January had to be put down after he jumped the gate and hooked his leg. Two steps forward and 100 yards back. But it was a treat to see cattle on the hills where they should have been in early May.

Two days after finishing the movements MAFF phoned wanting to blood test. So up with the larks – before 11.30am is early. By the time you read this I hope we will know the blood test results. We feel confident. The vampire squad – blood test team – said cattle would already have shown signs if foot-and-mouth was present. We do not forget those still living with daily outbreaks.

We still have about 30 stores and pedigree bulls stuck inside. At last we shut for silage and spread 64.5kg/ha (51.5 units/acre) of 34.5% nitrogen on about the date we had planned to cut. We are now aiming to cut at the end of July.

Our spray programme is back on track. The dock count has been reduced from last years Nobel Prize-winning 33,300 plants/ha (13,470 plants/acre) to almost none in some fields. Just two fields are receiving 1.5 litres/ha of Dockstar, others just spot spraying with Grazon 90. Thistles on rented ground were sprayed with MCPB.

The election produced few surprises except Margaret Becketts wages of £117,000 plus a year. Maybe that is no surprise, right now I would be grateful for £7000 a year and my haircut would cost the taxpayer less as well. &#42

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