FARMERFOCUS

23 November 2001




FARMERFOCUS

Miles Saunders

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. The main enterprises

on his 370ha (915 acre)

Oxon farm are 250 milking

cows and followers and 80

beef cattle. Wheat and

beans are also grown

WITH sheep now gone, I have been able to use the abundance of forage remaining in fields for dry cows and older bulling heifers.

In the past, cows have been forced inside to make way for ewes needing to be flushed before tupping. The weather this autumn has also been fantastic, which has cut soil poaching.

We have plenty of strong red clover leys with about 2000kg/ha of cover. I havent quite made up my mind whether I will bring in some sheep to graze the sward or whether clover can be left as it is until spring.

Next year, the aim is to calve on Sept 1 – two weeks later than this year. This will not help our calving index, but will mean less of an overlap of labour requirements between dairy and arable enterprises.

We will use all New Zealand semen, continuing the push to breed smaller, stronger cows. I have been conscious of protecting herd fertility for a while because cows have continued to milk exceedingly well.

A number of cows should have been in calf by late spring, but failed to conceive and will be due for service in late November. In early October, few August and September calvers were bulling, which appeared to be because third cut silage was low in energy at about 9.5ME, with a crude protein content of 20%.

Miles Saunders has been

farming organically since

1989. The main enterprises

on his 370ha (915 acre)

Oxon farm are 250 milking

cows and followers and 80

beef cattle. Wheat and

beans are also grown

WITH sheep now gone, I have been able to use the abundance of forage remaining in fields for dry cows and older bulling heifers.

In the past, cows have been forced inside to make way for ewes needing to be flushed before tupping. The weather this autumn has also been fantastic, which has cut soil poaching.

We have plenty of strong red clover leys with about 2000kg/ha of cover. I havent quite made up my mind whether I will bring in some sheep to graze the sward or whether clover can be left as it is until spring.

Next year, the aim is to calve on Sept 1 – two weeks later than this year. This will not help our calving index, but will mean less of an overlap of labour requirements between dairy and arable enterprises.

We will use all New Zealand semen, continuing the push to breed smaller, stronger cows. I have been conscious of protecting herd fertility for a while because cows have continued to milk exceedingly well.

A number of cows should have been in calf by late spring, but failed to conceive and will be due for service in late November. In early October, few August and September calvers were bulling, which appeared to be because third cut silage was low in energy at about 9.5ME, with a crude protein content of 20%.

However, we have turned the situation around by feeding first cut silage, which is 12ME and 12% crude protein. Cows are also receiving 12kg of wheat whole-crop.

We have had our fair share of mishaps this summer and autumn. One worker, who was mowing near the town, had stones thrown at his tractor. We also had a steerage hoe taken from a barn which ended up on a main road with the culprits not really knowing how to drive it.

An old rape swather was started in a field and left to its own devices going round in circles and a trailer tyre exploded at 1am two weeks ago. A group of 50 yearlings also somehow undid a bolt and escaped into the farmyard in the early hours. &#42

Tim Gue

Tim Gue farms 480ha

(1200 acres) near Ashurst

in Sussex. In addition to

the arable enterprise which

includes wheat, oilseed

rape and 112ha (280 acres)

of maize, the farm is

stocked with 220 pedigree

Holstein dairy cows and

350 Mule ewes

NOVEMBER is here and Ive just realised we are practising extended grazing. It is wonderful having the low yielders still out during the day following a month of what must have been the best grass growth of the season.

Savings of feed and straw have been welcome. Other stock have benefited, too, with spring calving heifers, spring born calves and sheep all enjoying the quantity and quality of this autumns grass.

The fine weather has also helped progress on our new building, which is not due to be finished until December.

Concrete for the slurry tank floor was poured in last week, while slats and roofing for this 190-cow cubicle shed are due to arrive shortly.

Apparently, the contractors have to sling a net under the roof for health and safety reasons, but I still wont be venturing up there.

It has been a good maize year and after last autumns awful weather, we planted an extra 72ha (180 acres) of maize. Of this, 24ha (60 acres) was due to be harvested as ground ear maize. But problems fitting the grain header to the forager meant we resorted to combining and crimping more than 200t of moist maize grain. This has replaced wheat in cow rations.

The rest has been combined at between 30% and 35% moisture and sent to Saxon Storage for drying. We dont yet know final weights, but yields seem promising.

The problems with the ground ear maize operation have cost more than £7/t. I hope Claas will solve these in time for next season and help to develop the UK crop. The Maize Growers Association has done the variety groundwork, so help from machinery companies is now a must.

We are delighted to welcome Ron Miller to the team as our new herd manager. His time with the pedigree Holstein Friesian Olympian herd and depth of experience will bring many strengths to our business.

He is joining us just as we make crucial decisions about the type, make and layout of a new rotary parlour, due to be installed next year, so its in at the deep end for him. &#42

Gordon Capstick

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.

MOTHER nature is doing her best to help us in the south of the county. Its a pity DEFRA doesnt try half as hard.

I still have 70 finishing cattle on two pieces of land in the Penrith spur, which we are not allowed to bring home. We are managing to hold their condition, but they are making a mess of winter grazing for sheep.

The DEFRA vet who came to assess the situation suggested the welfare scheme, but at 45p/kg for Limousin and Charolais bullocks, this is not currently an option.

Lamb prices have begun to climb from the lowest base I have seen in 22 years of farming on my own. If processors, abattoirs and retailers had any sense, during this crisis they could have seen off the auction mart system.

However, following the poor treatment they have received, many producers cant wait to get back to the auction system and open competition.

We have just opened some second cut silage and are disappointed. When we made silage, it rained every other day, so we tried to cut it dry and bring it in straight away. Fortunately, we will soon be through it and into first cut.

Housed cattle are being fed a mixed ration. In the past, I have been sceptical of this method, thinking the only way was to feed plenty of barley and concentrates separately.

But I have to report that the younger generation has persuaded me to do a U-turn.

To end on a slightly less pleasant note, I have to say that Margaret Beckett is certainly making a name for herself as the most uncaring minister we have had. She showed very little concern over the recent brains mix-up saga at a cost to the taxpayer of £30,000/sheep tested.

It will be difficult in years to come when there is little home produced food, the shelves are empty and all ministers have is the environment. That doesnt fill your stomach. &#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

COWS stayed on the hill until Nov 11, but the snow we had a couple of days earlier prompted housing. All things considered, they look OK and most calves have made up lost ground.

North Powys is now "provisionally foot-and-mouth free". This was a big lift for us psychologically, but came a month too late for ram selling to regular customers outside the area.

We will be left with a few extra Beulah yearlings and six extra Limousin bulls to take through the winter.

The ridiculous 20-day standstill period is causing major problems. Customers are unable to take delivery of rams because they have sheep to move to wintering areas or store cattle or breeding sheep to sell.

I understand the standstill theory, but it is unworkable. The beef and sheep sector is not like pig farming, with many of us dependent on sales of store and breeding stock.

Just when we thought F&M was leaving us, some clown has decided the government has not spent enough yet and it is digging up ashes across the fields from us. As I write, contractors have been there for about a month.

I am sure we can sleep safely in our beds knowing the person responsible for allowing pyres to be built in the "wrong place" has been sacked – in our dreams.

Purebred Beulah ewes have been mated to rams with ARR/ARR (group one) scrapie resistant genotypes except for one ram with genotype ARR/ARQ (group two) we bought last year.

Weve used eight homebred high index group one rams and ram lambs to speed up the flocks scrapie resistance status.

Of 130 ewes tested under the Welsh Sheep Strategy genotyping scheme, 99 were group one or two. We have been keeping an eye on genotypes for a few years and it seems to be paying off.

Our next project will be regarding the potential introduction of sheep double tagging legislation. Most ewes already have a birth and pedigree tag and some also have a scrapie blood type tag.

So instead of having five tags in two ears and an electronic stomach identification bolus, we are working on breeding four-eared Beulahs or perhaps a generation of lambs with a knitted wool breast pocket to keep their identity stuff in. &#42


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