John Alpe

20 August 1999

Coated netting keeps bunnies at bay

KEEP rabbits out of crops with new Sentinel Green Rabbit Proof Netting, made by Twill.

The netting conforms to the British Standard of 31mm (11/4in) at the widest point and is guaranteed rabbit proof, says the firm.

Product life expectancy has been improved by coating the netting with Tinsley Wires anti-corrosion green treatment. This gives extra protection against corrosive atmospheric salts and moisture, says Twill.

Roll sizes are medium, 19g, costing £92.40 and heavy, 18g, costing £104.45 with a height of 1050mm (42in) and roll length of 50m (54.5yd) (0114-2561561, fax 0114-2611055).

Home pasteuriser makes it safe

MAKE raw milk safer using a Home Pasteuriser says distributor, Mullinahone Co-op.

Even milk taken from apparently healthy cows may contain a variety of harmful bacteria capable of causing serious illness in humans, says the company.

It adds that E coli and recent strains of antibiotic resistant salmonella are said to be a particular risk when drinking raw milk.

Producers can be sure of a safe product at 50-60% of the cost of buying from retail outlets by pasteurising their own milk, it says.

Total time for pasteurisation is less than one and a half hours allowing for both heating and cooling down. It costs £235 (01204-888898, fax 01204-888885).

Raise milk yields – and quality too

INCREASE milk yields and enhance butterfat and protein levels with Dynalac energy supplement says manufacturer, UFAC.

Lush spring grass contains up to 10% oil and a grazing cow can consume 1.5kg fat a day from grass. But cows on a traditional 10kg silage, 10kg concentrate diet will only ingest 0.8kg fat, leaving an energy shortfall, according to the company.

Dynalac, a blend of vegetable oils processed into a free-flowing meal, is designed for inclusion in diets to make up this energy shortfall, it says.

It costs 17p a cow a day (01638-665923, fax 01638-667756).

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

5800 litres from 350kg of


DURING July we experienced lovely summer weather which made all our tourists happy.

But as we entered August, the southern part of Ireland was experiencing a severe drought.

Grass dry matter is, therefore, high at 23% and cows are eating out paddocks well. Now I am extremely short of grass, so we have to put emergency plans in place.

All small calves were given their second worm dose and fly treatment, and moved to rented ground where the in-calf heifers graze. We walked all over our paddocks to estimate the total grass cover on the farm. It was only 481kg of DM/ha, 50% below target.

We will feed 5kg of a cheap concentrate costing £110/t to 53 cows for the next 10 days or so, along with 2.3 round bales of good quality silage every day and restricted grass. The cows 16kg DM diet will be made up of 4kg DM concentrate, 5kg DM silage and 6kg DM grass. I hope the above plan will raise total grass cover to over 900kg DM/ha by the end of August.

This diet is helping to keep yields up to 23 litres a day in early August. Our performance figures show we had produced over 4000 litres a cow on 460kg of concentrates by July 31.

The drought did not seem to affect the growth of ragwort, as it is blooming on the ditches around the countryside.

We took a second cut of silage on July 20, and used no additive, as sugars were high and we had lots of sunshine while cutting. All this ground has received 50-60 units of nitrogen and should be fit to graze towards the end of August.

But our prayers have now been answered, as we had three to four days of good heavy rain, which should green up the fields again.

Rabbits seem to be a big problem around the farm. I am seriously considering opening a rabbit farm, as 200 rabbits can be seen grazing paddocks during the day and they are not helping my grass situation.

We will be having our annual tuberculosis and brucellosis tests soon, so fingers crossed all will go well. When the sun appears again it is off to the seaside before schools open on Sept 1. &#42

Dennis Bridgeford

Dennis Bridgeford farms

50ha (125 acres) at Petley

Farm in Easter Ross, north

of Inverness. The farm

comprises of 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

AGAINST my better judgement, and due to lack of supply, we have bought some winter barley.

This, along with the really hot spell, has led to a lack of finished pigs. Then Malton pulled back the pig price, making things rather fraught around the unit. My short break at the start of July really did not help my despondency over the pig industry.

I have never been a great believer of totally slatted finishing pens. But when fans are unable to cope with high temperatures you can at least keep the pigs relatively clean. I am afraid for us it is get a shovel and clean up before each feed.

Now we have super groups starting to market pigs in England they might start to show their teeth. It is rather ironic that our local, relatively small group is managing to secure a higher price. There has been a lot of hot air talked lately about Grampian Pig Producers joining up with Uncle Tom Cobbleigh. I will only be convinced in the justification when I can see some financial benefit.

I am envious when I look at the Press and see combines busy in the south, weeks ahead of us. But it is just down to geography. We try not to buy any winter barley – pigs never do well on it. Spring grain is about to be cut and I hope we can pick up some high nitrogen barley rejected by the maltsters. If there was one bright spot regarding winter barley, we managed to buy some straw close by that never saw any rain, so we are ahead of ourselves on that count.

Our quarterly visit by our consultant vet went well. Bringing in a consultant vet is a relatively new departure for us, as we have a first-class relationship with our own vet. But he always felt the extra experience of a committed pig vet would be of benefit.

Looking round, he thought pigs were improving since we changed our weaning regime to dry feed for the first 10 days then on to wet feed. The other area for discussion is whether we should try the relatively new vaccine that covers parasuis. Unfortunately, it is more expensive than our current enzootic pneumonia vaccine, so it might have to go on the back-burner until we see prices recover. &#42

Peter Wastenage

Peter Wastenage, in partner-

ship with his parents, farms

a 121ha (300-acre) farm

tenanted from Clinton Devon

Estates. He milks 175 cows,

rears his own replacements

and is converting to organic


SINCE my last article the whole country seems to have been turned upside down.

First, the MMC report on Milk Marque. The lengthy delay has given us an out of date report, with a complete lack of understanding of the current market and the need for a producer controlled organisation. One has to now question the relevance of this report and its cost.

More recently the Prime Minister has taken it upon himself to bring up the hunting debate again, a complex issue which surely must be decided by those who live and walk in the countryside, rather than the urban majority who have little or no understanding of rural issues. I found it ironic that he should walk around Bosnia the following week addressing the crowds, talking about stopping minority suppression and ethnic cleansing.

Closer to home things are not a lot better, the farm is bare of grass and supplementary feeding is about to start. We have had a small amount of rain, the first for about a month, I do not think it will be enough to make the grass grow but it will keep some of the seeds alive which will stop us having to autumn reseed.

The compressors on the bulk milk tanks have been running during the day. That prompted me to get our tanks serviced only to find they were running perfectly well, but the solonoid on the plate cooler was not working. Not only have I been paying for extra electricity for milk cooling, but I have had the tanks serviced unnecessarily; that rubbed salt into my wounds of cost-cutting.

As I am about to finish this article, the news has just started on the television, the headlines state how short the NHS is for money and how some operations are still on a 12-month waiting list. This was followed by two reports, one on a £600,000 piece of art given by the National Lottery and the other on the Millennium Dome. Surely there has to be some serious questions asked about the priorities of how public money is spent, or is it only me? &#42

John Alpe

John Alpe farms with his

parents at New Laund Farm,

near Clitheroe in Lancashire.

Besides the tenanted 80ha

(200 acres) the family own

36ha (90 acres) and rent a

further 40ha (100 acres).

Stocking is 60 dairy cows

and 60 followers, 500

Swaledale and Mule ewes

and 250 store lambs

JULY and early August have brought some splendid summer weather, which really makes work on the farm so much easier, not to mention more pleasant.

Sheep and lambs seem to have thrived this year, partly due to good grass growth. But I am sure warm sunshine has a big impact on well-being of livestock.

We gather and dip at the end of July; until then fat lambs that are sold are taken directly from their mothers to auction. During the mid-September dipping we wean all remaining lambs. Ewes will then be returned to hill pasture, while lambs are kept around the farmstead paddocks for two or three days until they have settled down. During this time we worm drench lambs and give them a multivitamin supplement.

After all these jobs are done lambs are sorted into groups of about 100-150 and are allowed on to clean aftermaths to either grow on, or, hopefully, finish. Generally, finished lamb prices have been falling all summer; our last sale of 40kg Suffolk lambs made £28 each.

As a rule over the years, lamb prices tend to decline steadily approaching autumn as sheer numbers and availability dictates. I really have no idea what price to expect for Mule wethers as they start to become ready for sale from September onwards, but things do not look so good.

Our field work has been fairly easy, with the help of the kind weather. Nearly all slurry and manure has been spread. Pasture topping is almost done too. This is a task I really enjoy, simply because you can produce an instant result, making things looking much better, then wait for the grass to respond with a rich regrowth giving an all-round visual improvement with little effort or expense.

On the first Sunday in August, after a week of hot weather, we had 20t of good dry straw delivered, which pleased me immensely. But, alas, waterproofs had to be donned as we were caught by a downpour. There was a thunderstorm halfway through unloading, and so we had to rush to take cover for 40 minutes. I was not happy, but could not do anything about it. You could say rain stopped play.n

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