21 August 1998


Enrichment of children on a farm

Last night, a calf born was born. A beautiful heifer calf – a bit of a mix, some Belgian Blue, some Limousin and something else only the calfs maternal grandmother knew. We have not had cattle for a number of years, but it is wonderful to watch the miracle of new life again and watch nature at work.

Not quite so good this morning though, a young bull calf of about two months, presumably smelling hormones on the new, frail calf, would do nothing but mount the poor, little animal preventing it from sucking until we separated them. This will be familiar to anyone who has spent a lifetime on a farm working with animals.

However, I began thinking about my young grandson Thomas. His father left farming mainly for financial reasons and moved to the other side of town to live in an urban area. Thomas cannot wake up to see a new calf through the window and see the bull calfs behaviour.

He does not have to get up and help separate the cow and calf from the others as his father would have had to do when he was young. All my four children helped with calving cows, farrowing pigs and sowing seeds.

I felt a real yearning this morning for Thomas to come across town, about 20 miles, to share my new young calf with me. Not only Thomas, but also thousands of other kids, too.

Maybe if they were to come across town to see my young calf and watch the unwittingly cruel actions of nature at work, in the behaviour of its brother calf, maybe they might understand something of life itself compared with the urban prison so many live in. They might also bring with them the new farm minister who could see for himself the privilege of being a farmer and the wisdom of driving more people off the land.

Jack Caley

Glebe House, East Newton, Aldbrough, Hull.

Co-ops started the grain pools

Thanks for your excellent article on grain pools (Business, Aug 7). I am sure this was a preliminary piece but what a pity you concentrated on the big boys such as Banks, Cargill and Dalgety. It was the co-ops that started the pools which are now being copied as market share is lost to us co-ops. In fact co-ops now handle 20% of the national crop. Unfortunately, articles like this could suggest otherwise.

For the record, our volume was up by 28% and our October-December pool result was £84.74/t and January-April was £82.96/t net of haulage and marketing fee. In the true spirit of co-operation, I understand some pools did even better.

Simon Tubbs

Marketing manager, Framlingham Farmers Limited, New Road, Framlingham, Woodbridge, Suffolk.

Sign up to keep birds off crops

Roger Nobbs (Letters, Aug 7) asks how to keep rooks, badgers, etc, from defecating in crops covered by the farm assured scam (sorry, scheme).

We have looked at diversification, and if he, or any other farmer sends, £1500 to the address below, we will supply two signs telling all birds to fly around the field and not over it. Needless to say, the signs are written in pigeon English.

Steven Smith

Winwick Warren Farm, West Haddon, Northants.

ACCS is purely a cosmetic ploy

Over recent weeks much of the farming Press has carried misleading headlines about ACCS suggesting that the take-up is more than the article underneath claims. Surely this is another form of the unwarranted pressure being exerted in an attempt to force compliance. Even banks are now in on the act with the suggestion that loans would be easier if ACCS was applied for.

All the advocates of this discredited scam can be silenced by asking what additional assurance is given? It would be bad enough that the NFU is backing the scheme, if it were just a case of the costs involved. But the damage is done by providing the anti-farming lobby with a stick to hit us with. This purely cosmetic measure will spur them on to other battles, not appease them.

The NFU might be better able to represent us were it not for the corn merchants and landlords that figure influentially among its membership. This is one farm that will not be renewing its membership while the NFU refuses to reciprocate the support.

We have now reached the stage where those that can farm do and those that cant become ACCS inspectors.

M F Harris

Home Farm, Guntons Road, Newborough, Peterborough.

Why condone bad practices?

I was alarmed to read Charlie Flindts comments (Talking Point, Jul 24), that he is obliged regularly to falsify his records so that they look OK for the ACCS verifier. I was even more alarmed to find letters of approval of this practice in following editions of FW.

Record-keeping forms the backbone of being able to prove due diligence under the Food Safety Act and is used throughout the food industry. Surely, UK farmers are announcing, as a body, that they follow bad practice and then falsify their records?

Little wonder grain contracts seem to be going elsewhere. I wonder if anyone in ACCS is logging the names of those farmers who are broadcasting the bad practices they follow.

ACCS verifier

Name and address supplied.

Heres why Im joining scheme

I am a practical arable farmer and have not yet joined the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme. But I hope I soon will. Why, when I hate paperwork and consider my produce already reaches high standards? For a number of reasons.

First, is safety. Under the terms of the Food Safety Act, most of the record keeping is a legal requirement whether in ACCS or out of it. Second, is exports. We have to maintain a good export market to underpin home prices. Buyers overseas, as well as at home, want not only low prices but high standards in terms of value for money. We have to provide it.

Third, is self-protection. If an urban neighbour should allege spray drift damage or a miller wants proof of correct harvest interval for pesticides, I shall be able to provide the necessary records.

Fourth is discipline. I shall have to keep the vermin down, check my stored grain and ensure this is all recorded. Last year I left my grain over Christmas. It got hot and the grain beetle had a field day. That was a expensive mistake. Come on all you moaners out there, lets make this scheme work. Todays shoppers require ever-improving standards which we must supply.

Jonathan Dixon Smith

NFU Essex county chairman, Lanhams Farm, Cressing, Braintree, Essex.

French beef foisted on us?

I notice the increase of BSE in France. May I enquire whether the public are still being foisted off with this imported tack in preference to good English beef?

J R Catlin

Bleng Garth, Wellington, Seascale, Cumbria.

Side-swipe was uncalled for

I notice the re-introduction of Mercedes Benzs advertising for their Signature vehicle in the Sunday Times Aug 9, used cars showing a picture of a T-bone steak. The caption read: "One less thing to worry about".

I would have thought that a company which introduced a small car that fell over at the first corner had got plenty to worry about.

I hope this side-swipe at the beleaguered British meat industry has lost Mercedes Benz any chance of selling cars to farmers from now on.

Brian Shaw

Barton Hill Farm, Lilley, Luton, Beds.

Mercedes ad could rebound

Have other farmers seen the outrageous advertisement by Mercedes-Benz? The ad features a large photograph of a T-bone steak, bearing the following caption: "Signature used cars, one less thing to worry about".

After telephoning the freecall number to check that the ad was endorsed by Mercedes-Benz, I would like to urge fellow farmers, if you are considering purchasing a used (or new) Mercedes-Benz, look at this advertisement first. It may change your mind.

After running two consecutive 190D diesel Mercedes, and finding them to be good, reliable and economical, we shall not be purchasing a Mercedes again. The companys advertising people need to re-think future ads carefully before alienating potential customers such as farmers.

Mrs J Davies

Primrose Cottage, Bodymoor Heath Lane, Middleton, Near Tamworth, Staffs.

Other options for calf exports

The end of the calf processing scheme should be seen as an opportunity. But it will be so only if the date-based export scheme is accepted from the inception of the British Cattle Movement Service.

It will be essential that other outlets are found for calves which do not depress prices further for the better quality beef calves. The consequences of increasing the number of BSPS claims, and the subsequent reduction in returns if the regional ceiling is breached, will have a dire effect on beef producers returns. That will be more marked under Agenda 2000 proposals.

There is still demand for Holstein/Friesian bull calves in Europe, at £80-£150 a head delivered on farm.

It would be a backward step to return to the old system of taking calves into crates, but there are other options. Many Dutch farms have group housed systems which are welfare friendly. It must be better to put calves into this type of veal unit than to hope that a bobby calf industry rises from the ashes of BSE. What would happen if these calves were reared and we had to dispose of lots of manufacturing beef?

The Farmers Ferry will need all the business it can get. Calves will be needed for 50 weeks of the year and they could provide a useful cargo.

But if the trade is to restart, it will be essential to operate to the highest welfare standards and enlist the farming unions to provide the public relations support. It must be better to rear a calf for six months in a welfare friendly veal unit than to kill it at birth. Moreover, this trade could be the first opportunity we will have to get the export ban lifted.

Name & Address Supplied.

No future info from MAFF

I am studying agricultural management at Reading University and am writing my dissertation on the future of the family farm in Britain.

I thought it would be a good idea to see how various organisations with an interest in farming see the future of British agriculture. Everyone I contacted, including the NFU, FWAG, Countryside Commission and Environment Agency, was helpful and they all said they would send me some information. But I was slightly bemused at the response I got from MAFF: "Im sorry, we do not have any publications on the future of farming."

Helen Doggrell

Norley Farm, Norley Wood, Lymington, Hants.

Time lost in TB badger debate

I refer to your report (News, July 31) of Prof Harriss criticism of the NFU regarding the Krebs report.

The NFU report, Badgers, their effect on agriculture and the countryside, was published Oct 1995. It made a number of recommendations one of which was a presumption to manage the population to limit TB, improve badger health status and reduce agricultural damage. The report argued that farmers were more than happy to accommodate badgers on their farms so long as they were healthy and in reasonable number. It went on to say that the badger population had increased significantly in the previous five years.

The NFU position has not changed since the report was published. It is gratifying to read that Prof Harris now agrees with the NFU position, having been so critical of our report. What a sadness that he did not agree with us when the then minister was setting up the Krebs investigation. Had he done so, there is little doubt that the minister would have had difficulty in resisting the NFUs case. Prof Krebs and his eminent team would have been saved considerable effort and the current experiment might have been unnecessary.

That has probably delayed a satisfactory solution by five years. Meanwhile, farmers continue to have their businesses and family lives disrupted by a notifiable disease probably transmitted by an overpopulation of a protected mammal. What a very sad story.

Hugh Oliver-Bellasis

Wootton House, Wootton St Lawrence, Basingstoke, Hants.

Pig farmers unfair burden

As a pig farmer, I wonder how long there will be a British pig industry. I was particularly concerned to read two articles in your edition of Jul 31.

First, it is not accurate to report that Sainsburys currently sources 100% of its pork and about 50% of its bacon from the UK (News). All the Sainsburys fresh pork sold through its butchery counter is Swedish. FW should ask: What percentage of total pigmeat sales is the 100% sold through Safeways delicatessen counters? Is all pigmeat British in ready prepared meals?

The second article (Business) stated that Continental pig producers have seen their prices collapse by similar amounts to UK farmers and, in some cases, by considerably more. You fail to point out that Continental production costs are far lower. Feed costs are lower because they use meat and bonemeal which is banned here.

Also welfare standards are not as stringent, leading UK producers to incur extra costs in labour, veterinary visits, membership subscriptions, and far more equipment. Finally, UK interest rates at 7.5% are the highest in Europe. For example, rates in Holland are 3.46%, and 4.15% in Denmark.

Simon C Partridge

Willow Farm, Mill Lane, Weeley Heath, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.l FW is extremely concerned about the plight of the UK pig sector and has first-hand knowledge of the difficult trading conditions through our own pig unit at Easton Lodge. For those reasons, we have been unstinting in our support of pig producers – EDITOR.

Follow NSA to lift lamb price

While I admire Laurence Harriss enthusiasm for the Farmers Ferry (Letters, Aug 7), I feel he is wrong in the effect it will have.

Supermarkets are still our biggest customers, and with their buying power and the strength of the £, they can buy their meat anywhere in the world. Lamb prices have held up well this year due to supermarket buying and some abattoirs sending carcasses for export.

Live export would reduce throughput in British abattoirs, which are already suffering a lack of beef trade and enormous costs due to the Meat Hygiene Service and offal removal.

The way to improve lamb prices is to listen to John Thorley of the National Sheep Association. Draw your lambs in even lots with the right finish and take them to your local market and sell them to abattoir buyers who will then supply the supermarkets, or the export trade.

That will keep British farmers farming, auctioneers and markets busy and abattoirs working. Then, we will see what British farmers are capable of. If we come up with the goods the market will respond.

Livestock markets are needed 52 weeks of the year not just the few weeks the ferry will be able to sail.

Please do not give the animal rights protester another chance to persuade people to become vegetarians. It is easier to transport 1000 carcasses than it is 300 live lambs and causes no welfare problems.

Peter Badger

Yew Tree Farm, Hanley Swan, Worcs.

Thanks for the memory of AG

I thought it great to revive memories of AG Street in FW (Features, Aug 7). He was one of the greatest upholders of British agriculture and wrote and spoke without fear of favour.

I remember at school we had to read a book during the holidays and then write a summary of it. I chose AG Streets Farmers Glory. My form master told me if I only read about farming, I wouldnt do any good. I leave others to judge whether he was correct. He was also our Latin master, and I remember telling him that sheep didnt understand English so I certainly didnt need Latin. He didnt seem to accept that as a joke either.

In AGs day, his was the first page I turned to in FW. I have all 35 of his books. One should not dwell on the past, but it is with people like AG. that the future is built.

Apart from Farmers Glory and Farming England my favourite is Strawberry Roan.

D &#42 Mitchell

Whiteheath Farm, Hill End Rd, Harefield, Middlesex.

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