1. News
    Created by News in category Farm Life
    May 15, 2014
    I’m dearly hoping that, by the time you read this, the weather has improved. I’ve had a very trying time in the cold windy showers. While the sheep lambed a dream, the cows are very slow to calve, and I’ve had a load of extra bother with em for good measure. The South Devons had a busy week or two, although I’ve managed an abnormally high number of Belted and Angus cross calves from the big orange ladies. Some are from heifers and intentional, some are not, and are less welcome. These are the result of bulls straying through gates left open last summer. There’s a significant difference in their value, so I’m disinclined to chortle when some bedraggled group of yoof leave a gate open right in front of me. In fact, it was only by backtracking where a neighbour and I have had Belt calves appear that we’ve worked out the circular route the beggar took last July.

    So far, the South Devon bulls’ expeditions the other way – he learnt to sneak under a road bridge to get with the Belts- hasn’t led to any calamities.

    Instead it’s the purebred South Devon calves who’re giving me the problems, and suffering in the rain. I’ve had a run of them not get away, and quickly end up with cows with grubby pendulous udders, and rumped up empty calves. A touch of the mastics follows. I’ve currently got 3 outfits back indoors out of the weather, 2 of which need milking out daily. One couldn’t be more obliging, standing quiet in the pen, with a calf that tries on its own, while the other needs...
  2. News
    Created by News in category Livestock & Poultry
    May 14, 2014
    Calls to label meat products with information about animal welfare at slaughter must not be hijacked by prejudice, according to the British Veterinary Association, which has been campaigning for an end to non-stun slaughter.

    On the day that MPs debate an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill calling for compulsory labelling of halal and kosher food, the President of the BVA has written to the three main party leaders asking them to support its call for food labelling to state whether the animal has been stunned in line with welfare legislation or not stunned under the legal derogation.

    Recent media coverage about restaurants and supermarkets using and selling meat from halal and kosher slaughter has raised awareness of the issue of welfare at slaughter, but an enormous amount of confusion remains over how consumers can make an informed choice.

    In the letters to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, BVA explains that labelling all halal and kosher products will do nothing to inform the public about the very proper concerns regarding welfare at slaughter but could fuel further confusion and potentially feed prejudice.

    Halal labelling does not recognise that around 88% of halal slaughter in the UK is prestunned. At the same time the 12% that isn’t stunned, along with the hindquarters of animals slaughtered by the shechita method that are not kosher, could continue to enter the mainstream food chain unlabelled.

    Commenting, BVA President and veterinary surgeon...
  3. News
    Created by News in category Livestock & Poultry
    May 10, 2014
    Three days ago a slaughterman came to my farm to shoot Ernie, our stock bull, and three other cattle that had tested positive for bovine TB.

    They had to be killed on farm because they’d been given worming medication which meant they couldn’t be taken to a slaughterhouse. I invited the NFU to come down and film what was one of the most distressing experiences of my farming life.

    That night I started trying to put my thoughts into words for a blog post. This is as far as I got.

    I woke up with a feeling of dread in my stomach again….

    I don’t have facilities for slaughtering my own animals on the farm so an unbearable time was spent waiting for the first – a beautiful young heifer – to get into the correct position.

    I can’t watch….the BANG, when it finally comes, is piercing and final. The other cows know exactly what has happened and what is about to happen.

    What follows next is the undignified winching of the carcass up the ramp of the trailer leaving a trail of blood and sh!t in its wake.

    Next is Hugo. With her huge doe-like eyes she looks at me and knows. The cow with the baby calf is becoming fractious and aggressive. She can smell blood and cordite. As she is becoming so wild, she is shot with a single bullet from a rifle. A perfect shot finally breaking the tension.

    I feel sick to the bottom of my stomach and I can hardly make my legs take me to Ernie. The gentle giant. Loved by all. He trusts me and I know I am about to betray...
  4. News
    Created by News in category Livestock & Poultry
    May 10, 2014
    Where will the UK sheep industry be in in 10 years? If you are “ Mr Average Sheep Farmer and aged 60” perhaps you are not that bothered because by then you will be retired . If you are me - 60yrs + AND a ram breeder AND have sons in a business that I want to give them a long term living then the future direction of the sheep industry is vitally important. The critical questions then are how big will the sheep industry be and what will it look like in 10 year’s time? The answers to these questions will basically depend on the respective profitability of sheep and of competing enterprises over the next few years, bearing in mind that changes to subsidies will also play their part.

    Today the average sheep farmer loses money ( See Eblex Figures below ). Money from SFPs and environmental schemes and other non sheep income is being used to subsidise the sheep enterprise on half the sheep farms in the UK. This situation cannot persist as subsidies are reduced so sheep farmers will be forced to radically alter their businesses to improve their bottom line.

    There are only two ways to improve the profits of a sheep enterprise – increase value of products through higher prices or more output or alternatively reduce costs. The following 2 tables indicate that there is plenty of room for immediate improvement with such a large proportion of lambs still missing target spec and the continuing fall in the lambing rate

    So what do I foresee over the next 10 years?

  5. News
    Created by News in category International News & Views
    May 10, 2014

    Where New Zealand’s sheep industry is heading

    New Zealand was considered part of the UK’s farming resource especially since refrigerated shipping. It was logical that a new colony only thought of the “mother country” when production of meat and wool rapidly expanded around 120 years ago and much of the world’s wealth was in Europe. The UK was within one flight away from 80% of the world’s middle income earners over the 35 years prior to the early 21st century. Now NZ is only one flight away from 80% of the world’s middle income earners, such has been the rapid shift in global economic activity and wealth. So what does this mean to sheep farming in NZ....... opportunities?

    New Zealand has a farming culture of change being a young country with few generations of management all advancing farming from rain forest to pastures. Intergenerational change is expected and encouraged, as primary production exporting is the source of wealth all Kiwis recognise and depend upon.

    Over the last 15 years there has been rapid land use change from sheep farming to dairying purely a result of the financial disparity between the two industries. If the contour is flat to rolling, has ample water supplies and conversion capital is manageable, then sheep returns to increased land values looks comparatively poor. This has resulted in a huge shrinkage of breeding ewes. Twenty years ago NZ had 18,000 sheep and beef farmers and 6,900 dairy farmers, now it has...
  6. News
    Created by News in category Livestock & Poultry
    May 9, 2014

    In This Issue:

    • Special Edition Pasture-Fed Livestock Association Newsletter: Farm Walks and Study Tour
    • Pasture-Fed Study Tour: Nottinghamshire and Rutland
    • Pasture-Fed Farm Visits
    • Other Events that may be of interest:

    The PFLA's Mission

    The association promotes the unique quality of produce raised exclusively on Pasture and the wider environmental and animal welfare benefits that Pasture-Fed livestock systems represent


    Special Edition Pasture-Fed Livestock Association Newsletter: Farm Walks and Study Tour

    This is a quick interim newsletter to let you know about some exciting events coming up very soon which will be of interest to anyone wanting to find out more about making the most of pasture.

    Russ Carrington, Executive Secretary

    Pasture-Fed Study Tour: Nottinghamshire and Rutland

    This will be taking place on the 2nd & 3rd of June, and there are limited places so it is first come first served!

    This study tour will take a detailed look at the production of pasture-fed beef, with many aspects relevant to sheep and lamb production, organic or otherwise. It will also be a great opportunity to meet with fellow members, gain knowledge and share experience.

    It is a busy time of year but also a good one to see grazing livestock and grassland management in action. The...
  7. News
    Created by News in category Machinery
    May 8, 2014
    Farmers looking to purchase new or updated sprayers or catch up with the latest spraying technology have an unrivalled opportunity to do so at Cereals 2014.

    Over 40 exhibitors will show the latest developments in the specialist Sprays & Sprayers feature at the event, while 50 of the latest self-propelled, mounted and trailed machines can be seen running in the Sprays & Sprayers Arena, in association with Syngenta.

    Ben Magri, Syngenta’s application specialist, says as well as gleaming new machines there is a mass of innovation on hand designed to improve spraying results.

    “Comfort, ease, efficiency and accuracy are just some of the watchwords,” he says. “Automated record keeping using the sprayer’s computer is moving on apace, and look out for improved quality of sprayer cabs and rinsing systems on sprayers. Variable rate application is now taking off, so it is well worth spending time at Sprays and Sprayers looking out for features which facilitate this.”

    Amazone’s Pantera 4502 self-propelled sprayer is being demonstrated at Cereals for the first time. It offers increased output and driver comfort with Category IV cab filtration to keep even aerosol-sized particles out of the cab.

    A larger 4800-litre tank and the new 218hp, emissions-friendly Deutz engine offer increased performance. It offers self-steering, and cleaning, filling, washing and mixing is simplified or automated using electronics. Data transfer for documentation, field boundaries and variable rate...
  8. News
    Created by News in category Business
    May 8, 2014
    The on-going plunge in ex-farm prime cattle prices is sapping beef sector confidence badly.

    However a recent examination by The Grocer magazine into global attitudes toward meat in 2050 points to beef being so expensive in 35 years that most consumers will only be able to afford to eat it as a treat.

    Crystal ball time for 2050 cattle prices

    This might cheer up those who either expect, or hope, to be still in business because it is anticipated that production in the UK could increase on the back of the natural availability of large areas of grass for both pasture and forage.

    It is also possible, even likely, that the domestic beef sector could become export based, delivering the bulk of its premium winning, high quality, grass based, output to high spending, city based, consumers on a trans-global basis.

    In contrast more affordable pork and chicken are expected to become the mainstream meats at world level while lamb, which in global terms is already a minority meat, secures a high priced but low volume niche.

    Domestic beef consumption per person has already declined by about 18 per cent since 1980 to around 15 kilos a year at the same time as UK production has fallen by around 40 per cent

    And at world level consumption per capita has fallen by around 15 per cent to just over nine kilos over the same period.

    However, and this is the crucial point, there are expected to be almost three billion more consumers in 2050 as the...
  9. News
    Created by News in category Business
    May 8, 2014
    By Western Morning News | Posted: May 08, 2014
    South Devon farmer Richard Haddock says supermarkets have paid little more than lip service to backing the home producer

    Unless someone is prepared to stop retailers running beef farmers into the ground, this year’s Great British Beef Week may be the first and only event of its kind warns Richard Haddock.

    Suddenly alarm bells are ringing everywhere. And all for the same reason: beef farming is in crisis.

    Prices are falling, farmers are unable to cover their costs, and the entire sector is under threat.

    What, I wonder, has taken people so long to wake up to what is going on? To some of us it was already apparent at Christmas what was happening.

    Christmas is normally a time when the beef farmer can expect his own little yuletide bonus because prices tend to peak for the festive season as demand goes up.

    This year it didn’t happen. And why? Because the market was hit by a tidal wave of cheap imports from Germany, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.

    Supermarkets launched a vicious attack on the Christmas market, discounting to eye-wateringly low prices – for lamb as well as beef.

    And that downward pressure on the domestic market has continued ever since – right through to Great British Beef Week when supermarkets have all claimed to be supporting British farmers but in reality have paid little more than lip service to...
  10. News
    Created by News in category Farm Life
    May 8, 2014
    Apparently the burden of red tape is being lifted from us whingey farmers. Well that’s some good news. In fact, it’s a bare faced outright lie, the burden is worsening.

    Never mind the hard work, acumen and investment required to make the actual farming happen, the skills and patience required to negotiate the paper trail of Government rules and schemes generate would make your eyes water. Sadly, without the payments attached to some of the schemes, we’d be in trouble, so we have to knuckle under. It’s taken the job from something akin to the bucolic idyll you and I might imagine, instead driving us into a crippling and demoralising waste of time chasing forms and paperwork.

    You don’t believe me? You believe the lies about how the burden is being lifted? Examples from where I’m sitting?

    Individual Sheep ID is steadily creeping up on us. Where I used to put in an ear-notch pattern, which cost nothing and was locally unique to my flock –and handed down over generations, very soon it’ll be a legal requirement to have 2 micro-chips in each ewe. It’ll then become just about impossible to work without owning a scanner to read these chips. Both chips and scanners cost real money, and are notoriously sulky in wet conditions- such as misty moorland hillsides, where we raise sheep.

    Reason? Some scientists once mistakenly tested a load of old cow brains for BSE, thinking they were sheep brains –it’s a long and sorry tale of procedural cock-up-. Finding lots...