Public row over trading not the best way forward

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A mainly dry but cold week helped us in keeping the heifers out at Crouchlands for the extra days needed to finish concreting the last shed and no sooner than it was dry, it was bedded

up with straw and they came thundering in.

They are big strong hopefully in-calf heifers and I have put them on the dry cow ration for the time being to get them settled in. We shall carry out a pregnancy diagnosis later in the week to see if they are all in calf, they have been running with the bull all summer and I sincerely hope that they are.

We put then in with the bull in groups of 20 to 25 and then two months or so later put in a similar number as they get to the right age and weight.

He has ended up with almost 70 heifers this year as we had no means of bringing them in to see if they were in calf and remove those that were. With all the building work and shed modifications, we could only keep an eye on activity within the group and let him get on with it and hope that we find them all in calf. I can see that some of the ones put in with the bull early are clearly in calf, but we will soon know how well he has performed.

That is all the cattle off the land at Crouchlands and end of November is not bad for us on such heavy clay to be honest. Tillington is another world and bulling heifers are happily grazing out there with enough grass to take them to Christmas I would think.

The grass growth has been phenomenal this autumn, quite the best I have ever seen. It has also had some real quality and the bulling and in-calf heifers have done really well; they are carrying a bit too much weight actually, but at this time of year that is not a problem.

We are fencing quite a few grazing fields at Crouchlands, some of which were the first fields to be fenced when I arrived over 34 years ago. We always allowed 15 years life for a stock fence and whilst these have been pretty shabby for the last few years, they have lasted incredibly well. The Boniface brothers put them up, and knocked all the posts in by hand, and a good job they made of it with materials which we would struggle to match today.

Fencing posts went through a terrible patch of poor quality since then and only lately, if one We have fences put up over the years where the straining posts have rotted faster than the fence posts due to poor treatment of the wood I believe.

This is especially the case at Tillington where the sandy ground seems to rot wooden fence posts much faster than the clay; usually at ground level. The man with the sheep will be pleased as he has been putting electric fencing of late in some of the fields, and the deer crash through it allowing the sheep to escape. Today those sheep are tightly fenced on to the third cut grass silage, doing a fine job of clearing it all up before the frost kills it off.

Adrian and Tim have trimmed all the high yielding cow’s feet as a precaution, finding quite a lot of small stones and gravel, which might have caused a problem later on.

We now know that all the cows in the group are trimmed and as we also trim each cow as we dry them off, we are really on top of the cow’s feet which is always a challenge. Now that all our cows are on straw yards we should have less to worry about their hooves as they not only lie down a digital dermatitis at bay.

Global and European markets in dairy are still strong despite production increasing in many countries. In the UK, cream prices are rising although October and early November milk production was up, and will stay strong I expect as we build up to Christmas.

We seem to have a bit of unease between Arla Co-op and First Milk Co-op as Sir Jim Paice the new Chairman made some inflammatory comments about Arla following the loss of a major cheese contract.

Having lost the ASDA contract, Sir Jim commented that First Milk would not stoop to the levels of Arla, and that the low price offer to secure the contract has damaged UK industry by undermining cheese and milk prices.

We have seen all this before of course and whilst bidding for supermarket contracts at low prices is nothing new, Sir Jim is right that it usually results in lower milk prices for farmers.

However, I am not sure that a public row about commercial trading is necessarily the best way to address the problem, as it can imply that having lost such a big contract, First Milk is in a difficult position.

There is no doubt that they are under real pressure as Arla looks for extra business.

I see that latest figures show Spain and the UK as the biggest milk drinkers in the EU.

Germany is the biggest cheese producer (2.2m tonnes) followed by France (1.9mt), Italy, and the Netherlands. UK is the biggest producer of liquid milk (6.9mt) followed by Germany (5.2mt), Spain and France but Spain drinks a higher percentage of its production (57% compared to 51% in UK). There has been a real increase in production across the EU as a result of better weather and higher farm gate prices, and that could continue over winter as the cost of feed comes down.

A glow in the dark ice-cream was launched this month! ‘Lick me I’m Delicious’ ice cream company synthesised a protein that gives jelly-fish their glow, which I understand to be calcium activated proteins which react when activated (!) – but at £140 per scoop is not cheap.

It is rather good that this is another British invention and that in the dairy industry at least we are still innovating and developing new ideas and products.

I had another near miss when walking in London last week as a cyclist ignored the red light at the pedestrian crossing. Following a number of serious accidents, Boris Johnson is under pressure to act as London is portrayed as death trap for cyclists; more money should be spent, more regulation more rules more penalties and so on.

However, as Simon Jenkins pointed out in the Evening Standard, barely 10% of the 118 cycling deaths in the UK last year were in London. Furthermore, London fatalities are fairly constant (10 in 2010, 16 in 2011, 14 in 2012) whilst the number of cyclists have risen rapidly.

He points out that whilst cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam are awash with cyclists, none of whom seem to wear crash-hats, the type of bicycle and the way in which they are ridden is very different and I think he has a point.

When I drive in London it is not unusual to have groups of cyclists weave in and out of the traffic at high speed, and is it a coincidence that motorists, motor-cyclists and pedestrians all hate the cyclists? They are often on very specialised devices, helmets, goggles, brightly coloured lycra, unlike the ‘sit up and beg’ more laid back device found on the continent, and aggressive to boot.

I think we should look at the cyclists themselves and be amazed that there aren’t more accidents, given their behaviour.