Anglia Farmer February 2024

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February 2024



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News Defra considers options after winter floods Arable Best way to control grass weeds this spring Crop storage Export demand rises for UK malting barley Animal health Remain vigilant for bluetongue virus Fen Tiger Beaten on the sugar beet price

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OPINION Johann Tasker

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ADVERTISING SALES Wes Stanton | T: 01502 725866 E: Daniel Rice | T: 01502 725858 E: Mat Roffey | T: 01502 725854 E: Mark Tait | T: 01502 725803 E: Anglia Farmer is a controlled circulation magazine published monthly for farmers and growers in the eastern counties. To be included on the circulation list, a farmer must have a minimum of 70 acres of land, or 50 dairy/beef stock, or 50 breeding sows/250 growing stock, or 15,000 laying hens/broiler chickens. Intensive horticulture units are required to have a minimum of two hectares. Subscription is £18 a year (including postage). No responsibility can be accepted by the publishers for the opinions expressed by contributors. If you no longer wish to receive this magazine, please email your name, address and postcode as it appears on the wrapper to © Countrywide Publications 2024 Published by Countrywide Publications, Fountain Way, Reydon Business Park, Reydon Suffolk IP18 6DH T: 01502 725800 Printed by Micropress Ltd, Suffolk. T: 01502 725800

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Big decisions ahead this spring after wet winter


et autumn and winter weather has left many growers facing some big decisions over the next few weeks – some of which will be easier to make than others. Relentless rain which left many winter cereals unplanted also left seeds which were drilled – and freshly established crops – rotting in the ground, prompting the question: do we (re)drill this spring or just leave fields fallow? For many growers, the answer to this question will be based on two factors: what is physically possible and what makes sense financially. One thing is certain: spring drilling will be later this year on many farms. And in some cases, it won’t be carried out at all.

Saturated soil Flooded fields will take time to recover – but so too will saturated soil. Even where fields aren’t waterlogged, it will be weeks before heavier land is fit to travel. Then there is the availability of seed. Some winter wheat varieties, such as Skyfall, can be drilled later than others. But demand for spring seed has soared – with prices almost trebling to £800 for some more popular varieties.


Not everyone has home-saved seed which can be dressed and then drilled – leaving growers at the mercy of the market. Budgets, cashflow forecasts and rotation plans will be ripped up and recalculated – in some cases many times over.

SFI payments While some flooded farms might remain waterlogged until April, they have to cover the cost of removing the extensive debris that will be left behind. Meanwhile, livestock will be subjected to additional stress meaning they may not be ready for spring markets. There are also other factors at play too. Defra’s latest Sustainable Farming Incentive offer means some growers will be tempted to leave land fallow – taking land out of food production and claiming SFI payments instead. For some, this will stack up. It is certainly worth considering as a less risky option after the work and expense of cultivating, drilling and carrying out pre-emergent sprays only to see fields being flooded and crops failing to germinate. Johann Tasker Editor

Vol 44 • No 2 • February 2024

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Arable . ................................................................. 9

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News Defra considers options following winter floods • Swathes of farmland left under water • Minister visits waterlogged farms • Nothing is off the table – Defra

for managing water bodies and landscapes under the 2024 Sustainable Farming Incentive. This will include options to be paid for managing flood alleviation. Managing arable land for flood resistance on a five-year agreement will pay £1,241/ha, with flood mitigation on arable reversion land paying £740/ha.


New option Defra has also announced a new option for managed grassland for flood and drought resistance. This will pay £938/ha, with new payments for raising the water table in lowland peatland worth £892/ha. The decision to reward farmers for managing flooded farmland would appear to answer calls – at least partly – for the government to take a more strategic approach when it comes mitigating the impact of extreme weather events. Mark Chatterton, head of agriculture at accountants Duncan & Toplis, said this winter's floods were the worst he had seen at any time in his 24year career, due to their scale and impact on farming livelihoods. “We thought 2019 was bad – the worst flooding for many, many years – but this truly is unprecedented. The work and expense of cultivating, drilling and carrying out pre-emergent sprays has been wasted with seed flooded and failing to germinate.”

ore farmers could be paid to store floodwater on their land – helping to protect communities from extreme weather. It follows a series of winter storms which has seen farmland flooded across the Midlands and East Anglia – with fields likely to remain submerged for weeks to come and autumn drilled crops left rotting in the field. Speaking after visiting flood-hit farmers in Lincolnshire last month, Defra minister Robbie Moore said “nothing was off the table” when it came to helping farmers recover from winter storms.”

Recovery fund In a statement delivered to parliament Mr Moore said later: “We have made £25m available for innovative projects that use the power of nature to improve flood protection, including actions by farmers and land managers – and I will announce successful projects shortly.”

Floods caused by winter storms are much worse than in 2019

Defra had switched on the Farming Recovery Fund so farmers who had suffered uninsurable damage to their land could apply for grants of up to £25,000 – recognising the exceptional rainfall that had taken place. Small and medium sized businesses, including farmers, could also apply for up to £2,500 of support from the Business Recovery Grant to help them return their businesses back to usual, said Mr Moore. Over the longer term, farmers with land which is repeatedly flooded will be able to claim payments in return

I will announce successful projects shortly

Recovery still a long way off for growers


oaring demand has seen spring seed prices almost treble as flood-hit growers seek to mitigate their losses. Available seed is very short supply, with costs as high as £800/t rather than £300/t quoted for some varieties of spring wheat and barley. Some farmers may be able to dress home-saved seed dressed but for many that won't be an option. With some farms likely to remain waterlogged until April, Mark Chatterton of accountants Duncan & Toplis says many growers will face heavy losses. The har4 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

vest following the floods of 2019 showed an 18% drop in net profits. This time it could be worse. “All of this means that the floods this year have been far more costly for farmers than in 2019 and farms will face further costs as a direct result for years to come, likely with a poor harvest this year and poor cash flow for 2025.” Mr Chatterton said his advice to farmers was to create a new cash flow forecast, work out

the likely impact over the next two years, and work out ways to reduce costs throughout this period. This might mean delaying capital investments in property or putting off non-urgent repairs. Farmers should also look to draw on private capital, said Mr Chatterton. Tax planning was important because of large bills to pay on last year’s more successful harvest. Mark Chatterton: advice to farmers

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News FARM DIARY February 6 Norfolk Farming Conference 6-8 64th Doe Show, Ulting, Essex 7 Dairy-Tech, Stoneleigh 7 Farming Matters, Harlaxton, Grantham 8 Lincolnshire Farming Conference www.lincolnshireshowground. 20-21 NFU Conference, ICC, Birmingham 22 Rooted: Stories of Life, Land and a Farming Revolution Talk by author Sarah Langford Deben Farm Club 29 Suffolk Farming Conference, Trinity Park, Ipswich

Minette Batters at the NFU Conference March 6-7 Low Carbon Agriculture 2024, Stoneleigh www. 12 Andersons Prospects for Agriculture 2024, Newmarket 14 Andersons Prospects for Agriculture 2024, Newark April 27-28 East Anglian Game & Country Fair May 12 South Suffolk Show, Ingham, Bury St Edmunds 15-16 Pig & Poultry Fair 18 Hadleigh Show, Hadleigh, Suffolk 19 Essex Young Farmers’ Country Show, Roxwell, Chelmsford 26-27 Hertfordshire County Show, Redbourn 29-30 Suffolk Show, Ipswich To list your event for free, please email 6 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

Speakers lined up for Suffolk conference


op speakers are lined up for this month's Suffolk Farming Conference, which is due to take place on 29 February at Trinity Park, Ipswich. Organised by the Suffolk Agricultural Association, Fram Farmers and Scrutton Bland, experts from across the sector will share their thoughts on ways farmers and food producers can “thrive, not just survive”. They will include keynote speaker Henry Dimbleby, who led the government's National Food Strategy in 2020. A former Defra non-executive director, Mr Dimbleby has also advised the Labour Party on food system improvements.

Farming and finance The conference will be chaired by second-generation farmer and Suffolk Agricultural Association chairman Bill Baker, who farms 1500ha in and around Elmswell where he grows cereals, oilseed rape and sugar beet. Farming issues will be discussed by HSBC regional agriculture director Grace O'Dwyer, who previously ensured the delivery of assurance schemes including Red Tractor – and has worked for NSF Food UK, the NFU and Syngenta. Finance will be addressed by Scrutton Bland partner Nick Banks who jointly heads up the firm's rural and agricultural group, as well as leading the business advisory service in their Ipswich office. Mr Banks specialises in advising owner managed and family businesses, professional partnerships and farming clients. He is also the independent chairman of the audit and risk committee at New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership The afternoon sessions will see a range of speakers – including farmers. Cheshire dairy farmers Tom and Karen Halton will reveal how in 2016 they set up The Milkshack on their farm, selling raw milk from a

Keynote speaker Henry Dimbleby led the government's national food strategy in 2020

vending machine. The couple now also sell pasteurised milk, milkshakes, cheese, eggs, cakes and butter to a growing customer base. They are passionate about animal welfare and educating the general public on dairy farming behind the scenes, running farm tours for schools, colleges, universities, cubs, scouts and other outside organisations.

Wide rotation Suffolk farmer James Forrest will talk about data and information. Mr Forrest farms more than 1600ha with his family farm and long-standing contract farming agreements, including a wide rotation of crops alongside a herd of Red Poll cattle. Passionate about knowledge transfer, and volunteers for the benefit of his local farming community. He sits on the board of the Felix Cobbold Trust which aims to provide the means to improve agricultural development. Tickets are free but farmers are encouraged to make a donation to farm mental health charity YANA. To secure your place, visit

Tom Bradshaw set to be NFU president


ssex farmer Tom Bradshaw (pictured) is set to be elected NFU president after standing unopposed for the role in this month's union elections. Currently NFU deputy president, Mr Bradshaw farms at Fordham, north of Colchester. The vacancy for NFU president follows a decision by Minette Batters to stand down after six years as union leader. NFU vice-president David Exwood is standing for the role of deputy president.

So too are West Midlands dairy farmer Michael Oakes, Lancashire livestock farmer Thomas Binns and Yorkshire beef and sheep farmer Rachel Hallos. Hampshire arable farmer and NFU Combinable Crops Board Matt Culley standing for vice-president. So too is Wiltshire farmer Mark Jeffery. The NFU elections take place on 21 February following the union’s annual conference in Birmingham.

Big farmland bird count gears up for 2024


armers are being encouraged to take part in this month's Big Farmland Bird Count – and provide a vital snapshot of the health of Britain's cherished farmland birds. The annual nationwide survey takes place from 2-18 February. It raises awareness of the role farmers play in the farmland bird conservation – and measures the impact of the conservation work carried out by farmers and land managers. Farmers taking part in the count are asked to spend 30 minutes recording the bird species they see on their land as part of the survey. Results help to identify any species which are struggling and which are doing well.

Increasing biodiversity This year marks the 11th anniversary of the bird count, which is or-

ganised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), and sponsored by the NFU. Since 2014, nearly 13,000 counts have been carried out by people working on the land. “Farmland birds have declined by 63% since 1970 and desperately need our help,” says the GWCT's Roger Draycott. “The key to increasing biodiversity and reversing the decline in wildlife is held by those looking after this land.” The count is a simple way for farmers to assess the natural capital on farm, an increasing requirement under the government’s Environmental Land Management scheme, and to chart the effects of any conservation they carry out. NFU President Minette Batters describes farmers and growers as “the custodians of the great British countryside [who] work hard to

The bird count helps identify which species are doing well and which aren't

boost biodiversity, create habitats for wildlife and provide additional feeding for farmland birds. “I would encourage as many farmers and growers as possible to participate in the 2024 count, record how many farmland bird species you spot on farm and, importantly, submit your results to GWCT.” For details, visit

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Arable Cover crop benefits 'depend on destruction method' • Project investigates best strategy • Effect on winter nitrate leaching • Spring crop performance probed


utritional benefits from over-winter cover crops are heavily influenced by destruction method, suggests new research. The advantages of over-winter covers are well-accepted – and include soil health, structure, fertility, weed suppression and reductions in nutrient losses. Other benefits include biodiversity – and some financial return if grazed by livestock. But questions remain over the best destruction method and the quantity of nitrogen captured and when it might become available to the following crop, according to research by ADAS and two water companies. Without the answers, farms struggling to produce a profitable spring cash crop may miss out on the benefits, said ADAS principal research scientist Anne Bhogal at last month's Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) annual conference. Working with Affinity Water and Portsmouth Water, the two-year project measured nitrogen release from cover crops during the 2021-22 cropping season and again between 2022 and 2023.

Nitrate leaching On sites in Hertfordshire and West Sussex, researchers looked at the effect of cover crop type on over-winter nitrate leaching and assessed the amount of nitrogen captured by the cover crops. The fate of captured nitrogen was then explored following two different destruction methods (chemical or mechanical), with soil mineral nitrogen (SMN) and spring crop performance measured post-destruction.

The advantages of over-wintered cover crops are well-accepted Below: scientist Anne Bhogal led the study

Ms Bhogal said that the benefits of cover crops to nitrate capture were shown at both sites in 2021-22, keeping concentrations in drainage water well below the EU Water Framework Directive limit of 50mg/litre, while a stubble did not. Ground cover and species mix were factors in the amount of nitrate leaching, with a well-established cover (80-94% groundcover) and oil radish achieving the greatest reductions. The spring nitrogen balance was calculated at cover crop destruction and on the deeper soils at the West Sussex site. It was estimated that up to 70kg/ha of nitrogen was in the cover crop before the spring barley cash

crop was drilled. “We wanted to understand how the different destruction techniques might impact how that nitrogen was released,” said Ms Bhogal.

Monitoring After cover crops were destroyed, SMN measurements were taken at fortnightly intervals to track nitrogen release during the early part of spring. Looking at the West Sussex site in isolation, there was an overall trend of slightly greater SMN after cover crops, as expected. Perhaps more interesting was the observation of greater nitrogen availability where glyphosate was used to destroy the cover crop relative to mechanical destruction with a topper. Weeds also started to appear in the spring barley crop following mechanical destruction, particularly where oil radish was in the mix as it regrew. Grain yields were up to 1 t/ha higher following a winter cover crop relative to a weedy stubble, but only where it had been destroyed chemically. Mechanical destruction of winter cover resulted in a 0.7-1t/ha yield reduction, the study found. >> FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 9

Arable >> Spring oats At the Hertfordshire site, no-till spring oats were grown instead of barley and yield was variable due to heavy blackgrass infestation, so results were not as reliable. However, a similar overall pattern was observed, including more nitrogen uptake and a higher specific weight after cover crops were destroyed chemically. “Specific weight is controlled by nitrogen to a certain extent, and particularly early nitrogen. “We are hypothesising that where you chemically destroy cover crops, you have that early nitrogen supply, which is really important for subsequent crop development.” Margin analysis was undertaken for each treatment. At West Sussex, any yield increase did not cover the additional cost of establishing and destroying the cover crop, which may put growers off. But water company incentive schemes – and agri-environment scheme options like Countryside Stewardship SW6 or Sustainable Farming Incentive SAM2 – offer financial support for over-winter cover crops, making the practice economically viable. Apex Agronomy agronomist and AICC member Chris Nottingham says such incentives and benefits mean cover cropping is here to stay – so long as challenges can be overcome, including pest and disease build-up and biomass and residual nutrients after destruction. “The research is providing practical information on this and it’s nice

Cover crop roots help improve soil structure

to put some facts and figures on aspects like destruction methods, nutrient capture and release and financials,” said Mr Nottingham.

Future work Glyphosate is clearly the easiest, simplest way for destruction in the short term, he adds, but farms are trialling alternatives. “It's more challenging without it and growers need to be aware of the potential downsides of non-chemical methods in the following crop.” Regarding nitrogen supply, Mr Nottingham says he has seen plenty of anecdotal evidence of useful release to the following crop – but he urges caution when it comes to reducing rates too far.

“We are reducing inputs after cover crops, but the industry needs a better handle on exactly what’s there through soil testing and factoring in conditions post-destruction,” said Mr Nottingham. The second part of the project, will take things further in 2023-24. This part of the project will look again at destruction method, further validate findings, and compare early and late crop destruction. Water companies are keen for farmers to keep cover crops alive for longer, says Ms Bhogal. “We will also have a full nitrogen and reduced rate programme, depending on the cover crop, and see if farmers can reduce nitrogen fertiliser without impacting yield.”

Breeder appoints commercial development agronomist


AGT Seeds UK has appointed Camille Florin as commercial development agronomist to support the company’s forage, cover crop and amenity seed portfolios. Ms Florin will be responsible for delivering key variety-specific information to merchant customers to help their growers make better decisions when purchasing seeds. Well known as a cereals and oilseed breeder in the UK, RAGT has strong positions in these other sectors, with dedicated breeding programmes in France and the Netherlands providing a pipeline of new and improved varieties.

Right knowledge “We have much more knowledge of these sectors than many people might think,” says Ms Florin. “The aim now is to improve our offering by providing growers with the specific information they need to choose the right varieties.” RAGT says it can advise on the most appropriate species and varieties for various systems – 10 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

including those that work with different options within the government's Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme. This is particularly the case with cover and soil health crops, where correct choices can add a lot of value to crop rotations, says Ms Florin says. “We really need to consider varieties, not just species, and manage them as a crop.” Ms Florin undertook five-year course on agriculture, life sciences and the food chain at Ecole d’Ingenieurs de Purpan in Toulouse. She has been involved in research projects at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. RAGT head of forage and soil health crops David Ramdhian said: “Our forage grass and maize business has made real inroads into the UK market and we are now looking to expand our amenity grass business too. “At the same time, we are continuing to develop our strong cover/soil health crop portfolio with a particular focus on more technically based demand.”

Correct seed varieties add value to rotations, says Camille Florin

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Spring cereals can create more options for grass weed control • Some spring seed in short supply • Good opportunity to target weeds • Herbicide choices remain limited


big increase in spring cropping this season is expected to give growers a welcome opportunity to boost grass weed control. More spring wheat, barley and oats are forecast to be drilled this year after the wet autumn and winter storms left fields unworkable and flooded. Many growers still have fields unplanted with some established crops rotting in waterlogged soils. Norfolk-based Agrovista technical manager Mark Hemmant estimates that around only two-thirds of the planned winter wheat area on his patch has been drilled and will be retained through to harvest. Seed availability and cost will be limiting factors as spring cropping decisions are finalised. Still, spring barley is set to remain the most popular option, not least because it offers an opportunity to get quickly back into a sustainable rotation, explains Mr Hemmant. “We've got an opportunity with spring cereals to invest for the benefit of not only the crop we are planting but future crops,” he says. “You've got to think about your rotation as a whole.” Grass weed pressure would typically be lower in spring cereals than autumn-sown crops, with wild oats as the primary target. But Mr Hemmant says growers must remember that herbicide options are limited. Label rates for most residual herbicides available for use in spring cereals are below those approved in winter cereals, and products are being lost. Straight pendimethalin, for example, is no longer approved for use in spring wheat.

Wild oats In situations where wild oats are a problem, or there is moderate to severe blackgrass pressure, or brome or ryegrass are present, pre-emergence

residual herbicide Avadex (tri-allate) can be an option. Avadex provides a solid foundation for weed control in spring wheat and barley, says Mr Hemmant. It gives good control of wild oats and insurance where resistant grass weed populations may limit the efficacy of contact-acting herbicides. “Brome is an increasing problem and is so competitive; you need every bit of control you can get, and if you've got moderate levels or above of blackgrass you’d want to consider Avadex, as well as in ryegrass situations, where we’ve got limited control options. An application of glyphosate would be the first step in any spring cereals herbicide programme to control weeds already present. “You would probably apply that as soon as you can travel, followed by another application close to drilling.” In spring feed barley, there is an opportunity to incorporate either Ava-

Spring cropping is an opportunity to target blackgrass, says Mark Hemmant

Think about your rotation as a whole

dex Factor or Avadex Excel 15G into the a worked or nearly finished seedbed pre-drilling. It can then be worked in with the drill, says Mr Hemmant.

Depth protection “It's a really useful recommendation,” he adds. But this approach is not an option on spring wheat, where depth protection is important. In spring barley, Avadex Factor can be mixed with glyphosate for incorporation pre-drilling, so long as spray water volume is kept up at about 200 litres/ha. Depending on the crop, a flufenacet-based product can then be applied pre-emergence, mixed with pendimethalin. Post-emergence herbicide options for use in spring cereals are limited, although Luxinum Plus (cinmethylin) is approved for use in spring feed barley. Good grass weed control in spring crops represents an investment in the >> FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 13

Arable >> entire rotation, says Mr Hemmant. “If you're aiming to do the job right, using cultural controls and trying to get lower grass weed levels to start with, Avadex can be the difference between a mediocre job and a really good job.” With rates the same as those used in the autumn, Avadex Excel 15G granules or the liquid tri-allate formulation Avadex Factor will boost grass weed control in spring and latedrilled winter wheat varieties, as well as spring barley.

pre-drilling option available in spring barley, he adds.

It's a really useful recommendation This contrasts with some other pre-emergence herbicide options, many of which are restricted to use at around half the autumn label rate in spring, explains Hank King, UK and Ireland business manager for Gowan Crop Protection. New for this season is the addition of spring wheat to the Avadex Factor label, providing an additional option

Avadex aids control spring weeds, says Hank King, of Gowan Crop Protection

where growers do not have access to a granule applicator. Application timing is the same as in autumn-sown crops, says Mr King. This means pre-emergence and as close behind the drill as possible – with a

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Excellent job Wild oats, a key grass weed target in spring-drilled cereals, are highly susceptible to tri-allate, but it will also do an excellent job on black-grass, ryegrass and bromes. Another consideration when controlling wild oats is herbicide resistance. Resistance to ACCase and ALS chemistry is known to be present in UK wild oat populations, but there is no known resistance to tri-allate, which also brings a different mode of action to herbicide programmes. Where spring crops are replacing failed autumn drillings this season, care is needed where tri-allate has been used. Where tri-allate has been applied in the preceding autumn, oats should not be planted within 12 months, but spring barley can be safely planted. For niche market spring crops. Avadex Factor has Extension of Authority for a Minor Use (EAMU) approval in spring linseed, canary grass and corn gromwell (Ahiflower). Avadex Excel 15G has EAMUs for spring linseed and canary grass.

In some areas, only two-thirds of winter wheat was drilled


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Key advice points Pre-emergence residual herbicide Avadex (tri-allate) provides a solid, pre-emergence foundation for grass weed control in spring wheat and barley Addition of spring wheat to the Avadex Factor label new for 2024 harvest season Option of Avadex application pre-drilling in spring barley (but not spring wheat) Tri-allate has excellent activity on wild oats and provides good control of black-grass, bromes and ryegrass No known resistance to tri-allate in UK grass weed populations Care needed where spring drillings are replacing failed autumn-drilled crops treated with tri-allate – seek professional advice EAMUs for use of Avadex available in linseed, canary grass and corn gromwell.

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More maize growers switch to earlier maturing varieties Move helps avoid late harvest risk


high-yielding early maize variety could help growers overcome the risk of late drilling and delayed harvests caused by wet spring and autumn weather. Bred by MAS Seeds and marketed by Elsoms Seeds, Mojito could tick all the boxes for farmers wanting to avoid a repeat of the weather-related challenges seen in the past two years, says independent crop consultant Craig Green, of CMG Agronomy. Increasingly unpredictable weather means more growers are willing to trade-off a small percentage of yield in return for being able to lift crops two or three weeks earlier – and avoid adverse harvest conditions, explains Mr Green. “Most of my farmer customers now see maize as the key break crop for wheat, instead of sugar beet or spring barley, because it achieves higher gross margins.” Although last year was generally a good year for maize yields, it also turned out to be another late harvest for many growers – with June becoming a low energy month due to a lack of sunlight in many parts of the UK. “This resulted in the maturity date of many maize crops stalling, making every maize variety mature later – which led to later lifting dates that delayed the establishment of following wheat crops.”

Agronomic package Early-maturing Mojito has delivered the same yield as later maturing varieties over the past two years, says Mr Green. “Its consistency to perform well on all soil types should help it gain traction with maize growers throughout the UK,” he adds. Across eight on-farm trials, Mojito achieved average fresh weight yields of 40.5t/ha – equivalent to the yield normally seen in a later maturing varieties, says Mr Green. One reason is because its wide-leaf plant attracts a lot of sunlight. “It has a wider canopy best suited to 75cm row widths. Starch content looks good, my customers confirm that it goes into beef cattle quite nicely, and 16 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

its certainly dual-purpose for those considering it for biogas production. “In our 2023 trial we assessed 35 maize varieties in total, with Mojito delivering the second highest freshweight yield in its maturity class. It looks a very good value for money variety and with good standing ability, plus low cob, it’s less likely to suffer from brackling.

It is very good value for money Going into 2024, Mr Green says Mojito is a good fit alongside later maturing varieties such as Neutrino – particularly for growers on lighter land who aren’t as effected by difficult lifting conditions and need to stagger supply into biogas plants.”

Dual-purpose variety Toby Reich, head of agricultural sales at Elsoms, says two years of difficult late harvests mean many growers have genuine concerns about later maturing maize varieties. “When you look at the current dynamics of farm purchases for maize seed, around 70% of farmers are now opting for earlier maturing varieties as a conscious move towards earlier lifting and smoother establishment of the following crop.” With a further 15-20 large scale anaerobic digester plants expected to become operational by 2025-2026, Mr Reich forecasts an increase in the area of maize grown for biogas production over the coming decade. “There’s a stronger case for dual purpose varieties able to supply both silage and bio-

A plot of Mojito from CMG Agronomy's 2023 trial on the Holkham Estate in Norfolk Earlier maturing varieties are gaining traction, says Craig Green

gas markets with more emphasis on selecting early maturing varieties that produce both high dry-matter (DM) and energy yields.” Seed specialist Emily Pick forecasts a promising future for the variety. “Mojito has a solid agronomic profile combining a score of 7 for vigor with an 8.3 for resistance to lodging,” she says. “With high yields and fast early development this variety also has a very good stay green score of 7.7 that secures the silage harvest date for farmers. “With a growing maize portfolio, that includes 2 other early maturing maize varieties in Makayla and Indem 1631, we are investing in providing an extensive trialing network that offers valuable information to both merchant customers and farmers.”








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Digital mapping is boost for potato productivity • Informs choice of potato varieties • Reduces risk of pests and disease • Achieves better crop management


Cambridgeshire grower has soil mapped his farm to help future-proof the business against economic and environmental challenges. Farm director Jack Smith, of AG Wright and Son (Farms) Ltd, grows 250ha of potatoes across 1,850ha of varying soil types – from black fen peat around Haddenham, near Ely; to sandy loams near Newmarket. Around two-thirds of the potatoes are on rented land. The business supplies the fresh pre-pack domestic market – as well as growing potatoes for processing into chips and crisps. This soil variation – and the importance of rented land for potatoes – brings many unknowns in terms of soil type and nutrient status – both challenges that Mr Smith says he is keen to address.

Tight margins The business prides itself on being productive and efficient, says Mr Smith. “The budget for growing potatoes is tight, so we are always looking for marginal gains that will improve what we do and reduce risk.”

Big increases in fertiliser, fuel and electricity prices during 2022 focused the mind on optimising inputs, adds Mr Smith. Unprecedented energy costs were the impetus needed to digitally map the rented potato area using Terramap, he says. “It was the nudge for us to invest more in soil sampling to target our inputs further. We want to do all we can to improve efficiency and manage costs, but it must not be at the expense of quality and yield.” Terramap measures variations in four naturally emitted isotopes to build a detailed picture of a range of soil characteristics across the field. This includes pH, texture and nutrient status, organic matter content and water holding capacity. Some 800 data points are recorded in every hectare, with results crosschecked against lab analysis of selected soil samples. The location of each sample is then GPS tagged so repeat sampling can be done in future years to monitor changes. Terramap data is uploaded to Omnia, where results can be analysed alongside other layers of management

Jack Smith, left, with digital services specialist James Lane Below: The system has brought savings in MOP applications

Precision farming needn't cost a fortune

information. This analysis and knowledge of individual fields is then used to generate variable rate nutrient application plans. The initial focus for the 2023 season was on potassium and magnesium – two key nutrients traditionally applied at a flat rate in line with standard W-pattern soil sampling and RB209 guidelines. Analysis showed some clear variations within different fields. In one 8.5ha field, Terramap results showed the potassium index varied from index 0.5 to 4 (see image). Historically, this field would have received a flat rate of around 580 kg of muriate of potash (MOP) across the whole area. In contrast, the Omnia -generated variable application plan recommended rates varying from 375kg MOP/ha in areas with the highest index, up to 700kg MOP/ha where soil levels were lowest. In total, 4.2t of product was applied to the field using variable rates, compared with 4.9t at the flat rate. Across the entire potato area, this translated to a 3-5% saving in MOP, with a similar reduction in magnesium – all for what proved to be a relatively upfront investment.

Uniformity “It is a benefit – but saving money on fertiliser is not why we’re doing it,” says Mr Smith. “Our aim is to achieve a more uniform crop and optimise yield 18 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

by applying fertiliser exactly where it is needed rather than over- or under-treating any areas.” Mr Smith may try to quantify this in 2024 by using drone-based green area imaging. The farm is also mapping more of the land with Terramap, doing some of its own potato ground– as well as more detailed analysis of cereal-growing fields elsewhere. “It costs us around £30/ha for the Terramapping, which does add up over a few hundred hectares,” says Mr Smith. “But when you consider that total all-in growing costs for potatoes are around £10-12,000/ha, it’s still a relatively small investment. “Agriculture in general has been very good at producing lots of pretty maps, but the challenge is what we do with the information. I was a sceptic at first, but now I am much more confident in the accuracy of this technique and the benefits it offers.” Although not yet possible to quantify the impact of varying fertiliser rates on harvested yield, Farmacy agronomist Stefan Williams says the crop canopy was more even throughout the growing season. Omnia also provides a platform for sharing information between anyone that needs access to it – particularly between farmer and agronomist, says Mr Williams. “As an agronomist, it’s really useful to be able to access a lot of information about any field at the click of a button, and compare multiple years. Through the Omnia Scout app, it’s also much easier to share observations and information when out field-walking."

Simple system Setting up and using the system has been relatively straightforward, adds Mr Smith. So too has adapting the farm’s kit to variably apply fertiliser – so there was no need to replace the farm’s two existing Kuhn fertiliser spreaders. Instead, Mr Smith purchased all the equipment required for about £2000 – equivalent to just £4/ha when divided across the potato area. This included two GPS iPads, a wifi connector and associated cables. Once variable rate plans are created in Omnia, they are easily transferred via the cloud to an iPad in the tractor cab, which sends information to the spreader’s control box via the Wifi dongle. “It’s really easy to set up and move between tractors if you need to. It’s compatible with a wide range of machines, and gives you access to all of the Omnia information and applica-


Digital map helps manage nematodes Digital mapping is helping to play a role in managing the risk of Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) on land farmed by AG Wright & Son. The farm employs Agri-Tech Services to undertake PCN egg counts. Results are then used to create a digital PCN map that can be remotely uploaded directly into Omnia – once permission to do so is granted. Fields are split into 1ha grids, and coloured according to the number of eggs from a 200g sample taken from 180 individual soil cores. This information is then used to plan cropping a d targeting the best fields for resistant, tolerant and susceptible varieties. “Some grids had egg counts of up to 18, which wouldn’t be suitable for growing a non-resistant or non-tolerant potato variety, such as Maris Piper,” says Farmacy agronomist Stefan Williams (right). Instead, PCN resistant or tolerant varieties can be targeted at higher-risk areas, and maps also allow nemathorin treatments to be applied exactly where they are needed, something that is increasingly important within nematicide stewardship. “Unfortunately, our applicator is too old to do variable rates, and we couldn’t justify the cost of

tion plans out in the field,” says digital services specialist James Lane. For other farmers considering how they can best make more use of precision technology, Mr Lane recommends starting by identifying the exact goal, then look at how it can be achieved as cost-effectively as possible. “That includes assessing the capability of the equipment you’ve already got to achieve your goals. Precision farming doesn’t need to cost a fortune.” Mr Smith adds: “So far we’ve had one year using this system and haven’t had to make a huge investment, yet we can now target inputs more precisely. “Going forward, we’re definitely

buying a new machine,” explains farm director Jack Smith. “But by giving the operator an iPad with the PCN map on it, he was able to manually turn the applicator on and off as it passed through the different zones. The bed tiller is fairly slow moving, so this was relatively easy to do.”

interested in more precise management of soil zones, and finding ways to tailor management across the full rotation to benefit the business as a whole.”

Farm facts: AG Wright & Son (Farms) Ltd • Family-owned business, specialising in cereal and root crop production • Total cropping extends to 1,850ha, including 250ha of potatoes • Processing and chipping potatoes grown on black fen soils • Pre-pack crops grown on lighter mineral soils to achieve required skin finish • Business offers contracting and farm management services FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 19

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Discovery raises hopes of more temperature tolerant wheat Scientists at John Innes Centre make genetic breakthrough


ene-editing techniques have uncovered a temperature tolerance trait that could protect wheat from the increasingly unpredictable challenges of climate change. Researchers say UK growers could benefit from the discovery – made at the Norwich-based John Innes Centre during experiments examining wheat fertility in plants exposed to high and low temperatures. Wheat fertility and yield is highly influenced by temperature – particularly during the initial stages of meiosis when chromosomes from parent cells cross over and pair to create seeds for the next generation. Meiosis in wheat functions most efficiently at temperatures between 17-23°C. It is known that developing wheat does not cope well with hot temperatures and can also fail during low summer temperatures.

High priority Professor Graham Moore, who led the team of scientists, said climate change was likely to have a negative effect on wheat fertility and yields. Screening germplasm to identify heat-tolerant genotypes was a high priority for the future of crop improvement, he added. “Identifying genetic factors that help to stabilise wheat fertility outside optimal temperatures is critical if we are to breed climate resilient crops of the future.”

Researchers used gene-editing techniques to delete a gene called DMC1 from a Chinese spring wheat variety. They then carried out a series of controlled experiments to observe the effects of different temperatures on the gene-edited plants. After approximately one week, experiments revealed that the gene-edited plants were significantly affected when grown at a temperature of 13°C, with plants grown at 30°C also affected by temperature.

Implications Prof Moore said the results confirmed the hypothesis that the DMC1 gene has a significant effect on grain yield – with the results having important implications for wheat breeders in the face of climate change. “Thanks to gene editing we have been able to isolate a key temperature tolerance gene in wheat. It provides cause for optimism in finding valuable new traits at a time when climate change is challenging the way we grow our major crops.” The next stage of this research is to look for variations of DMC1 which offer greater protection to wheat – and to investigate how dosage and expression levels of this gene in wheat may influence protection against wider variations in temperature. Trials on temperature tolerance are taking place in Spain, where regular

temperatures of 30-40°C are posing a threat to wheat fertility and yield. But the study also showed that the same DMC1 gene controls temperature tolerance in UK wheat. The study also cites previous research into a species of Japanese newt. It found that fertility is compromised in temperatures below 13°C and that the temperature effect is related to DMC1 activity. Climate resilient crops are vital for food production, says Graham Moore

New board member for NIAB crop science Research and business development expert Trish Malarkey has been appointed to the board of Cambridge-based crop science organisation NIAB. With a career spanning over 30 years in food and agritech innovation, Ms Malarkey has held senior research and development business roles in the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the USA. These include chief innovation officer at Royal DSM, head of global research and development at Syngenta and various non-executive director and scientific advisory roles in established global companies and start-ups. NIAB board chairman David Buckeridge said: “Global agriculture is changing as we embrace advances in food productivity whilst reducing its impact to the climate and improving our biodiversity.” NIAB had a central role in developing and translating this science into proven and practical applications for farmers and growers, said Dr Buckeridge. The board's role was to support the organisation in its strategic development. “Trish’s ability to bring together commercial business and R&D strategies, alongside her breadth of scientific technical expertise, and her knowledge of the global agribusiness industry, will provide NIAB with unique and valued insight.” Ms Malarkey said: “I am looking forward to being involved in the next steps in NIAB’s vision to ensure high-yielding, profitable crop production go hand in hand with reducing agriculture’s environmental and climate impact.”

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Crop storage & marketing Traders report rising demand for UK spring malting barley • Export market potential for 2024 • Winning favour with more buyers • European approval for Laureate

growers. The variety has become more requested, he says. Exports have been helped because more Laureate is grown in the UK. This means there is a bigger pool to choose from, says Mr Arnold. “Farmers who grow it have a foot in both camps – brewing and distilling. “The UK generally exports about 250,000 tonnes of malting barley annually, maybe up to 400,000 tonnes in a good year. This compares with total UK malting barley purchases of about 1.9 million tonnes.”


uropean buyers are showing increased interest in UK malting barley, say grain traders – with export potential looking good ahead of an expected increase in spring plantings. A surge in planting is forecast after the wet autumn halted winter wheat drillings, export potential could be particularly handy this season, says Tracy Creasy, of Syngenta, the seed breeder behind spring malting variety Laureate. Three years ago Laureate wasn’t a dominant variety for export. But the variety has since won approval in two major European malting barley systems: the Danish Preferred System and the Comité Bière Malt Orge (CBMO) in France. “European interest in Laureate has blossomed,” says Mrs Creasy. “Buyers are asking for it after it gained these latter two approvals in 2018. If demand continues, it gives UK Laureate growers the potential of

four end markets – UK malt distilling, UK brewing, feed, and potentially export to Europe.”

Above: Growing interest in UK malting barley

Market potential Most Laureate in Europe is currently used for brewing. But interest is growing in whisky production, with France one of the world’s biggest whisky consumers. Jonathan Arnold, trading director for grain traders Robin Appel, says European approval has opened up more potential for UK Laureate

Left: Surge in planting expected, says Tracy Creasy

Port access ADM Agriculture feed and malting barley trader Chris Colley suggests export offers potential opportunities for growers in the south of England in particular, because of easier access to ports. The export market is increasingly leaning towards Laureate, says Mr Colley. Exports of malting barley are also tariff-free, he adds, and ADM has organised boats of Laureate to Europe this winter. “Laureate has been marketed for export for some time but is starting to win favour with some buyers,” says Mr Colley. “We have customers who have been asking for Laureate specifically over other varieties. The export market is supply and demand driven. Laureate is still the leading spring barley variety grown on-farm in the UK, so when trading it for export it’s readily available.”

'Elevated premiums' for malting barley Malting barley premiums are expected to remain strong after reaching record highs during the first few months of the season . UK spot ex-farm premium malting barley was at a £78.40/t premium to feed barley in the first week of January – the widest recorded price gap so far this season, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Looking at the supply and demand outlook of malting barley for the 2023/24 season, it can be expected that premiums will remain strong in at

least the short to midterm, says AHDB analyst Olivia Bonser. Barley production this season was down 5% on the year and the AHDB Cereal Quality Survey showed lower specific weights and screening levels compared to the previous season, she explains. “Due to the poorer quality of the domestic crop, in AHDB’s latest supply and demand estimates, imports are expected to be above the five-year average at 87,000t. However, total availability is still expected to be down slightly.” FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 23

Crop storage & marketing

Mixed prospects for UK wheat up with what’s offered in the physical market. So, it’s important to check with your local merchant(s) about the carry and what demand is there currently.

• Global stocks to remain tight • Weather weighs heavily on markets • Still opportunities for British growers


heat markets are set to remain tight this year despite a global harvest which is expected to increase, suggest the latest estimates. Initial forecasts for the coming season suggest rising consumption will more than offset slightly higher yields from a slightly lower wheat area – causing global wheat stocks to tighten, says the International Grain Council (IGC). The IGC published its first estimates for the 2024/25 season last month. It expects consumption to match last year’s record levels and exceed production, leading to a further reduction in stocks to a six-season low.

Limited prospects Closer to home, the wet autumn and winter has limited the prospects for winter wheat crops across Europe – including the UK. Many growers are still to make spring planting decisions after being unable to get winter crops in the ground. Wet conditions continue to negatively impact 2024 winter crops across much of north-western, central and eastern Europe, says cereals and oilseeds senior analyst Helen Plant at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board The gap – or carry – from May-24 UK feed wheat futures prices to the new crop Nov-24 contract had widened to almost £15/t by mid-January – giving growers more incentive to store or sell forward 2023 wheat for new season (2024/25) delivery to supplement the 2024 harvest. Higher costs “A wider gap than in recent years is expected due to the higher interest rates and energy, increasing the cost of money and storage costs,” says Ms Plant. “However, the carry is the largest for the time of year in recent years.” While there’s been a general dip in global grain prices, UK feed wheat futures for May-24 have fallen by more, 24 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

says the AHDB. This may be linked to exchange rate changes or UK 2023/24 supplies feeling heavier – or a combination of both. “The carry offered in the futures market doesn’t always exactly line

Global wheat production is expect to rise – but consumption is expected to rise more

Storage costs “However, if on-farm storage costs are less than the carry the market is offering, it could present a marketing opportunity. It’s worth noting though that the carry will continue to evolve as information changes on expected supply and demand in the rest of this season and next.” UK wheat production is likely to fall in 2024 after the wet weather through the autumn disrupted winter planting. AHDB’s Early Bird Survey captured planting intentions as of early November and pointed to 3% drop in the wheat area. The AHDB is re-running the survey to provide insight into what the cropped area might be for harvest 2024 following the wet weather. The results of this survey are due in the first two weeks of March – and anecdotal evidence suggests some fields will be left fallow.

Tips for winter grain storage 1. Proper storage conditions

5. Pest prevention

Ensure your grain storage facilities are wellmaintained and equipped with proper ventilation. Adequate aeration helps control temperature and moisture, preventing the development of mould and fungi that could compromise grain quality

Implement effective pest control measures to safeguard stored grains from insect infestations. Regularly clean and inspect the storage area, and consider using traps or insecticides to prevent pests from damaging your grain stock.

2. Regular monitoring

6. Quality testing

Implement a routine monitoring schedule to check the condition of stored grains. Regular inspections allow you to identify potential issues early, enabling prompt action to mitigate risks and maintain optimal storage conditions.

Conduct regular quality tests on stored grains to assess factors such as moisture content and grain condition. This proactive approach helps you identify any deterioration early on and allows for adjustments to storage conditions or the sale of compromised grain before quality declines further.

3. Temperature control Maintain consistent temperatures within the storage facility. Fluctuations in temperature can lead to condensation, which may promote the growth of microorganisms. Utilise temperature monitoring systems to ensure a stable environment.

4. Humidity management Proper humidity control is crucial to prevent moisture-related problems such as mould and mycotoxin development. Invest in dehumidifiers or other moisture control measures to keep humidity levels within the recommended range for your specific crop.

7. Proper loading and unloading procedures Follow best practices when loading and unloading grains from storage. Use equipment designed for gentle handling to avoid damaging grains during these processes. Proper handling minimises the risk of physical damage, which can lead to spoilage or decreased quality over time.

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Crop storage & marketing

Global grain trader pays farmers to adopt regenerative methods


armers who enroll in ADM's regenerative agriculture programme will receive incentive payments for conservation tillage, cover crops and companion cropping, says the global commodity trader and processor. The programme is designed to work alongside government support schemes to ensure growers receive the support needed to undertake regenerative farming practices that will ensure the resilience of ADM's UK supply chain. ADM says it wants to scale up the programme in the UK using a "scorecard" concept to widen the range of commodities it sources from its farm suppliers while tracking and reporting on regenerative practices. Cambridgeshire farmer Martin Lines, of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, praised ADM for supporting growers who produced crops using regenerative methods and marketed them through the multinational company.

Positive action “Seeing the company incentivise farmers for positive actions across the farmed landscape that can

deliver climate, biodiversity, and productivity improvements – on top of a market price for the goods we produce – is a positive step." As well as financial support, ADM has partnered with the UK farm consultants Ceres Rural, to provide one-to-one support for growers who adopt regenerative best practices throughout the growing season. ADM Agriculture managing director Jonathan Lane said it would add value to arable commodities. “We look forward to rolling out the project to even more farmers and customers in the UK to help drive regenerative agriculture practices at scale." Farm data specialists Map of Agriculture will use satellite technology to verify the actions undertaken by growers – improving soil health, encouraging biodiversity and working to reduce their carbon footprints. ADM says it will ensure data is reported back to growers so they can monitor the performance of their crops – using key performance indicators such as carbon emissions, nitrogen use efficiency, and cereal yields.

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ADM wants more growers to embrace regenerative farming

New mobile grain dryer puts grower in control


mobile grain dryer purchased by Lincolnshire grower Dunmore Hind is performing well as part of a modernised grain storage facility near Grantham. Supplied by Sharmans of Stamford and installed by McArthur Agriculture, the Mecmar S40T dryer ran nonstop for a fortnight last harvest drying wheat and oats for J Hind & Sons at Elm Tree Farm, Little Bytham. “Tom Barker from Sharmans knew that we were looking to make changes to our grain drying and storage facilities and suggested that we talk to the McArthur Agriculture team,” said Mr Hind, who farms 800ha with his father Alan. McArthur Agriculture designed a new system fed by a 12m long Skandia Elevator 60tph I-Line trench intake conveyor housed in an existing building to make the best use of space. It included prefabricated components to make the installation an easy process. An existing hopper was retained

to tip large amounts of grain into the intake or to tip smaller quantities of seed into the dryer. Grain is then transported via three 120tph Skandia I-Line conveyors to a purpose-built 3000t grain store. The first phase of the development performed well during harvest 2022. The second phase – which made timely harvesting even more important – involved the purchase of the Mecmar S40T to dry an increased amount of milling wheat grown for harvest 2023. The Mecmar automation control system features a touchscreen interface with remote access via smartphone or laptop. The control panel interfaces with an automatic moisture probe. “Apart from having to stop the drier to check belt tensions, receiving an alert on my phone or seeing a flashing light on the control panel telling me that the bearings need greasing, the Mecmar just keeps working,” said Mr Hind.

The S40T Mecmar dryer has a capacity of 40t per hour


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Crop storage & marketing

How to protect your stored grain and preserve profits


rowers and grain store managers can reduce the risk of rejected loads and contract shortfalls thanks to a new Grain Protectant Handbook. More than 90% of farm grain stores harbour at least one species of insect – and last year's challenging harvest makes it important to minimise potential losses caused by pest infestations in grain stores. Published by Envu, the new guide aims to help growers protect stored grain and preserve profit. It includes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods and guides to identifying key pests and insecticide treatments. Despite substantial investments in crop production and protection in the field, many farmers often overlook the importance of good grain storage management, says Envu account manager Ken Black.

Grain weevil “A few rejected loads can quickly erode the overall contract value, leading to further costs. In some cases, loads may not be rescheduled due to a lack of available windows, risking the fulfilment of a contract.” Primary pests like the grain weevil will infest undamaged grains, says Mr Black. Meanwhile, secondary pests, such as the saw-toothed grain beetle, feed on the damaged pieces and dust left behind.

Grain monitoring is essential

“Understanding the lifecycle of grain store pests is crucial to implementing cost-effective and efficient treatments. The guidebook puts that information at growers’ fingertips, alongside practical advice about how to deal with infestations.” Monitoring can detect pests early and enable control through a combination of cooling, cleaning or drying. Pit fall traps, insect monitoring traps or nutfree bait bags are all effective ways to assess insect activity.

Effective trapping Traps are up to ten times more effective than grain sampling at detecting low numbers of pests. Traps should be positioned 4-5 metres apart both on top of the grain surface and 5-10cm below the surface to target different insect and mite species. Traps should be monitored weekly for pests until grain reaches a consistent temperature of 5°C, says the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. They should then be monitored monthly. Record-keeping, either electronically

Pests such as grain weevil will infest undamaged crops

or on paper, will illustrate due diligence and enable changes in grain condition to be readily identified. This can provide an early warning of potential problems “Monitoring is essential,” says Mr Black. “It’s also important to monitor temperature and moisture levels, ideally keeping stores below 13°C and 14.5% moisture for cereals and 7-8% for oilseed rape.” The Grain Protectant Handbook can be downloaded from

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Crop storage & marketing


tips to protect grain stores from rodents

David Reece explains the best way to keep grain store rodents at bay


odent numbers are rising this winter – and could ruin grain stores. But an integrated pest management approach and variety of baits can help prevent infestations from resulting in grain losses and contamination. Rats can thrive in a grain store and multiply quickly, with one breeding pair escalating to 1,250 in a single year. It better and less costly to prevent an infestation in the first place than try to eliminate rodents after they gain a foothold on the farm. Rodenticides are an effective way of controlling an infestation but should

be carefully monitored. A clean and tidy farm will reduce the risk of infestations – and farmers should select bait carefully. With new legislation that prevents the use of rodenticides containing bromadiolone and difenacoum in open areas coming into effect on 4 July 2024, grain store managers should consider baits containing actives such as cholecalciferol or brodifacoum. Over the years, I have come up with seven tips to prevent rodent infestations, which are outlined opposite. David Reece is a pest control specialist for bait supplier Lodi UK.


Make a plan and regularly walk the farm looking for burrows and record where rodent activity is apparent. Understanding areas that rodents are using to access food and water can help make trapping or baiting much more effective.


Just because there are signs of rodents it doesn’t mean that baiting the area will always be totally effective. Regular checks and non-chemical measures such as rodent proofing buildings and other areas can also pay dividends.


Rats do not like open spaces. Reduce their activity by keeping the farm tidy and clear of rubbish. Prevent access to food and water by securely storing feed and repairing dripping taps. This will reduce the likelihood of rats seeking harbourage and breeding.


Rat-proof buildings by ensuring there are no access points for rodents, This will reduce the risk of infestation. Small measures like using mesh smaller than 10mm to cover gaps in grain stores will help to prevent both mice and rats gaining access.


Rats have a fear of new objects (neophobia). Establishing bait boxes at least four weeks ahead of baiting will reduce neophobic behaviour and improve bait take. Placing boxes ahead of time and even adding non-toxic bait can help the boxes become trusted.


When non-chemical methods have been exhausted, rodenticides should be used methodically and carefully. The fastest acting cholecalciferol bait is Harmonix. It can control an infestation in seven days. It is not an anticoagulant so it can be used inside and out. It also poses less threat to non-target species such as birds and other wildlife.

7 Clockwise from top right: New legislation mean some baits will be banned from this summer; Lodi UK technical adviser DavidReece; a clean and tidy farm will reduce the risk of infestations; choose bait station locations carefully and make sure you monitor them regularly

Using a highly palatable bait is a particularly important consideration in grain stores where food is plentiful. Harmonix or Lodi Gems Sapphire both have a highly palatable wheat-based formulation so they are are more appealing to rodents


Crop storage & marketing

Hi-tech facility adds value to grain • High quality crops attract premium • Additional 8,800 tonnes of storage • Facility has 30-year built-in lifespan


future-proof grain processing facility is helping a Bedfordshire estate meet its drying and storage requirements. Farm manager William Haupt worked closely with BDC Systems and Thurlow Nunn Standen (TNS) to design and install the processing plant at Woburn Farms, part of the Bedford Estates, near junction 13 of the M1 motorway. The estate includes 1480ha of arable crops, grass and stewardship. It grows feed and milling wheat, malting barley, milling oats, beans, peas and oilseed – with contract agreements across a further 660ha. The farm previously worked with BDC Systems to install a grain processing plant in 1993. Now 30 years later, it was too small and had worked hard in recent years to handle a larger area and higher output combine harvesters. “The increasing amount of high-quality grain and pressure of completing timely harvests was creating a bottleneck at the dryer,” says Mr Haupt. “We could only store 60% of our grain, forcing harvest sales of the remainder or the need to invest in external storage.

Twin intake system “Storing grain on farm also meant lots of double handling as we utilised multiple smaller buildings across various sites, resulting in inefficient cooling capabilities and high labour costs around handling and monitoring the stored grain.” Before this upgraded installation, Mr Haupt visited another facility designed by BDC Systems. It incorporated a twin intake system over a single large grain pit – giving the ability to switch between crops without needing to stop the plant. The twin intake system also included a wet storage capability. Automated functionality provided by the control panel made it possible to batch dry and clean grain on a contract basis, without having to drop grain into the 32 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

main bunkers.” BDC then introduced TNS to the Woburn Farm team. Working together – and using specialist teams of suppliers and subcontractors – the two companies managed the entire project from design, build and commissioning. Regular site meetings and good communication across the different teams saw TNS complete the new plant in time for harvest 2023. It delivers an additional 8,800 tonnes of storage – excluding a 500t intake capacity. The new plant consists of four Skandia 60tph intake chain and flight conveyors, a Skandia aspirator pre-cleaner, a Zanin rotary drum cleaner – also fitted with a Skandia aspirator – a Svegma 68tph continuous flow drier and two Skandia belt conveyors. Mr Haupt elected to install BDC’s Moisture Monitoring System. All equipment is housed within a specially constructed building which, with roof mounted PV panels, was designed with sustainability in mind. Grain entering the plant follows one route with a drier bypass so it can be taken in and processed through the pre-cleaner and soon to be installed optical sorter, without going through

Top: Woburn Farms' new grain store increases capacity by 8800 tonnes Above right: Skandia intake chain and flight conveyors Above left: Svegma 68tph continuous flow drier

It's helping maximise our return

the drier. The drier feed conveyor overflows back to the intake.

Different routes The grain can take different routes from the dryer or cleaner – into storage or to bulk out on a Skandia chain and flight conveyor. All routes from the drier can include the Zanin rotary drum cleaner. “We are installing the optical sorter so that we have the capability to remove any ergot from grain, which adds value to the site,” says Mr Haupt. The plant has been designed with a 30-year lifespan and a return on investment through efficiency gains and increased marketing strength within 20 years. But Mr Haupt believes that the optical sorter will deliver a return in five years. Because the farm can now clean and dress grain to ensure it meet exact market specifications, a larger percentage of its combinable crops are worth more and attracting a premium. Working with BDC and TNS has allowed Woburn Farms to benefit from a future-proofed grain processing plant that allows us to set and achieve the highest standards of grain handling and storage for both the farmed estate and its clients, says Mr Haupt.

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Grain export port supports running event


ort operator Associated British Ports has announced the expansion of its support for local communities by sponsoring the Ipswich Twilight 5K running event. ABP handles more than 4 million tonnes of agribulk materials each year – including agricultural materials, combinable crops, fertiliser, feed and supplements. Ipswich is the UK’s leading grain export port. Scheduled for Saturday 11 May 2024, the Ipswich Twilight 5K is organised by the Ipswich JAFFA Running Club. Returning this year after skipping 2023, it encourages entries from runners of all levels and abilities. Consisting of two races on a flat town centre course, the series includes two events – a 5K and 10K race, with the former following a looped two-lap course around Ipswich Waterfront and including ABP port estate which is usually inaccessible to the public.

Involvement with the Ipswich Twilight 5k means ABP will be supporting five running events close to its port locations in 2024. Others include Cleethorpes, Southampton, Newport and Cardiff. ABP’s extended support for the Ipswich Twilight 5K aligns with its commitment to fostering community wellbeing and encouraging an active lifestyle, said Rob Page, the company's divisional project manager. “We are thrilled to contribute to the return of this fantastic event. As a company deeply rooted in the communities we serve, we understand the im-

portance of supporting initiatives that promote health, wellbeing and community spirit.” Together with its customers, ABP's East Anglian ports of King’s Lynn, Ipswich and Lowestoft contribute a total of £360m to the regional and national economy every year, supporting 5,300 jobs. Ipswich JAFFA Running Club president Clive Sparks said: “The event not only celebrates athleticism but also strengthens the bonds within Ipswich as a free spectator event.” For details and to enter the race, visit

Winning team: Rob Page (ABP), Rachael Page and Clive Sparkes (both Ipswich JAFFA Running Club), Clare Flatt and Andy Constable (both ABP). Photo credit: ABP


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Pink grain dryer helps fight breast cancer


pink-painted grain dryer is raising money for charity – thanks to East Anglian crop handling and drying specialists Master Farm Services. Usually painted red, Pedrotti Master Dryers can handle wheat, barley, oilseed rape, maize, beans and peas – among other combinable crops. The Italian company has agreed to paint one of its mobile dryers pink – and profits will be donated to Breast Cancer UK. Pedrotti manufactures a large range of mobile dryers for farmers and contractors. With a strong track record, all are designed to meet today’s stringent drying requirements and incorporate CE safety features.

ple know someone affected by breast cancer, whether its in your family or a friend. Pedrotti were only too happy to help.” With 15 basic capacities and specifications to meet individual requirements, the Pedrotti Master Dryer is suitable for most applications – with retractable screen (RS) models offering complete mobility from farm to farm. The pink dryer will be on display when Master Farm Services hosts its own open

days on 6-7 March at Bures Park, Bures, Suffolk. All mobile dryers sold on either day will be discounted by £1000, said Mr Ingram. But the open days are not just about selling dryers. It will be a social event and will include food and drink – as well as fun activities, including axe-throwing, archery and airsoft target shooting. “ Everyone is welcome and hopefully we can make a difference to a worthy charity organisation.

Good cause “We painted a few driers black for our 40th anniversary in 2018 – and we wanted to do something different again this year,” said Master Farm Services managing director Garry Ingram. “So we asked Pedrotti if they would help us raise money for breast cancer. “We're potentially talking about thousands of pounds for charity – and most peo-


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Remain vigilant for bluetongue virus as spring draws nearer • More than 50 cases of the virus confirmed in Norfolk and Suffolk • Midges to become more active


ivestock producers are urged to remain vigilant for bluetongue with more than 50 cases of the virus now confirmed in southern and eastern England. Defra said there was still no evidence that bluetongue was circulating in midges in Great Britain. But surveillance remains ongoing with the number of cases reaching 53 in Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent by mid-January. More than 400 farmers gathered to discuss the situation at a special emergency meeting convened by the NFU and attended by Defra officials on 15 January at Dunston Hall, south of Norwich. Three days later, a case of bluetongue was confirmed in a cow grazing the Norfolk temporary control zone designed to curtail spread of the virus. The positive animal was humanely culled to minimise the risk of onward transmission.

Restrictions Defra said the control zone was not being extended but movement restrictions would continue to apply to cattle, sheep, deer, camelids and other ruminants in the zone. It followed a case of bluetongue in cattle on 12 January near Limpenhoe. UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss urged farmers to remain vigilant for the virus – which was first identified in November through Great Britain’s annual bluetongue surveillance programme. Although it does not affect humans, bluetongue is a notifiable disease – which means livestock producers must report any suspected cases of the virus to the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Surveillance Ms Middlemiss said: “Bluetongue does not pose a threat to human health or

Midges will become more active as spring weather gets warmer

The disease remains a threat

food safety, but the disease can impact livestock farms, and cause productivity issues. “These detections are an example of our robust disease surveillance procedures in action and it is also a clear reminder for farmers that the disease remains a threat, despite coming towards the end of the midge activity season. The virus is transmitted by midge bites and affects cows, goats, sheep and other camelids such as llamas. The midges are most active between April and November and not all susceptible animals show immediate, or any, signs of contracting the virus.”

Reduced yield The impacts on susceptible animals

can vary greatly – some show no symptoms or effects at all while for others it can cause productivity issues such as reduced milk yield, while in the most severe cases can be fatal for infected animals. Strict rules on the movement of livestock from regions affected by bluetongue are already in place. Following confirmation of BTV in a non-imported animal in England, some trading partners may restrict exports of bluetongue susceptible animals. Farmers are reminded that animals imported from these regions must be accompanied by relevant paperwork to clearly show they meet certain conditions designed to reduce disease risk, such as correct vaccination.

Defra issues bluetongue guidance Bluetongue affects ruminant livestock – including sheep, cattle, deer and goats; as well as camelids such as llamas and alpacas. It can also affect dogs and other carnivores if they eat infected material – although this is rare. The virus causes productivity issues and can be fatal. Although it does not affect people or food safety, outbreaks can result in prolonged animal movement and trade restrictions, including on imports and exports. A number of different types (serotypes) of

bluetongue are circulating in Europe. They include BTV-1, BTV-3, BTV-4 and BTV-8. The BTV-3 serotype has been found in Kent and Norfolk. To minimise the spread of disease, Defra has placed 10km temporary control zones around premises with infected animals. It says the TCZ may be extended if further cases are identified. Suspected cases must be reported immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301. For further information, visit guidance/bluetongue FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 37

Livestock & Animal health

Producers face no respite from livestock challenges this winter Call for unity to combat animal disease


heep farmers are losing 10-25% of early lambs this season to Schmallenberg disease, suggest initial reports. Scanners are reporting dead lambs inside ewes – adding to challenges which already include bluetongue virus, winter storms and flooding due to extreme weather, says the National Sheep Association. NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Ongoing concerns regarding two impactful and devastating diseases are cause for worry among sheep farmers in several parts of the country. “Bluetongue was grabbing most of the headlines at end of 2023 – being seen as a big risk for the future. But seemingly out of nowhere came Schmallenberg affecting an increasing number of sheep farms across many English regions.”

Disease impact Schmallenberg virus causes congenital malformations and stillbirths in cattle, sheep and goats. Animals seem to develop immunity, making it a relatively low impact disease. But it can have a significant impact in some flocks and herds. Anecdotal evidence from sheep scanners and the Animal and Plant Health Agency suggest Schmallenberg cases are “quite serious” this season, said Mr Stocker. Early lambers were losing 10-25% of lambs in some cases. With some farmers already feel under pressure, the is urging the farming com-

munity to offer support where possible to those currently dealing with distressing cases of Schmallenberg or bluetongue amongst their flocks.

United front Mild autumn and winter weather has seen bluetongue continue to be found in cattle and sheep on farms in southern and eastern England – with more than 50 cases of the virus confirmed in Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk (see page 39). Calling for unity across the sector, Mr Stocker said: “This is not a time for various organisations to be doing their own thing and in my mind it makes sense to work together for the benefit of the entire livestock industry.” Mr Stocker said the association was aware of a number of sheep farmers with animals caught up within temporary control zones – unable to return home for either lambing or further finishing. The association was asking anyone who found themselves in this position to contact its head office, which would try to provide contacts who could help with housing, lambing, or feeding sheep that may be stranded. Get in touch Mr Stocker said: “We cannot promise anything but we are very prepared to use our networks and contacts to help where we can so please do get in touch with the associa-

tion and we will try to help” NSA spokeswoman Katie James said there had been few times in recent years where animal disease had been so worrying. “It is especially important to check in with those close to you who may be potentially affected.” The farming community was fortunate to be supported by a number of charities which could offer specialised help. The NSA would encourage anyone struggling at this time to reach out to one of these and not to suffer alone, said Ms James. To reach out for support, call Farming Help on 03000 111999 (7am-11pm) daily or visit get-support.

Silage performance 'slow' for maize


aize coming out of clamps this winter is yielding good volume – but performance is disappointing, say analysts. Taken at face value, results for 2023 maize silage look similar to 2022, says Bruce Forshaw, product manager for forage experts ForFarmers. But closer scrutiny has revealed some important differences. Dry matter is slightly higher for 2023 but the energy available for milk production is lower, says Mr Forshaw. Rapidly fermentable carbohydrate levels are also lower for 2023 with a higher fibre content leading to a lower acid load. “Overall pH is slightly higher for 2023 too which generally means that 38 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

silage could be less stable. Meanwhile lactic acid is lower, which isn’t ideal either as it helps to aid the fermentation process and the aerobic stability of the silage.” Starch in maize is often more available in the rumen after Christmas because it has been in the clamp for a few months, says Mr Forshaw. But it’s important to remember this year that the level of bypass starch was higher to start with “In effect, we are starting further back and diets may still benefit from different sources of rapidly fermentable carbohydrate in the diet,” says Mr Forshaw. In summary results are showing good volume but their performance in the rumen is slow.

Silage should be analysed so rations can be properly formulated

“As always, our advice to farmers is to have their individual silages analysed so that rations can be tailor-made to avoid and nutritional deficiencies or overfeeding.”

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Farmers warned over ‘later than normal’ liver fluke • Risk could take farmers unaware • Advice to test throughout season • Consult your farm vet or adviser


nusual weather patterns are having a big impact on the risk of liver fluke across the UK, say livestock experts. The level and timing of the disease risk is becoming later with the first losses last year no reported until late November, according to the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) and Control of Cattle Parasites Sustainable (COWS) groups. Experts say the dry cold spring, hot early summer and extremely wet July and August – followed by a mini-heatwave in early September and heavy rain throughout the autumn and early winter – all contributed to the disease picture. Rudolf Reichel, of the Animal and Plant Health Agency, said: “There was little evidence of liver fluke activity in the autumn, but towards the end of the year we started to get reports from abattoirs and private post mortem providers of acute fluke cases. He added: “This was mirrored by other laboratories across the country and, while overall numbers of cases are not high, this does represent a significant increase in recent weeks.” John Graham-Brown, of the Na-

tional Animal Disease Information Service, said the delayed threat raised the prospect that some farmers could get caught out – either treating too early or thinking they were safe from the disease altogether. Philip Skuce, from the Moredun Research Institute, has similar concerns. Rather than being lulled into a false sense of security, he urges farmers to continue testing for liver fluke during early 2024. “Flukicides do not have any residual activity, which means there is no protection for treated livestock if they meet a challenge from fluke later in the season. The risks are so farm-specific this year that the only way to avoid potential losses is to keep testing.” Rebecca Mearns, of the Sheep Veterinary Society, said: “Until quite recently, most samples were negative. Do not rely on an early negative test. If you keep livestock, you need to keep testing throughout the season.”

Abattoirs started reporting acute fluke cases at the end of last year

Keep testing to avoid losses

Faecal testing Diana Williams, of Liverpool university, said: “During January and February, when we would expect adult flukes to be present in the livers of infected

livestock, we can also use faecal testing methods.” Dung samples can be tested for an antigen produced by the liver fluke (coproantigen) and of course the detection of fluke eggs is also a valuable tool. Ask your vet or adviser which test is most appropriate for your farm and never rely on a single negative test. Professor Williams said: “The only test that can be used with pooled samples is the faecal egg count. This is because the sensitivity of a pooled test is much lower and may give a negative result even though one or more animals are positive. “For faecal egg counts the whole pooled sample is processed, so the sensitivity remains comparable with testing individual samples. For blood tests and copro-antigen tests, individual samples should be tested.”

Calf health applications 'now being assessed'


efra says it is assessing applications for its Calf Housing for Health and Welfare grant. The grant – which funds calf housing buildings to improve health and welfare – closed at the end of November. In an update, Defra officials said applications from farmers were now being assessed. Grants are a part of the government's Animal Health and Welfare Pathway – helping to deliver agreed health and welfare priorities for the cattle sector. The pathway is a partnership between Defra, farmers, vets and the wider industry, irt said. “The pathway is a critical part of

the farming reforms set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan, delivering benefits for animal health and welfare, farm productivity, food security, public health, UK trade and the environment.” As the Basic Payment Scheme is phased out, the government said it was reinvesting some of the money saved to support the production of healthier, higher welfare animals. “We are providing incentives for farmers to go above the regulatory baseline and rewarding higher animal health and welfare on the farm. We are focusing on improvements which are valued by the public but not sufficiently delivered by the market.”

Grants have been available to fund buildings that can improve calf health and welfare FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 41

Animal health

Optimise flock performance ahead of spring lambing


ood ewe nutrition is helping to boost colostrum quality, milk production and flock health ahead of lambing. Feed blocks containing essential trace elements, vitamins, and minerals are also bolstering youngstock development and immunity while promote the vitality and vigor of newborn lambs and ewes. “Supplementation is especially important in the final six weeks of pregnancy through to the first four weeks of lactation,” says Alison Bond, nutritionist for Rumenc Bond, which manufactures Lifeline Lamb & Ewe in a 14inch hard-pressed feed block.

Energy requirements “Ewes are under a lot of stress as large amounts of nutrients from their diet are partitioned to rapid foetal development, colostrum production and eventually lactation – increasing their protein and energy requirements and doubling them when carrying twins.” Supplements give farmers more feeding options for boosting future flock performance in the weeks ahead of lambing – helping producers to optimise nutrition and make better use of available resources. Independent trials by SAC found that the blocks increase colostrum quality by 25% over a standard energy supplement when fed six weeks pre-lambing – helping newborn lambs combat bacterial and viral infections. Dr Bond says the increase in colostrum quality can be attributed to the well-balanced combination of nutrients in the pre-lambing supplement – helping to ensure protein makes it through the rumen. Zinc formulations can further boosts flock health and performance. A highly available, organic zinc, Zinpro Availa Zn is far more metabolically available, leading to greater absorption in the small intestine – increasing utilisation, says Dr Bond. Feeding calcium Support pre-lambing ewes with additional calcium can also bring benefits, says Emily Hall, livestock farmer and product manager for Nettex. The nutritional imbalance caused by the unavailability of metabolisable calcium is most often seen in the final weeks of pregnancy as ewes are put un42 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

Feeding blocks (main picture) can boost flocks ahead of lambing while feeding calcium (inset) can help keep ewes in top condition

der significant nutritional stress due to accelerated foetal growth. “Calcium deficiency in ewes most commonly occurs when the sudden increase in demand of calcium for colostrum production and lamb growth exceeds the ability of the body to quickly mobilise calcium from the bone.” The condition is most frequently seen in the last four weeks of pregnancy – although it can be seen during oth-

How to reduce risk of calcium deficiency Calcium deficiency is tricky to identify due to the clinical signs and causes being similar to twin lamb disease. “Calcium deficiency and twin lamb disease occur at similar times, making the two difficult to distinguish.," says Emily Hall. A blood test would confirm a diagnosis. But tests take time and for any treatment to be effective it must be given at the first signs of disease. Because waiting for blood sample diagnostics would make intervention too late, Ms Hall advises farmers to take a belt and braces approach and treat ewes for both calcium deficiency and twin lamb disease. Producers should also feed a high-energy supplement. Formulated with multiple energy sources, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, good supplements can give ewes a fast energy boost to aid recovery from exhaustion. “Because there are so many uncontrollable variables that can trigger calcium deficiency and twin lamb disease in ewes, it’s worth producers having product on hand to administer as soon as they see a ewe demonstrating clinical signs of either problem.”

er times when animals are stressed. Signs include coma, paralysis, rapid breathing, tremors, uncoordinated movements and can be fatal. Older multiple-bearing ewes are highest at risk. But other factors can trigger calcium deficiency in healthy ewes. These include nutrient deficiencies, sudden diet changes close to lambing and excessive stress caused by overhandling and dog worrying.

Quick recovery Feeding high levels of calcium in a pre-lambing diet can increase risk because it interferes with the ewe's ability to mobilise calcium from bone. “If a calcium deficiency is identified or suspected, and prompt supplementation with a bioavailable calcium source is required, ewes should recover within an hour of calcium supplementation,” says Ms Hall. CalciEwe+ is a calcium drench with added energy, magnesium and niacin to support recovery after pre-lambing exhaustion. Available in a 500ml bottle with an applicator tube, 100ml should be administered orally at the first signs of calcium deficiency. “The high level of bioavailable calcium will help support ewes suffering from calcium deficiency. In a case where a ewe still appears to be lethargic after eight hours, an additional 100ml should be administered,” says Ms Hall.

Targeted TMR blend lifts productivity and reduces labour


witching to a Total Mixed Ration (TMR) has delivered significant benefits for flock health and efficiency. Scottish sheep producer Jack Shaw is gradually increasing his sheep flock from 200 to 800 ewes over a five-year period. He has also moved from a hill-based system to low-ground grazing at Lochfer Farm, of Inverdunning Farms, in Bridge of Allan. Mr Shaw's most recent focus has shifted towards improving in flock nutrition. The sheep operation at Lochfer currently consists of 550 breeding ewes, although this has been increased, with 800 due to be lambing in March 2024. The flock is made up of Scottish Mules and Texel Cross ewes, with

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Texel and Beltex being the breed of choice for tups. A Texel tup is used over Mule ewes with any ewe lambs kept for replacements, and the resulting cross put back to a Beltex tup. Having scanned at 210% last year, nutrition management was key. Ewes are brought inside eight weeks prior to lambing – with sufficient space for ewes to be split into feeding groups, allowing for a TMR to be tailored to each group. Working with animal nutrition specialists East Coast Viners, the farm trialled a series of blends and pellets until they found a formula with great results. “We changed to a blend form of ration, and it worked almost perfectly. Very quickly we found that feeding the TMR was a less stressful experience for

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A total mixed ration is tailored to each group of ewes

the ewes as having adequate feeding space for each pen meant there was less fighting with ewes having constant access to their mix. “It also proved to be a lot less labour intensive. I found I could feed the 600 ewes in an hour in the morning, allowing me more time in the day to get on with everything else, which was a great help once lambing really kicked off.”





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Pig health

Vaccine for swine dysentery is 'within reach' – scientists


esearchers say they are a step closer to a vaccine for swine dysentery – the devastating bacterial disease which causes severe losses and piglet mortality. Swine dysentery causes damage to the enteric system of pigs, resulting in severe diarrhoea and weight loss. Although not a notifiable disease, producers are encouraged to report cases to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Canada are optimistic that a vaccine is within their reach. They are using DNA sequencing technology to investigate the disease mechanism of swine dysentery. Led by Matheus Costa at the WCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Saskatchewan University, the team is focused on Brachyspira bacteria, the culprit behind swine dysentery. Brachyspira infects a pig’s large in-

testine and causes lesions, which results in watery or mucoid diarrhoea — often with traces of blood. As the affected pigs get sick, they lose their appetites and become dehydrated and thin. “If we understand exactly how Brachyspira infection leads to swine dysentery, we’ll have a better chance at making a vaccine that works,” says Dr Costsa. “We’ll also get a better chance to develop other tools – non-antibiotic alternatives that will prevent disease.”

Antibodies One ongoing project for understanding the disease mechanism is investigating the pathway by which Brachyspira affects the response of B cells — the cells responsible for producing antibodies. Since vaccines are typically aimed at stimulating B cells to produce these antibodies and the scientists have learned that Brachyspira affects B

Swine dysentery is devastating – and so far there is no vaccine

We're better placed to develop a vaccine

cell activation, they’re looking for a different approach to developing vaccines for swine dysentery. “Now, we have much better methods, and we understand the molecular changes that happen in the colon and the pig in general. So, we’re in a better place to develop a vaccine that will be efficient and that will protect pigs, or at least prevent severe disease.” The AHDB says biosecurity is key to prevent and control swine dysentery. Producers should watch out for clinical signs and report them immediately and join the AHDB Significant Diseases Charter to be notified of any local outbreaks.

Enzyme shows potential for reduction in feed costs


ncluding a feed enzyme in pig diets has good potential for substantial reductions in costs while maintaining pig performance, suggests a trial. The research spanning from January to July 2023, independently led by Harper Adams University, revealed how the enzyme is capable of consistently supporting pig performance in both post-weaning and grower-finisher diets. Conducted across two consecutive batches, each consisting of 216 piglets, split equally into a control group and a group receiving the feed additive, the trial aimed to demonstrate the efficacy of Hemicell XT, especially in diets with reduced energy content.

Energy and protein Frédéric Vangroenweghe, principal technical advisor for nutritional health at Elanco, said researchers investigated incorporating 133 g/t of Hemicell XT into the ration, with dietary net energy reduced by 40 kcal/

kg feed, to show its impact in comparison with the control. The enzyme is used to break down beta-mannans, a type of polysaccharide found in the cell walls of plants, which are prevalent in many raw materials used in pig diets, and can have a detrimental effect on performance. This means the gut immunity perceives the beta-mannans as foreign invaders, triggering a feed induced immune response, which can be energetically costly and can divert energy away from growth and productivity. “Incorporating Hemicell XT into the ration helps ensure energy and protein are used for pig growth, rather than being directed to the unnecessary immune response,” explains Dr Vangroenweghe. “The overall effect of the enzyme on post-weaning pig performance is evident in average weight gain, whereby both the control and treated group reached the same end weights, despite the Hemicell XT group

The enzyme helps ensure healthy pig growth, says Frédéric Vangroenweghe

having 40 kcal/kg less energy in their feed.” The findings could have a significant benefit for pig production. Dr Vangroenweghe says 40 kcal equates to around a £4-5 per tonne net profit including the cost of the enzyme. "Scaled up to 100 pigs, this offers a significant return on investment.” FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 45

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Animal health

Guidance highlights need for clean feed storage


ew guidance to reduce the risk of animal disease from stored livestock feed has been published by Defra. The guidance emphasises the pivotal role of regular and thorough cleaning in maintaining livestock health

and productivity. It also stresses the significance of cleansing feed storage areas, containers and equipment. Defra said the overarching goal was to prevent unnecessary contamination and decrease the likelihood of diseases outbreaks on livestock units. Feed

Cleanliness is next to godliness when storing feed

storage facilities should be regularly cleaned – including silos, floors, bays, and bins. Neglecting this may risk remnants of old feed becoming lodged in joints, grooves, and crevices. Feed spoilage could affect livestock productivity and cause illness due to mould and contaminants. For farmers whose feed storage infrastructure predates August 1996, Defra recommends the decommissioning and replacement of feed silos. This precautionary measure aims to reduce the potential risk of BSE.

Thorough cleaning In cases where replacement is not feasible, a thorough cleaning, both inside and out, is highly recommended at the earliest opportunity to eliminate any remnants of old feed. Dry or vacuum cleaning methods are preferred, followed by the use of disinfectant. In instances where deep cleaning poses a challenge, engaging the services of a professional cleaning provider is suggested. Even a minuscule amount of contaminated feed could transmit the BSE agent to an animal, said Defra. While cases of classical BSE have become rare due to the ban on animal proteins in livestock feed since 1996, occasional instances still occur – with stringent controls still in place to protect both animals and consumers. For full details, please visit www.

Monitoring support to aid herd health planning


to outline the basics of the monitoring technology to the farmer and any relevant staff alongside identifying the farm’s key goals.

Three phases “No two farming systems are the same, and no two dairy herds have identical requirements in terms of heat, health and wellbeing monitoring,” explains MSD Animal Health regional veterinary advisor Liz Cresswell. The new service is made up of three main phases The first phase combines an initial session after a new SenseHub Dairy system has been installed

Parameters Held within three months, the second session familiarises vets with the system and identifies key parameters and insights that will help them to address any specific herd challenges and problems encountered. Finally, a third session sets joint goals and actions to focus on optimising herd performance by maximising the efficient use of data collection and its subsequent analysis. Dr Cresswell said. “Data collated and analysed by SenseHub can provide a wealth of useful insights into how the dairy herd is performing, but many farmers and vets are only using the system’s most basic features.

bespoke training service aims to help dairy farmers and their vets improve herd health and reproduction planning by better monitoring. The new MSD Animal Health Insights service will provide practical information training – delivered by an veterinary advisor – based on the needs of individual dairy herds, farmers and their managers.

Data from the system is analysed to improve herd health

“The next logical step is therefore for us to empower farmers with additional resources so that they can get the best results from their investment in herd monitoring. We also want to enable farm vets to confidently use the realtime data generated.” FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 47


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Carbon farming Low carbon extravaganza for sustainable agriculture Show puts focus on net zero and farming


rofitable planet-friendly farming will be in the spotlight at next month's Low Carbon Agriculture show which takes place on 6-7 March. Organisers and exhibitors are putting the finishing touches to the two day event which is expected to attract thousands of growers and livestock producers to the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. The show combines four events in one – focusing on Energy Now, Environmental Business, Farm Technology and Low Emission Vehicles – with a big focus on net zero and sustainable agriculture. Experts will be on hand to help guide farmers and landowners through the energy, environmental, and farming transition – away from fossil fuels and towards more renewable sources of power.

Critical role Event founder and organiser David Jacobmeyer said: “Interest in information about sustainable practices and plans in farming has never been higher and we’re excited to see this event grow each and every year. "The farming community has a critical role to play in reaching net zero, and there is a growing need for farmers, landowners, tech companies and suppliers to come together to find ways to boost production sustainably while helping to address climate change.” The event is free to attend. Visitors will be able to network with other progressive farmers, agricultural professionals, and industry leaders actively seeking innovative carbon-reduction solutions. More than 100 speakers will address topics that will help tackle climate change through the generation of renewable energy, the implementation of low carbon technologies and best practice in both environmental and energy management. Renewable energy, for example, can

help keep a lid on farm costs – with technologies such as solar PV providing power more cheaply than traditional alternatives with a reasonable return on capital investment. Event partners include the NFU and the Country Land and Business Association. Experts will provide insight and guidance on environmental best practice, regenerative farming, the integration of low carbon technologies and government policy.

Thousands of visitors are expected to attend the twoday show

It's an ideal opportunity for farmers

NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said: “At a time when food and energy security are rightly high on everyone’s minds, the show provides targeted support for producing climate-friendly food, energy and fibre. “It is an ideal opportunity for farmers to come together to explore opportunities and build resilient businesses.” For full details, visit

Milestone report for carbon accounting standards


ong-awaited guidance on standards for carbon reporting by farmers has been published after a government review. The new report – Harmonisation of Carbon Accounting Tools for Agriculture – highlights the need for greater accuracy from carbon calculation tools and suggests compliance standards when carrying out on-farm carbon assessments. The food and farming sectors have long sought guidance for on-farm carbon reporting, which is currently unregulated. Some 81 global carbon calculators were reviewed, with the report analysing in detail the six most relevant for UK farming. The document says the poor alignment of old tools to modern standards is restricting the ability of farmers to generate revenue by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. incentives and requirements around emissions reduction. It recommends using tools that present relia-

ble data, in line with ISO standards 14064:2 and 14067 and the draft GHG Protocol Land Sector and Removals guidance which is supportive of the Science Based Targets initiative. Emily Pope, managing director of knowledge and collaboration at natural capital software company Trinity AgTech, said she was optimistic about the impact of the report, which denoted clear minimum standards for carbon accounting tools. Dr Pope said: “Most businesses currently doing carbon accounting in the UK rely on old tools that adhere to outdated standards, such as PAS2050:2011 – or methods that do not adhere to a recognised standard or protocol. “These tools fail to represent the complexity of modern agriculture. That’s why this report was so desperately needed, businesses need to understand which standards to align to and which software achieves these standards.” FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 49

Carbon farming

'Our livestock farm is good for the planet' • Farm business is carbon negative • Good for livestock and environment • Rotational grazing and herbal leys


n Essex farming couple says embracing regenerative farming methods is proving good for their livestock enterprise as well as for the environment. Husband-and-wife team Sam and Kate Squier are the driving force behind Humphreys Farm, at Great Waltham, near Chelmsford. They rear quality beef using a system which includes rotational grazing and herbal leys. Cattle at Humphreys Farm follow a routine of twice-a-day rotation in small, concentrated groups, grazing on the herb-rich grasslands. But the farm's commitment to sustainability extends beyond livestock management – there is public engagement too. Mr Squier says “It is great to see how much interest there is from the public. We regularly get 30 to 40 people on our farm walks, with people asking questions about things like carbon

sequestration. "Roots in the soil are actively capturing and storing harmful carbon dioxide, rendering the farm carbon negative. This means that the farm removes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it produces." The positive impact of these practices isn't limited to carbon reduction – it has also led to a notable increase in biodiversity across the 78ha farm. The health of the farm's 60 Aberdeen and Wagyu breeding cows has improved too.

Accolade Recognition for their efforts came earlier this year when Humphreys Farm received the VetPartners Sustainable Beef Farm of the Year award. Chelmsford-based vet Mia Ellis nominated the farm for this accolade. Cattle are often in the firing line for their impact on the environment

This is how we want to farm

and their methane emissions. But Mr Squier believes the couple's approach shows that responsible livestock farming can be part of the solution to the climate crisis. “I think the general perception of livestock farmers and their impact on the environment isn’t fair. With the right farming system in place, livestock farmers can make a really positive impact and I think we and, many other farmers, are showing that.” Mr Squier also believes that a collaborative effort within the farming community industry can meet NFU's voluntary target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture across England and Wales by 2040. In addition to their achievements, the Squiers have adopted a local approach to selling their produce. All beef and free-range turkeys is sold direct to customers and to two local pubs, minimising food miles and reducing the farm's environmental footprint.

FarmED course Mr Squier's journey into the environmental farming system began with a short video on grazing herbal leys, leading him to complete a 14-day course at FarmED, a farming and food education center in the Cotswolds. “I knew straight away this is how I want to farm. I’ve been a farmer for 50 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

Left to right: Sam and Kate Squier: sustainability and public engagement 'Giving nature a chance' Regenerative methods have improved the health of the farm's cattle Below left: Rotational grazing on the herb-rich grasslands

22 years and the last few years have by far been the most enjoyable. We decided to not make every business decision based on the bottom line, but to look at the bigger picture.” By 2018, herbal leys had replaced arable cropping entirely under a Countryside Stewardship Scheme, supported by grant-funded fencing and water system for grazing livestock. Mr Squier says: “That has actually made the business more profitable. The farming system means the farm is more drought resistant and we have no need for fertilisers. Vet fees have also been reduced as the cows are much healthier. “There is some amazing work being done out there. It is so satisfying to see the impact of the changes we’ve made. I find it mind-blowing to see how quickly nature can regenerate if you give it the chance. “It gives me a lot of hope for the future of environmental farming. I think there are lots of opportunities for young people with fresh ideas to join the farming industry. “There will always be challenges that come along but there is a lot to be positive about.”

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Carbon farming

How to generate farm income from carbon credits and nature • Help to understand nature markets • Carbon and biodiversity net gain • Improvements from environment


armers can find out how to generate income from carbon credits thanks to a new online toolkit launched by the Green Finance Institute (GFI). The Defra-supported free toolkit sets out to help farmers understand nature markets – including biodiversity net gain and nutrient neutrality as well as carbon credits – and how they offer an opportunity for farmers to diversify revenue streams. The goal is to help farmers attract private sector finance to pay for improvements to the natural environment as well as support them with their eligibility for the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF).

'Huge opportunity' With farms accounting for 70% of the land in the UK, the GFI described nature markets as a huge opportunity for farmers to generate revenue from environmental improvements. Some 11% of UK net greenhouse gas emissions were from agriculture, it added.

One third round NEIRF funding was available exclusively to farmers – and farmers were the custodians of the countryside, managing 70% of land and are on the frontline of delivering environmental benefits. Green finance minister Lord Benyon (right) said: “We are committed to targeting at least £500 million of private investment for nature recovery in England each year by 2027, rising to at least £1 billion each year by 2030, and farmers will be key in delivering this. “This toolkit will be a valuable resource to give farmers the information they need to develop their understanding of nature markets, providing them new opportunities to be paid for environmental outcomes and contributing to a thriving and sustainable agricultural sector.”

'Invaluable resource' NEIRF programme manager Andy Slaney said trying to generate nature markets could feel daunting. “We want nature markets to help the farming community transition to a sustainable state, this toolkit will help anyone embarking on that journey. “This pioneering GFI Farming Toolkit is an invaluable resource for the farming community when considering how to enhance nature and improve the climate resilience of their businesses while seeking to maintain a suitable income.” Tenant Farmers Association chief

executive George Dunn said it was vital that farmers were fairly rewarded for their work in delivering environmental benefits and the management of natural capital on their land. “In most cases, food markets and other markets for agricultural produce do not routinely factor in the environmental management costs involved. To date, farmers have been rewarded, to some extent through public funding but it is now good to see private markets being developed.” For full details, visit

Help to navigate 'complex' developing market Farming organisation have welcomed the Green Finance Institute toolkit launch, saying it will help navigate what can be a complex developing market. Sue Pritchard, chief executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said: “Our research shows that farmers want he government to put the guardrails in place for a well-regulated, sophisticated and fair market in which they can operate with confidence.” The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, said the voluntary carbon market currently available to farmers was still developing, requiring consistent and comparable standards, and offering lower financial gains than the compulsory market. “As an evidence-based organisation, [we] understand the need for independently verified evidence and data to enable farmers to make informed decisions. The Farming Toolkit offers impartial and comprehensive information on nature markets.” Farmer and Oxbury Bank co-founder Tim Coates said: “All farmers must be supported and empowered to enter nature markets in order to receive the just rewards for their land stewardship and the provision of ecosystem services on which we all depend.” The toolkit would enable widespread adoption of nature-based solutions and income in farming businesses across the country alongside the traditional markets of food, fibre and timber – whether based on carbon, biodiversity, nutrient quality or natural flood management.

Farmers have a key role in looking after important landscapes 52 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024


Carbon farming

Carbon-friendly farming 'is all about balance' • Builds on Green Horizons initiative • Focus on customers and company • Targets include soil management


new strategy from agronomy company Agrii aims to help farmers maximise productivity in a way which is good for the environment. The new drive builds on the company's Green Horizons initiative, which was introduced three years ago. It brings together the three key areas of people, planet and profit to ensure all Agrii agronomy services have sustainability at their heart. "We believe delivering sustainability and greater resilience within agriculture and the wider food supply chain is about much more than simply protecting the environment," says Agrii sustainability and environmental services manager Amy Watkins. "Increasingly, it revolves around using all our collective knowledge, efforts and energy to take the industry to new levels of efficiency and develop a safe and stable production base for future generations to build on. Ms Watkins said achieving this goal would involve better food security, lower greenhouse gas emissions, enhanced biodiversity, replenished water resources and reduced waste. “That is precisely what our strategy aims to do,” she said.

Land use "Ultimately, it’s all about creating a balance. With increasing pressure to maximise crop production, sequester carbon and restore biodiversity levels, the demands on land use have never been greater. "Like every other business in the supply chain, we have a responsibility to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change and feed a growing population, but unlike many other sectors, agriculture is also the solution to many of these global challenges. "Sustainability must remain front and centre of all future decision making and our aim is to fast-track the process by bringing together all our 54 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

research and development – and channelling it into practical advice and solutions on-farm."

Productivity gains The primary goal within the Agrii sustainability strategy is to ensure both the company and its customers are maximising productivity in a way that is considerate to the environment they operate in, said Ms Watkins. Short-term aims include best practice sustainable farming methods. This includes identifying top crop options, investing in innovation crops and alternative proteins and exploring opportunities to reduce greenhouse has emissions. Medium-term focus includes making soil a key part of decision-making on-farm, helping growers increase nitrogen use efficiency of crops by 20% by 2030 and reducing emissions across the value chain by 32.5% by 2032, from our 2019 baseline. Increasing efficiency Within Agrii's operation itself, key targets revolve around health and safety, reducing waste, improving recycling, reducing GHG emissions and ensuring all staff are trained fully in delivering greater sustainability across the organisation, explained Ms Watkins. "Ultimately, we want to work

Competing demands on land use have seldom been greater Below: Cover crops help sequester carbon and boost productivity, says Amy Watkins

towards being net zero across all our business operations and our value chain by 2050 and we're making significant progress in several areas.” The company had already eliminated its Scope 2 emissions, she added. "These are the indirect GHG emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heat, or cooling and we've eliminated them across the operation through the installation and sourcing of renewable energy across all our sites.

Electric vehicles "Most of our business reductions by 2032 will come from Scope 1 emissions – direct emissions that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organisation, with areas of target including our fleet and logistics emissions.” This will involve increasing the proportion of electric and hybrid vehicles and utilising alternative fuel sources such as hydrated vegetable oils for our logistics fleet, which have proven lower emissions than diesel. Agrii already operates 32 all-electric commercial vehicles. "We have achieved major milestones in recent years, both in terms of helping our customers achieve greater sustainability and within the company itself, and our defined sustainability strategy will only accelerate this process in the years ahead."

Professional services Update pension contributions to combat inflation, farmers told High inflation has eroded values, say rural analysts


armers and self-employed people working in agriculture are being urged to update their pension contributions following two years of high inflation. Many farmers use pensions as an alternative income stream in later life to reduce the impact of multiple generations taking income from the farm – and the number doing so is steadily growing. NFU Mutual research shows 77% of farmers now have pensions, up from 66% four years ago. But inflation is eroding the buying power of money – prompting advice for farmers to reassess their contributions. Farmers and the self-employed often don't increase their pension contributions, leaving them vulnerable to a shortfall in later life. But with inflation predicted to continue falling this year, a small increase can have a positive long-term impact. The Bank of England’s inflation calculator suggests goods and services costing £100 five years ago would cost nearly £125 today. NFU Mutual pension expert Martin Ansell said: “It’s crucial that farmers review their contributions during inflationary periods. “Employees who sacrifice a percent-

age of their pay into a pension will automatically have their pension contributions increased with pay rises. But farmers and the self-employed need to change their contributions manually by telling their pension provider or financial adviser.

Positive step “If you have always put a certain amount into a pension, consider increasing it by a small percentage in order to help combat the impact of inflation. It can be a positive step over the long-term, and outweigh the temporary effects of high inflation.” Research from NFU Mutual shows

High inflation means pension contributions should be reviewed

that farmers are more likely to put money into a pension on an ad hoc basis, rather than with regular monthly contributions, with 72% of farmers saying they invest ad hoc. Mr Ansell said: “Farm profits can be cyclical and sometimes irregular. Our research shows that farmers are more likely than others to make ad hoc payments into their pensions when it suits them instead of monthly.” He added: “While we know this approach will work for the finances of many farms, it’s important those ad hoc payments aren’t forgotten about or farmers could risk a financial shortfall in later life.”

Good causes benefit from £140k NFU Mutual charity fund Local charities across eastern England have received more than £140,000 in donations raised by the region's NFU Mutual offices. Some 31 local charities will received a share of the money – part of a £1.92 million Agency Giving Fund launched by the rural insurer's head office in Stratford upon Avon. From providing food parcels, donating to frontline health charities and enabling outreach mental health services to continue, the fund is making a difference to communities across the region. One of the charities to benefit in the east of England was East Anglian

Air Ambulance, which has received a donation of £3,220. It was nominated by the NFU Mutual Suffolk Coastal Agency. East Anglian Air Ambulance spokeswoman Daisy Rivetti said: “We receive no regular government funding and relies on the community to keep our crew in the air and on the road, saving lives across the region. “From road traffic collisions to cardiac arrests to medical emergencies, specialist doctors, critical care paramedics and pilots bring the advanced skills, equipment, and medicine directly to people across East Anglia in the fastest time possible.”

Donations include £3.2k to the East Anglian Air Ambulance FEBRUARY 2024 • ANGLIA FARMER 55

Professional services

New career development service helps to boost farm skills • Professional body for agriculture • Opportunity to show achievement • Boosts learning and employment


new career development service has launched – giving farmers the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and professionalism. The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture (TIAH) is a professional body for people working in farming and growing. It encourages people in farming to progress their career – whatever the sector or level of experience. Membership of the online service makes support, training and development easier to find and access. Drawing on their background experience, it delivers personalised information and training recommendations. There are tools to help users assess their existing skills and identify any gaps. A host of online learning resources, as well as a directory of training providers, help people develop at their own pace. Other membership benefits include access to webinars, toolkits, templates and related resources featuring expert advice on topics central to thriving

farming and growing businesses. More than 400 farmers helped developed the online service. Each has their own online dashboard where they can record and demonstrate their achievements – and find out the next steps they should take.

'Brilliant service' Staffordshire farmer Andrew Court said: “It has been refreshing to be involved. The focus has been on ensuring that the content is approachable and inclusive for everyone working across the breadth of farming disciplines. “Access to platforms that aid professional development is becoming ever more important. The brilliance

Farmers are able to demonstrate skills and learning, says TIAH

It's refreshing to be involved

of the TIAH service is that is helps people roadmap out where they want to go and makes it easy for them to identify the routes to get there.” TIAH chief executive Stephen Jacob said: “TIAH membership is a major milestone and we’re looking forward to opening our virtual doors to the farming and growing community to supercharge their approach to learning and development.” Annual TIAH membership will cost a one-off fee of £144, or £12.50 per month. For a limited time, farmers and growers can take advantage of a 50% discount on these fees. For full details and to sign up, visit

Savills adds to rural teams across East of England


and agent Savills has expanded its rural team in the east of England with three new appointments at offices across the region. Rural surveyor Tamsin Sprawling has joined the Ipswich office as part of its estate management team. Ella Rowe has joined the Norwich office food and farming team and Felix Jebb has joined the Cambridge estate management team. Tamsin previously worked for Nicholas Percival’s commercial team. She will be undertaking a mixture of private client consultancy and management work across Suffolk and north Essex. She said: “I live in north Essex and 56 ANGLIA FARMER • FEBRUARY 2024

have grown up in the countryside being widely involved with young farmers for the past 10 years, so this was a great opportunity to get back to my rural roots.” Ella, who has joined from Brown and Co, will provide advice and management services to farms, estates and rural businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk. She said: “It’s a great opportunity to further my knowledge of farming practices and continue learning.” Felix, who recently graduated in real estate from Reading University, will advise corporate clients across Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

New appoinments (l-r): Ella Rowe, Felix Jebb and Tamsin Sprawling

He said: “It will be great to see how new strategies and service lines such as natural capital are incorporated into traditional estate management to benefit both clients and the broader countryside and rural economy.”





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Beaten on the beet price Growers need more than tough talk when it comes to getting better value for sugar beet, says Fen Tiger


o the sugar beet price dispute is finally over. For now, at least. Until, that is, it starts again next year. After all, the annual war of words between British Sugar and NFU Sugar has become a regular feature of the farming calendar. The latest dispute became so protracted that the government warned both sides that it would intervene unless it was resolved in a timely fashion. How on earth are growers meant to plan their rotations without a price from the monopoly buyer? With talks at deadlocked before Christmas, British Sugar by-passed NFU Sugar representatives and offered a contract of £38/ tonne direct to farmers – including a market linked bonus if sugar prices remained high.

Desperate situation The processor said this would take the final price to over £40/tonne in today's market. The move infuriated the NFU which sought legal advice and argued that the offer was invalid because it had been made outside the agreed negotiation process. Having discouraged growers for over a decade with low prices, British Sugar has been forced to grow beet itself – a stark example of how desperately the situation between the processing giant and NFU Sugar can deteriorate. Time for some history. Growers should cast their mind back to the dark days of £19/ tonne. The NFU always claimed to represent


growers and argue their case – with many farmers seeing loads of beet rejected for a high dirt tare or for being frozen. I remember times when the cleaner would miss a clod of earth only for it to be picked up in the sample – leaving a supposed 25% dirt tare. Or a high top tare would suddenly appear with no opportunity to disagree.

Rejected loads On one occasion, I remember being told that I shouldn't kick up a fuss or question a rejected load too much because British Sugar paid my wages. It has been a one-sided relationship for far too long. Don't get me wrong. It's good that this year's price dispute has been resolved. Regardless of whether they agree with the price, at least farmers can now make a properly informed decision about growing the crop. But it is true that there is some disappointment. The NFU Sugar team had argued that

It is a one-sided relationship

the initial price proposed by British Sugar didn't stack up with European farmers receiving €50-55/tonne and a world price at £50/tonne. In my mind, the final agreed position of £40/tonne is far from a resounding victory for growers. Instead, it is basically what British Sugar wanted the price to be in the first place – and another example of the processor flexing its muscles.

Harder line We need to take a harder line. By offering growers a price outside the negotiating process, it is clear that British Sugar would like to do without the hassle of annual price talks with NFU Sugar. It would rather deal direct with farmers. Growers should set up a negotiating team that is prepared to walk, not just talk. For as long as farmers have been growing beet, British Sugar has had the upper hand. It is impossible to negotiate with a monopoly with no other routes available to growers. Only after growers decided enough was enough a few years ago and stopped growing the crop did it force the beet price up. Even now, British Sugar can only guarantee the tonnage it requires by growing and managing its own crops – or importing supplies. Grower unity is vital. It is also time that the importance of the sugar beet industry was recognised by the government. And its about time that growers received the same treatment too.

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