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69 MAG 1/9/10 3:50 pm Page 1 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

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If you would like to receive magazine every month please fill in the form below and send a cheque for ÂŁ23 for 12 issues and post to:, Marbrack Farm, Carsphairn, Castle Douglas, Dumfriesshire, DG7 3TE






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Beef Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

Issue sixty-nine • September 2010


t never ceases to amaze me every year at this time, when livestcok sales just get into full swing that some animal crisis hits the headlines! Cloned beef in the food chain! It seems to be timed to coincide with the start of sale season – is it a ploy by the government to keep food prices down? We’ve had BSE, F&M, ‘red meat causes cancer,’ E - coli to name but a few

scares in the past. Hugh Stringleman writes of Russia’s plight, sparking fears of world wheat shortages. Andrew Arbuckle reports from the Potatoes in Practice event and we have the usual mix of livestock features. I’m signing off to head out to enjoy the sunshine for the rest of the afternoon so catch you next month.


Eilidh MacPherson

farmingscotland EDITOR: Eilidh MacPherson Marbrack Farm, Carsphairn, Castle Douglas, DG7 3TE Tel: 016444 60644 Mobile: 07977897867 PUBLISHER - Eilidh MacPherson ADVERTISING – Eilidh MacPherson Fiona McArthur Alison Martin Wendy Clark

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Hugh Stringleman Cover - Young handler at New Galloway Show – Ramsay, Milnmark Text and photography by Eilidh MacPherson unless otherwise stated Page 6 -


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John Young

Page 16 - Peter Small Page 18 - Andrew Arbuckle


69 MAG 1/9/10 3:50 pm Page 4 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010


Quality Judge for Agriscot


lifetime’s involvement with top quality dairy cattle breeding provides the background for Brian Carscadden, Guelph, Ontario, to judge this year’s prestigious AgriScot dairy competition. Mr Carscadden who was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Eastern Ontario and who went straight into dairy genetics after graduating from the University of Guelph will have the sole responsibility for judging the five breeds forward at this year’s show. In the past two decades, he has built up an impressive show judging record, which has seen him judge dairy cows in twenty countries throughout the world. Included in this astonishing record are national shows in Australia, France, Costa Rica, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, Guatemala, Holland, Japan and Spain. This vast experience has covered all the major breeds in the world. Over the past fourteen years, Carscadden has been a regular visitor to the UK both in his current work as a bull purchaser with a top AI company and as a livestock judge. Commenting on his AgriScot appointment, he said, “I am looking forward to coming to Scotland in November to judge AgriScot and then to visit a few of the top herds across the British Isles. Breeders in the UK are very passionate about breeding superior genetics and have always welcomed me to their farms with openarms” Entry schedules will be available from early September and potential exhibitors are advised to book early to ensure places for the UK’s top dairy animal event.


Tackle Your Weakest Traits


se the Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) to support your semen buying decisions for autumn and you’ll be well on the way to improving the poorest traits in your herd and increasing your profits, says DairyCo geneticist Marco Winters. “It might sound obvious but it’s important to look at your herd’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Marco, “consider what qualities the bulls need in order to improve your herd. Qualities you’re likely to include are Lifespan and Fertility. For Lifespan index >0 is good and for Fertility Index >0 is good.” Marco recommends following a six point plan to help make the best breeding decisions: 1. Use the PLI as the initial screening tool in bull selection. The PLI represents the financial improvement an animal is predicted to pass on to its daughters in its lifetime. 2. Focus on the top 50 percent of bulls available, ideally with a PLI of over 70, and try to avoid those with a PLI of less than 50. 3. Look within this group for the traits you’ve identified as those that need most improvement. Though this will vary between herds it should include lifespan, SCC and Fertility. Consider health and fitness traits first, then type traits. 4. Choose a group of four or five bulls with different strengths and weaknesses and pick at least one of these with a positive direct calving ease score for maiden heifers. 5. Buy more semen from each of your high reliability bulls and less from each of the lower reliability bulls. 6. Avoid inbreeding, which can be checked using breeding programmes offered by most AI companies and breed societies.


ver 400 staff at Robert Wiseman Dairies are to share a £3 million windfall this autumn. The company rewards loyalty and company performance by offering staff the opportunity to save a set amount every month over a five year period to buy shares at price set when the scheme commenced in 2005. Sustained growth has boosted the company share price from the set price of 196p to 485p (30 Aug). This represents an average gain of almost £7,000 for each of the 411 employees in the scheme. Robert Wiseman Dairies now processes and distributes almost a third of all fresh milk in Britain, every day, with volumes of fresh milk sold up by 46% since 2005. The company employs over 4,800 staff in seven dairies and fifteen

distribution depots from Keith in the North East of Scotland, to Pensilva in Cornwall. Billy Keane, Managing Director of Robert Wiseman Dairies said: “Our staff have been central to our growth and we are delighted that so many have been able to benefit from this sharesave scheme. “Over the past five years we have continued to grow and that is down to the commitment shown by our employees coupled with a substantial investment in our network of dairies and distribution depots.” Michelle McGuire. administration assistant at the company’s Bellshill Dairy said: “We have all played a part in the success and growth of the company over the past five years and it’s great to share in that success with this windfall.”

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Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

Heat Recovery – a major part of sustainable dairy farming


oney is tight on a lot of Scottish Dairy Farms, with profitability a major concern. There seems to be no one big thing which will magically turn dairy farming into a generator of huge wealth – or for that matter a reasonable profit. It would appear that in order to be a successful dairy farmer the main thing is attention to the detail. Whether it's mastitis prevention, milking machine cleaning or barn maintenance, all the little things add up to make money from dairy farming. One of the not so little things is cost and use of electricity. Milking twice a day and cooling the milk uses a lot of power. Any way of reducing the usage of electricity must help towards a “profit” In recent years much development has taken place in milking and cooling equipment. The developments of robot milkers and management systems have been in the news and

are wide topics of discussion. Some other major developments have some what missed the attention they deserve. Cooling milk is one of the biggest uses of electricity on a modern dairy farm and the energy used to reduce the temperature is blown off by the refrigeration condensing unit fan. OK to warm yourself at five o'clock on a cold and frosty winter morning but not much help to the bank balance. Heat recovery units have been around for a long time but were in the past a haphazard configuration of copper coils, thermometers and valves. Some also generated large bills when the coils punctured and water entered the refrigeration circuit. Much development has taken place during the intervening years and DeLaval with its links to heavy industry (where heat recovery is of major importance) was well placed to transfer the technology from industry to the dairy farm and milk cooling. The DeLaval system places a

highly efficient heat exchanger in the hot gas return line between the milk tank and the condensing unit. This instantly transfers the heat from the gas to the water going to an insulated holding vessel. From the holding vessel the warm water is piped to the dairy water heaters where its 50-60 degrees greatly reduces the cost of heating water from cold for plant and tank washing. Sustainable Dairy Farming is high on the agenda and not just at DeLaval. Government grants are being offered all over the UK and farmers realize that investing in environmentally friendly equipment is less of an investment than expected, on top of that the pay back or return on investment for a heat recovery system is quick too on average a little over 2 years. So rather than warming your hands on the energy escaping from the bulk tank fan warm them on your bank balance instead!

by Bob Ellis De Laval


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FARM DETAILS Farmers: John & Betty Young & son William Farming: Skerrington Mains Location: Hurlford, Kilmarnock Area: Stock:


he Young family from Skerrington Mains have for Generations been synonymous with quality livestock and the development of agriculture in Scotland and also the UK. Sir William Young, as President of the Scottish Milk Marketing Board, was a hugely influential figure within the Scottish dairy industry and as one of the original importers of Simmental Cattle, he also influenced the beef industry. Skerrington Border Leicesters have also made their mark in the sheep industry. Over four generations, the success and reputation of the family is such that the current incumbent at Skerrington Mains – John Young – has been invited to judge the Royal Melbourne Show this month. He has been given a double honour judging both the Simmental cattle and the Border Leicester sheep, which are still widely used in Australia. “It is an honour to be asked to judge at any show,” said John, “It doesn't matter whether it's getting involved at a local level or being asked to judge overseas and I am really looking forward to this rare opportunity to judge at Melbourne”. A respected National and International judge, John has judged Dairy, Beef and Sheep all over the world as well as all of the Royal Shows in the United Kingdom and

numerous county and local competitions. John and his wife Betty are the fourth generation to farm at Skerrington Mains, Hurlford near Kilmarnock. The farm, originally a 320 acre dairy unit, is now a successful 700 acre beef and sheep unit, carrying 160 Simmental/ Aberdeen Angus cross suckler cows and 80 pure bred Simmentals. There is also a commercial flock of 350 Halfbred and Suffolk Cross ewes and pedigree flocks of Border Leicester and Texel ewes. The progeny are either kept for breeding or sold at national stock sales. The current flock of high yielding commercial ewes replaced a Blackface flock, from which a yearling ewe won the coveted Queens Cup at the Royal Highland Show in 1970. The renowned flock of Skerrington Border Leicesters has won the Royal Highland Show more times than any other flock and has also been champion at the Royal Show on several occasions. John's son, William, is now running the farm although John still takes a keen interest in the business. With William in charge at home, John became Chairman of the Royal Highland and Agriculture Society of Scotland in 2004-2005 and although presently Honorary Secretary, John still seems to have the time to enjoy

by Fiona Sloan


700 acres owned 80 pure Simmentals 160 Simmental x Angus cows 350 Halfbred & Suffolk x ewes

From Ayrshire to Australia his judging stints with Betty, who will meet up with him in Australia, as she is currently in New Zealand seeing her new granddaughter. Since he and his father first imported Simmental Cattle from Germany in 1970, John has had a real passion for the breed and their potential to improve the suckler cow in the UK. It has been a lifetime's support for a breed, which saw him serving on National Council before becoming President of the British Simmental Cattle Society and going on to represent the Society on the World Federation Council in the late nineties. He was also President of the Border Leicester Sheep Society in their Centenary year in 1996 so is well qualified to adjudicate in Melbourne. “This year's show also has the added advantage of coinciding with the World Simmental Congress, which is being hosted around the Melbourne Show.” added John. “It will be great to catch up with many past colleagues and friends from all over the world while enjoying the hospitality of Melbourne!” There has also been success in the sale ring, with high averages for Simmental bulls and females, selling to a top of 12000gns. Skerrington Simmentals are now recognised in the ABRI Breed Plan System as one of the highest indexed herds in the UK and

aim to keep or increase the terminal indexes as John & William believe the commercial farmers are looking more and more at these figures. This year will see no less than eight Skerrington Bulls at the Perth Bull Sales at Stirling. Aiming for the commercial market has always been important to the family with stock bulls being an added bonus on many occasions. This years' crop of bulls are sired by Corskie Proton, who was Male champion at the Royal Highland and Male and Reserve Supreme Champion at the English Royal 2008, with 25 sons selling at Perth, averaging £4350 and selling to a top of £10,000 twice. Popes Tonka was purchased for 12,000gns and his first crop is looking promising. Sons from another stock bull, Sterling Nelson 2, have sold to 20,000gns John and Betty, who have been Presidents of their Rotary and Inner Wheel Clubs respectively, are both keen curlers and John has again skipped this year's winning team in the International Curling Fellowship of Rotarians World Championship. He is also the current President of this organisation. Betty's busiest pastime is looking after John! P S John has also a good eye for birds – being a racing pigeon fancier – as well as judging beauty queens!!

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Smith Hails EU Ag Budgets Vote


NP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith hailed a boost for the EU's dairy sector, and some other small steps forward in the EU putting money towards ensuring farmers get a fair return on produce. The Committee voted on the annual budgetary procedure, extending the Dairy Fund by 300 million euro so that it can continue to assist the EU's dairy sector in marketing, restructuring, assistance for deprived areas and research into new products. Smith backed the increase, arguing that while the Dairy Fund is not the final answer to the problems in the EU's milk market, it is certainly a useful tool to tackle some of the worst impacts. The Committee backed an increase in the EU school milk budget from 80 million to 90 million euro. The Committee also voted to continue funding for the EU Farm Prices and Margins Observatory, which was created, after a succesful campaign by Smith, to compile credible data on the difference between what producers receive for produce and the amount consumers pay. The budget for the Observatory continues at 1.5 million euros, and while progress on implemtation of the Observatory has been slow, things are finally moving forward. The Committee also backed a further initative: a pilot project based on the ERASMUS student exchange scheme, but for young farmers, to provide the opportunity to experience farming in other parts of the EU; picking up ideas and sharing best practice. This scheme should be rolled out next year. Smith said: "All politicians will give you warm words but the proof of the pudding is whether you get any money out of us! The budget process does not get the attention it deserves, but this is where we actually put numbers to our priorities in order to make them happen. "So good news for the dairy sector, albeit I suspect it is a silver lining to what remains a muckle big storm cloud but, pending a more structural long-term solution, the fund remains a useful tool. "Similarly, I have been frustrated that the Farm Prices and Margins Observatory has not been implemented as quickly as I would have liked, but it remains a worthwhile venture and I am pleased to see funding continue when there were plenty who wanted to stop it altogether. If farmers are not making money from the market then there is no amount of other mechanisms that will encourage folk to stay in farming, and the net effect of exporting our food production is potentially catastrophic."


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he Quadcrate is a product born of a solution to a problem. William Allingham from Garrison Co. Fermanagh Northern Ireland, a sheep farmer was one day unable to climb a wet hill with his Quad with trailer attached. William saw that the trailer was causing too much drag on the Quad causing it to spin,and so out of frustration of not being able to reach his destination he set about designing a bracket for the back of the bike so that the weight of the load would be on the wheels adding to traction. The design was drawn up so that it could be folded up so when not in use it sit neatly on the Quad. William found that he was using the Quad and Quadcrate to do up to 80% of the


farm work – doing jobs he would usually need his tractor to carry out. With some research on the internet, he couldn't find anything like it and decided to go down the Patent route and so called it the 'Quadcrate'. In the meantime, he continued to build added attachments i.e. Post holders to carry posts, a Sheep cage to enable the transport of a sheep or calf and a Wire unroller, which allowed him to simplify the unrolling of both sheep and barbed wire. He also then reckoned that a hitch would be handy on it, so that when it was folded up a small trailer could be towed. Patent searches then came back to find that his product was unique, and so he invested, and with help from

the Princes Trust and Invest NI he was he able to cover the costs. The Quadcrate is Patent pending in the UK and William also has an International Patent. After the UK Patent had been filed he attended several shows where he received massive interest as so many farmers were experiencing the same problems, in not being able to access difficult terrain with a trailer on. Traveling was always something William wanted to do, but he decided to work at the business instead and try and promote the Quadrates products. He has recently returned from the New Zealand Fieldays show in Hamilton North Island, where he got great interest from both Kiwi and Australian farmers. William now

plans to go to America to see what interest he gets there. The Royal Welsh show was also on the agenda and there he got more, serious interest. He is now concentrating on getting some potential dealers set up, in Wales with big intentions to branch into Scotland and England and have stock sent out to be ready for the pre lambing period. William wants to make the Quad and Quadcrate the most important combo on Farms across the UK, as more and more Farmers are seeing the true potential of the ATV. The UK dealer so far is : Dalton's ATVs Ltd, The Yard Talsarn,Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales Tel: 01570 470022

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69 MAG 1/9/10 3:50 pm Page 10 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010


Grassland Development Farm


he meeting commenced with an update of what has occurred on the farm since the last meeting. During June there had been very little rainfall and the farm was looking very short of grass. The decision to start feeding store cattle at grass was almost taken in late June although they always had enough grass in front of them and performance seemed good. In the last week of June the silage was cut. The second application of N was followed by good rainfall. This has led to phenomenal grass growth in July and early August. Silage yield was down and around 100 acres have been fertilised and shut off for second cut. This may be further enhanced by taking some baled silage from other surplus grass around the farm. Grass growth in 2010 (Kg Dry matter/hectare/day) 14th to 25th April 25 25th April to 10th May 43 10th to 18th May 46 18th to 28th May 75 – building up to peak growth 28th May to 10th June 33 – drought affected 10th to 23rd June 30 – drought affected 23rd June to 18th July 75 – rainfall and fertiliser 18th June to 4th August 60 The season got off to a late start with grass growth about 3 weeks behind last year. Interestingly young grass (under 5 years) grew at twice the rate of old grass, which shows the benefit of re-seeding in a difficult year. Peak growth would normally be in late May/early June. This year the dry weather restricted growth during June but it has been very high in July. The group then travelled to an area of the farm we had not seen before. Firstly we stopped at the top of Hawkcleuchside, which is permanent pasture currently being grazed by cows and calves. Due to the dry weather this year it has only half the usual number of cattle with another group having to be grazed elsewhere. This area is one that still has lime, P & K applied but no longer receives Nitrogen. This regime started last year – whilst last year was a better growing season there may have been some residual N to aid grass growth. This year there was no residual N and, coupled with the dry weather led to


very low grass growth until mid July. There were some good patches of White Clover – encouraged this year by the lack of competition from other grasses in early season. This area is ideal to try and get more White Clover stitched in to provide free Nitrogen. Coupled with a grazing system that rotates cattle from one field to another, occasional sheep grazing and good pH, P & K status should allow good establishment and maintenance of clover. Stitching methods could either be with tine harrows or with Aitchison or Moores direct drills. The group then moved onto the hill area. This is a good grassy hill with some rocky outcrops and bracken patches. The hill was previously managed traditionally with Blackfaced sheep. However to aid labour efficiency this has been discontinued and Blackies are now managed differently. The hill is used by Blackie ewes with pure lambs and ewe hoggs but is largely undergrazed for the bulk of the growing season. It is currently used as a buffer zone to provide grass to stock in late season if required. This year it has some cast cows and their calves that had to be moved out of sight of bulls and most of the dry sheep will be grazed on the hill after weaning as well. A lively discussion was held regarding its use – some thought that the cast cows should be on better ground to get fattened up as soon as possible. One suggestion was to winter dry cows on deferred grazing on the hill. This is a tried and tested wintering system on other local farms. However some downsides to this idea are the distance from the steading (4 miles), lack of handling facilities and the need to acclimatise cattle to ticks first. However another suggestion was that sucklers should be on the hill all the time leaving better ground lower down for growing cattle and (more profitable!!) crossbred sheep. It was also suggested that the dry cross ewes should not be allowed to lose condition on the hill as it will take more grass to put it back on than it does to maintain condition. Currently the vegetation is high quality and this should maintain condition easily. Wintering sheep in mid pregnancy is another option for the hill – there are tick products approved for sheep

(none for cattle) and this could keep a lot of ewes for a couple of months with some supplementation – feed blocks may be better than daily feeding in this case due to the distances involved. The group then saw the store cattle on rotational grazing. The cattle seem to be doing very well again this year although we have no interim weights. The cattle will be weighed before sale and it is proposed to sell them at similar store sales to last year in September & October. Grass utilisation is high and the tight grazing in early season was evidenced by the quality of grass currently with very little dead material in the base of the sward. The cattle are now getting moved a day sooner that they had been in early season – the risk of heading is now over, we need to maintain grass intakes to sustain growth rates and there will be plenty of lambs/ewes to utilise the grass from now on. There is also more rejection around dung pats in late season but sheep will graze further into these than cattle. It is proposed to feed each group for two weeks before each sale. This will not have a major effect on growth rates but will add a bit of shine to them before sale. Lively discussions were held on what the marketing policy should be. Last year was an excellent year to sell stores but there is little doubt the trade will be down this year. Finished price is also down currently but may strengthen later on so should Doug aim to be finishing some by mid November for the Christmas market? The cattle are not as forward this year as last so this may enhance the £/kg store price but without the weight of last year. There may also be more marketing options in future from the Beef Improvement Group via Morrison's. One final point is that calving from mid April does not give much time to finish cattle at grass the following year. Calving earlier would have major effects on the whole farming system though. Avoiding very late calvers should be aimed for though and as the herd becomes “purer” it should be easier to fatten cattle at grass. Another option may be to feed a small amount of cereals at grass during the whole season. This can be discussed again in the future. The Irish have devised a system of

monitoring grass growth called the Grazing Days Ahead (GDA) method. Each week the amount of grass DM available is divided by the demand of all the stock for the area. The figure refers to the number of days grazing the group have available at that moment in time. In spring and early summer there needs to be 20-24 GDA, mid summer 26-30 GDA and in late summer/autumn 40-50 GDA. If there are too many then fields need to be taken out for silage or reseeding. If too few then buffer feeding and applying more N are two of the options available. At South Mains in mid June the average GDA for the store cattle was 20, which was about right. Had the dry weather continued then the situation would have worsened. As at 2nd August the average GDA for the store cattle was 40 days, which is on the high side currently and should allow a field or two to be taken out for silage. Kev Bevan outlined the GM results from last year. Sheep GM was £54/hd, suckler cows £256/hd and store cattle £137/hd (these two are obviously subject to the valuation of stores at transfer). Interestingly the GM/Livestock Unit was highest for sheep and store cattle. Some heated debate followed this revelation with beef advocates outnumbering sheep fans significantly. The main issue is that both cattle and sheep rely on the other and the task is to achieve the correct balance of enterprises to suit the resources available on your farm. The final stop was at Goosehill. This was where 110 ewes and twins had been rotationally grazed on 3 fields since mid May with two other fields taken for silage having been grazed earlier. The benefits of rotational grazing were obvious in that the grass quality and quantity were excellent although sheep performance had been lower than expected (based on the number of lambs drawn from this group to date). A brief discussion followed on strategies for worm control, led by Heather Stevenson, SAC vet, Dumfries. Finally the issue of weaning lambs was raised. All lambs were due to be weaned imminently. There is little point in leaving lambs on ewes beyond 14 weeks of age. The ewes' feed requirement is halved at weaning and lambs can be finished on high quality aftermath grazing.

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69 MAG 1/9/10 3:50 pm Page 12 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010



uying and running a farm at 23 years old is a young farmer’s dream – one that was reality for Ewen Macmillan, Lurg, Fintry. Seventeen years on he is a well respected Blackface Breeder, one of the leading lights, commanding impressive prices for both breeding males and females, in an industry, which is, by no means, the easiest to crack. Brought up on Arisaig Estate, in Lochaber, where his father and his grandfather before him managed, Ewen shepherded from the age of 16. “It was a bit of a North type bargain basement, but we used to go to Corpach and top the sale with cast ewes. It was a rough hill flock and latterly we crossed with Cheviots,” said Ewen, who is now working with a different kind of Blackie. Ms Beacher owned Arisaig Estate from his grandfather’s time. “She left it to us before she died and said to sell and buy a good farm business as the only way forward there was tourism and we had no interest in caravans and chalets. The 10000 acre Estate now carries 300 ewes and extra income is derived from Oyster and Mussel farming.” “We looked at quite a few places before I came here in November 1993 at the age of 23. I felt mature and able to take on the world as my father went back up to Arisaig and left me to get on with it and make it pay. “In the mid 1990’s everywhere was paying with sheep. Lurg had 1700 ewes – 1300 Blackfaces and 400 mules, which I reduced to 1400 within nine months, selling off the Mules.” Half of the Blackie ewes were then covered by Blue Faced Leicesters for Mule Ewe lamb production. “We had variation. If I knew then what I know now, things would have been done differently, but going through that process I learnt.”


Ewen started to buy cast ewes and gimmers from Claddich and Balliemeanoch initially and then Connachan. “I like buying in ewes. It is less of a gamble in some ways to spend £3-4000 on a pen of good ewes rather than spend that money on a tup – as at least some of the ewes will breed well. I paid £150 /hd for ewes from Claddich one year, the top price.” Over the years Ewen has also bought from Elmscleuch, Dalchirla, Mitchellhill, Nunnerie, Auchloy and Midlock. At Stirling tup sale one year, Ewen’s shepherd and right hand man – Alec Steedman – was in one ring selling Lurg shearlings for £50, while Ewen purchased a Connachan ram at £2000. It proved a sound investment and the start of good bloodlines and dear prices for 5-year-old cast ewes. Since £2000 Connachan made a noticeable difference on the female line at Lurg, other significant sires were a quarter share of £15000 Midlock and a half share of the Apprentice, purchased privately. “Last year’s purchase of £22000 Connachan and a share of £44000 Highland Storm are both looking promising at the moment, with four or five lambs going to be used at home. Three £22000 lambs will be sold at Stirling. “Over the past six or seven years a lot of homebred tups have been doing for me – especially noticeable when selling the cast ewes as two thirds of the top pen are off Lurg bred tups.” An £800 Crookston ram of Dalchirla origins also left his stamp, with sons selling to £7000 and £4500. A home bred tup – The Transformer – used for six seasons, sold at Dalmally to Northern Ireland for £3500, bred exceptionally well, with several ewes reaching £1500 at Lanark. “He kicked off a lot of

Over the C female lines,” said Ewen. “Archie McGregor, Allanfauld kindly let me put two ewes to the Stag – an £8000 Connachan tup. I got a particularly good ewe out of one and put it to a £5500 Tigh na Blair ram – she produced the Transformer.” Tup lambs are run with 40 ewes, while shearlings, if owned outright are presented with 50 -100 females. So many sires are now shared; “I quite enjoy buying half a tup as it is less of a gamble, if the tup doesn’t please you in his breeding. I would almost now set out to buy half a tup as it doesn’t upset my system as I can have him for one turn.” In 2000 Ewen made a few

management decisions to improve profitability on his hill property. ‘With regret,’ as Sir Alan Sugar says, on the Apprentice show, he had to let Alec Steedman – ‘an exceptionally good man’ – go and he slashed the number of ewes to 850, a more manageable number for a one-man outfit. The direct meat selling operation was also cut when Alex left, as it was a time consuming exercise. Ewen also decided to winter the hoggs at home that year – a decision he thanked his lucky stars for, as the farm he normally sent the hoggs off for wintering was the first to be taken out with Foot and Mouth. Ewen has seen an increase in profit

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e Crow Road margins – the shepherd’s house now brings in a rental each month, with fewer ewes the feeding bill is lower and the stock is healthier. His breeding stock is more valuable to sell. Last year 15 tups sold averaged £1470 and 213 cast ewes and gimmers averaged £118. Ewen wishes that more breeders would support the spring gimmer sale in Lanark as selling 4 or 5 in lamb gimmers and /or ewes pays his feed bill for the winter. Feeding only beet pulp pellets has totally eradicated any incidences of twin lamb disease, while using a Zinc Sulphate footbath every time the sheep went through the yards over a


Ewen Macmillan




Fintry, Stirling


1615 acres owned


500 - 1800 feet


1100 Blackface ewes


Ewen, assistance when required

ten-year period has wiped out any foot problems. Ewen has also noted that since wintering the hoggs at home he has less broken mouths when it comes to selling the cast ewes. “I have an a confession. For the past four years I’ve been putting a Swale top over the bottom 200 ewes and sell 100 Swale x Blackface gimmers each year. “I worked with a Suffolk before then, but it wasn’t suiting the Blackface job. With the Swale the ewes are still fresh at 5 as they are not so sore on them.” All lambs are left entire on this Crow Road holding. “The last

number of years the emphasis has been on size – it is not the be all and end all. The important thing is to breed lambs that are heavy at the end of the summer. A good wee lamb with good hair and a milky mother can produce twins – you don’t need a big ewe to have a big lamb. I’ve been selling twins at 37kgs straight off their mothers, making £57.35 through the UA Euro Weigh and Pay.” By the end of September he expects to have 75-80% of the tup lambs, not destined for the tup sales, away and half the cross Swales. Feeding of tups all summer is another bone of contention for this

Highlander. “It is a road to ruin. If they are expected to go up the West coast and do the job, breeders shouldn’t be feeding. In the past 20 years not many young people have entered the Blackface sheep world and made a good go of it. For any youngsters starting out in sheep farming, Ewen says that it is important to be working with a certain kind of sheep that suits the farm. “The kind I’m working with now help make my life easy and help with the profit margin.” Lambing will come early this year at Lurg as Lousie, Ewen’s wife has scanned a single, due in January.

This space should be selling for you! 13

69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 14 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010



Swaledale Country F

arming in the National Park just above Keswick in the Lake District, Will Cockbain has seen many changes over the years. “There are less sheep on the hills due to Agri-enviromental Agreements. Initially the stock did better, but now sheep numbers are too low in some areas and vegetation is too long. Sheep are the losing the immunity to ticks and such like. “There used to be a balance between agriculture, enviromental management and food production and we need to get back into middle ground – a trade off between all three. Food production is back on the agenda,” commented Will, who is NFU National Upland Spokesperson for England. Cockbains have been farming in the Lake District for over 300 years and at Rakefoot since 1937. Swaledales are the main breed these days but, “There is a family association with Herdwick sheep – my great uncle Joe bred Saddleback Wedgewood,” said Will as he pointed out a ram’s head mounted on the living room wall.


“He won 48 show championships from 1930 to 1933 and was never beaten. My great uncle was good friends with Beatrix Potter and she had the ram’s head stuffed by a taxidermist for him.” Will is obviously following the family tradition of good bloodlines, as, when I phoned to make an appointment to interview him, he had just topped the sale in Carlisle with a Berrichon ram, selling to £1000. With only ten pure Berrichon ewes, that was no mean feat! “In a world where you need to have value for money and reduce costs and labour, the Berrichon lambs easily, newborns are quick to rise, have good carcases and low inputs,” explained Will, who puts the plain end of the Swales to the Berrichon. “We are finding that people with part time jobs are looking to buy them. While they might not win a fatstock show, they make money. They have hair on their heads, unlike the Charollais and are hardy sheep with great hybrid vigour. We took single lambs straight off their Swale mothers at 40/41kgs last week and

made £64 – no cake, no creep. The rest will go away to grass and be sold in 3 weeks.” There are three Fell stocks at Rakefoot, with the land leased from the National Trust and United Utilities. “At one time we didn’t feed sheep at all. We gathered, on foot, three to four weeks before lambing. Now due to the Agri Enviro schemes sheep have to be moved off the hill and some are wintered on the Solway Marshes. One hill is still wintered on the Fell as there is no heather on it.” The rest of the sheep are wintered on allotments or intakes, which translate into hill parks in Scotland and are blocked. “We had quite bad tick here but Bayticol (which is now off the market)did a wonderful job and we went from losing 50 lambs a year down to 8-10. The last 3-4 years, with the off wintering, and less heather burning, we have seen an increase in tick populations. We still use pour-ons but if you get heavy rain the cover goes in three weeks.” The Cockbains along with two other Swaledale Breeders – John Barton and Bob Beattie have been selling Swale Rams at the Caledonian Market in Stirling for over twenty years. “Selling in Stirling has whet


Will Cockbain & family


Rakefoot Farm


Keswick, Lake District


230 acres owned 2200 acres rented from National Trust and United Utilities


Up to 2000 ft


84% above moorland line


1100 Swaledale ewes 10 pure Berrichon ewes 40 suckler cows 10 Fell & Dales ponies


Will, his brother Mark and Will’s two sons – John and Jamie, who both also work off farm


Swaledale Council Berrichon Council Member NFU - National Upland spokesperson 6yrs NW Sustainable Food & Farming Champion

the appetite of some Scottish farmers and they now come to Kirkby Stephen, Hawes and St Johns. We’ve helped more people from further afield – from as far North as Aberdeen – become interested in Swales,” said Will, who also sells shearlings at Cockermouth, Kirkby Stephen, Hawes and St Johns. “Some Estates in Scotland are putting sheep back on and some are looking to the Swale,” said Will, who reckons that his family came from Scotland around 1600. The Cocks and the Bains were apparently sheep farming in Sutherland. “We record all Swales – EID has ******ed our system as we used to use Ritchie split tags with one colour on top for the year and another colour underneath for the ram they went to. “So EID has led to a change of

69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 15

SWALEDALE RAM SALE DATES 2010 Friday October 8th – Ruswarp, Whitby Rams of all ages Tuesday 12th October – St John's Chapel Rams of all ages Thursday 14th October – Hawes Aged rams and Ram lambs Friday October 15th – Middleton-in-Teesdale Rams of all ages Wednesday October 20th – Kirkby Stephen Aged rams and Ram lambs Thursday 21st & Friday 22nd October – Kirkby Stephen Shearling rams


system. We opted for the cheapest EID – Shearwell at 75p/ pair – and opted to use a third tag as a management tag for the ram at 15p. We’ll have to see how it works as three tags is not ideal.” “We are by no means at the top of the Swale trade selling to a top of £5500.” Will went on to explain why they

only sell shearlings. “Swales can sweat off. They can sweat the hair off the head near their eyes. I am of the belief that if a ram has sweat in its breeding, feeding plays a part and it all happens in the last three - four weeks before sale time. Things can change dramatically.” As well as the usual conformation, good legs etc, good hair and deep

black and bright white are sought when purchasing a Swale Ram. “Some say too much emphsasis is put on the head, but if plain headed a sheep won’t sell. Everyone goes with a picture in their mind’s eye – that tup is never there!” “You’ve got to buy a ram that suits your ewes. There are certain pens that everyone will flock to – there on merit – with years of being consistant. I try to buy a type, from a range of breeders, but I try and make sure that bloodlines are from the right pots.” In his role with the NFU one of the main issues Will has been involved with is looking for a replacement for Hill Farm Allowances. “RSPB and Natural England were wanting it all to go for High Level Stewardship, which would only be open to about 25 farmers.” Quite the committee man, Will was the Chairman of the steering group, which helped develop the Year of Food and Farming in Schools. Working with the Cumberland Show, they raised awareness of locally produced and sourced food and how food production has an impact on the landscape, the buying public, the local authorities and on children. Will also chaired the NW Livestock

Wednesday 27th & Thursday 28th October – Hawes Shearling rams For further infomation please contact:John Stephenson on - 01833-650516

Programme, which delivers the RDPE – a grant scheme for help in resource efficiency, nutrient management and animal health and welfare. “So far it has been really popular, with a 40% grant available up to the value of £8000.” Currently Will is the NW Sustainable Food and Farming Champion. He plays a key role in strengthening links between the various elements of the region’s food chain with the overall aim of reconnecting the farming and food industry with the consumer. He also sits on the Board of Food North West as a Non-Executive Director. While Will spends about a third of his time in his various roles, brother Mark works full time on farm, while Will’s sons John (30) and Jamie (28) are part time. They supplement their income by stone walling and shearing and belly crutching respectively. A herd of suckler cows also reside at Rakefoot Farm, predominantly Simmental and Angus cross Normandy. “The guy who winters our sheep has purebred Normandy cattle, which are more akin to the traditional Friesians – really milky,” informed Will. “We buy heifers from him every year and cover them with a Charolais bull. They produce big strong commercial stores, reared on minimum feed, mainly grass, but given cake a month before the sale. We got £940 for them last month.”

Hitting the Bank Holiday weekend, the whole area was crawling with tourists. “I’ve grown up with it, so it doesn’t bother me at all. But as one of four Focus Farms with ADAS, we had farmers from across the country visit and many of them could not conceive what it would be like to farm with so many people wandering about.” Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is in the middle of one of the fields at Rakefoot, attracts 250 000 visitors a year, according to the National Trust. An ice cream van parked just outside the gate was making a killing – a missed opportunity for Will! Another gem of information about this Cumbrian farm is that it is located on very deep rock; the Edinburgh Geological Survey has inserted earthquake sensors in the rock, which pick up earthquake information from around the world and transmit it to Edinburgh. Mrs Cockbain, an avid and successful breeder of Fell and Dale ponies was washing one ready for showing at Harrogate during our visit. Wearing a leather waistcoat and having a biker’s jacket hanging on the back of a living room chair was a bit of a giveaway to Will’s other passion – road racing. A shiny new 1400 3TR Kawasaki with the ‘most advanced traction control’ is put the test whenever spare time allows. A trip up to Fort William is pencilled in pre tup sales, weather permitting!


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Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

Scottish, European, Vintage and Five nations Ploughing Championships

by Peter Small


he annual Scottish Ploughing championships take place on October 23rd and 24th at Upper Nisbet, Jedburgh by permission of Robert Neill and Partners. This year Scotland is proud to host the European Vintage Competition and the Five Nations Match. Visiting competitors and spectators will get the chance to visit one of Scotland's most beautiful areas, where high standards of agricultural husbandry and visitor attractions will be on show. Two days of competition ploughing will see over 150 competitors turn over the 250 acres of ground in tidy fashion. Once again this match, which has become a must attend event on the rural calendar is sponsored by New Holland. Competition ploughing is now the fastest growing rural pursuit with local matches occurring through


September until April all over the country. These matches began in the 1700s during the period of the agricultural improvements. They were a means of improving the ploughing skills of the farm labourers and were promoted by land owners and agriculturists. The art of ploughing was recognised as important for crop production helping make a quality seedbed as a basis for crop establishment and healthy growth. It was also deemed of importance for burying weeds and disease again to help healthy crop growth. These old matches of course saw horses draw the plough but today the aims of good ploughing remain the same for the tractor drawn versions. Thanks to enthusiasts of heavy horse breeds horse ploughing is still carried out at matches and the Scottish is no different with pairs going on both days.

Brightly decorated teams with their manes and tails pleated, harness polished, draw chains jingling and decorations fluttering in the breeze make a grand spectacle. Other classes to draw a crowd are the vintage ones, where the tractors and ploughs of old turn as neat a furrow as anyone. In the Scottish match classes exist for the old pre hydraulic trailing ploughs, the early mounted variety and the later types from the classic period of the 1960s and 70s. This classic period also has a reversible class, where these rudimentary ploughs with mechanical trips compete. This vintage element has the added edge of the European Championships being held on the Saturday when competitors from all over the continent arrive in Scotland for the pre match practice. Three classes are included in this section with David Milton of Keith representing Scotland in the Trailing Class, John Bathgate of Dunbar in the Mounted Class and Gullane's John Tait is our reversible representative. Further visitors will compete in the Five Nations Competition, where they will use modern equipment in their quest for glory. Scotland's Gordon Rae of Lockerbie will compete against the finest from the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the Conventional Class whilst the reversible representative for Scotalnd is John D Fraser of Alness. Modern tractors and ploughs go in the first day in various classes for both conventional and reversible ploughing. The reversibles will have a multi furrow class for the outfits that work on the modern farm, while further classes exist for the ploughs fitted out

with all sorts of gadgetry to get the best job. Both Straights and butts styles take place, this last discipline is the standard used at the World Championships every year. The 2010 match was held in New Zealand where Scotland's representatives were Andy Greenhill of Perth and Andrew Mitchell of Forfar who was the Conventional Runner Up. He will go in the General Purpose Class on the Saturday alongside others who use match ploughs of great complexity. All the these conventional and reversible ploughmen hope to qualify for the Plough Offs on the Sunday, where the winners will get the chance to represent Scotland at next years World Championships in Sweden. If match ploughing is not what commercial farmers are looking for then there will be a large range of modern tractors and ploughs being demonstrated by local firms. This part of the event will allow farmers the chance to see what's on offer today in a working environment. There will also be a selection of trade stands offering a wide range of goods and services. Members of the Borders Vintage Agricultural association will put on a working demonstration of ploughing and cultivation techniques and period machinery that would have been used on Border farms in the past. Add to this food and craft stalls and a fun fair and you have a great weekend for all the family. The site at Upper Nisbet is easily accessed off the main A68 trunk road and will be signposted. Car parking and admission for under14 year olds is free. The admission charges for adults are £6 and concessions are £4. Details at:

69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 17

MACHINERY Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

ScanStone’s Multiweb System R

GS Forfar Ltd. – manufacturers of the highly successful ScanStone range have just announced exciting new developments to their series of soil preparation equipment with the launching of an even larger capacity all web separator – offering a new dimension in separating equipment with a further 17% more sieving capacity than previous ScanStone machines. Available in six short webs or 5 plus 1 long web configurations the machine has upgraded gearboxes and a new multiblade share with a stronger share frame to cope with an increase in forward speed. The machine incorporates many of the unique features offered on the ScanStone range with options, which include the innovative powered scrubber web which can operate in both forward and reverse modes for the ultimate effectiveness in clod breakdown action. A new multifunction control box allows synchronised functions with the single press of a button. e.g. front lift, front discs, cross conveyor direction and steering speed change will operate simultaneously giving the operator increased time to focus on

other functions. Available in 1500 and 1700 width options, the machine is expected to retail at around £50,000 depending on configurations required by the customer with demonstrations available from late September to early October. The coming season will also see the introduction of the high strength heavy duty web system on all ScanStone separators throughout the range. These 'toughest ever' webs have been specially designed to resist wear – with joiners giving 2-3 times more longevity than those of standard webs. Developed for use in the toughest of conditions the webs feature extra wide, laminated rubber banding with thickened, rod ends for extra durability. Webs are also fitted with a 15mm rod in every tenth position to further assist with the break down of clods. In addition, all flange rollers have been replaced with inboard rollers with the advantage of savings on maintenance costs. RGS are also pleased to announce the introduction of their upgraded range of Bed Tillers – available in 1, 2 or 3 bed options with front mounted single Bed Tiller option. The Pioneer

160-1 and Tiger models 280-2 and 280-3 have benefited from 3 years research and development, which has seen them perform extremely well in comparison tests with fuel savings of up to 20 litres / hour compared to some competitors. The range also offers the unique quick release blade system, with easy pull out / push in operation allowing rapid blade changeover in the field,

with the consequent advantage of reduced downtime, and significant cost saving. For further details contact RGS Forfar Ltd on 01307 818994 or any of our sales team: Graham Ferrier – 07971 242902 (Scotland, Ireland & France) Steve Cooper – 07977 015345 (England & Scandinavia)



TEL: 01698-263963 OR MOBILE 07710 329609


69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 18 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010


by Andrew Arbuckle

Potatoes In Practice


010 should provide better returns for Scottish potato growers according to Allan Stevenson, the chairman of the Potato Council. He was speaking at Potatoes in Practice, the main potato demonstration event in Scotland, which is held on the outskirts of Dundee, when he gave his upbeat view on the prospects for this year’s crop. First of all, a reduced acreage went into the ground this Spring in the UK and this combined with expected lower yields should bring potato growers higher returns for their crop. The news for Scottish growers is even better, with Stevenson reckoning the crops in this part of the world are looking good compared with those in the potato growing areas of England, where there has been a shortage of water during the growing season and where they have come to early maturity without realising full cropping potential. The other part of the financial equation for potato growers depends on consumption and while he admitted that there was a “long term structural decline” in the amount of potatoes being eaten, he claimed the efforts of the Potato Council in reversing this trend were being successful. Part of the problem for potatoes is that they are perceived by some consumers as being time consuming to prepare and in this era of fast food, this was seen as a negative. However, the Potato Council has been behind a campaign to persuade consumers, especially those in the younger end of the demographic scale that potatoes could provide a meal in ten minutes and Stevenson said this seemed to be making a difference.


The UK is largely self sufficient in fresh potatoes but there is still a volume that comes in as processed for the lower end of the catering trade, he stated. Stevenson rejected a view that the UK processing sector were ‘behind the game’ in bringing forward new and innovative products. In his travels around the world, he said this was not the case. Next month, Stevenson, will return to China to continue the battle to open their market for seed potatoes. Although China is the largest producer of potatoes in the whole world with an annual production of 75million tonnes (compared with UK production at less than 6 million tonnes) it did not have a very developed market as yet with the vast majority of the tonnage both hand planted and hand lifted. Previous efforts to remove trade barriers to China have resulted in allowing minituber production but this specialist system has not been taken up. Stevenson, said that while he hoped to persuade the Chinese to take away the barrier preventing field scale seed being sent out from Scotland, he did not believe there would ever be any great tonnage traded. However, he argued the side benefits for other parts of the potato industry could be immense. This was especially so with a major transformation taking place in the retail sector in China, where one of the UK major retailers aims to build some 80 supermarkets. “Currently there is no structure in their potato industry to supply that type of demand but if we can help by exporting high quality seed there could be wider benefits.”


he ability of some of the most potentially damaging diseases to the country’s potato crop to survive for a long time in limbo should make growers seriously consider washing the wooden crates in which the crop is now stored. That was the opinion of Dr Gerry Saddler, the head of the bacteriology at the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture agency, when speaking at the Potatoes in Practice day. SASA has been in the forefront of the battle against diseases such as Brown Rot and Ring Rot coming into Scotland. More recently there has been the arrival of the bacterial disease Dickeya. With these and other existing diseases, Dr Saddler said that growers should balance the cost and risk in all their actions. He suggested that wooden crates that had gone off farm and may have gone down south to England should be cleaned when they came back to any seed growing farm. Apart from the potential for bacterial disease being brought onto seed growing farms, there was a real risk of introducing potato cyst nematodes. Growers should also consider whether they use second hand sacks if there was any risk of these having been used to handle other potatoes. He listed the considerable costs to any business where disease was found with the destruction of the infected crop being only part of the penalty. “The risks are incalculable and they could devastate businesses.” The annual growing crop inspections carried out in July had not identified any problems in the seed crops, other than a slight rise in one of the well known virus problems. But Dr Saddler said that those farms where dickey had been found would be under extra surveillance. The

same was true of those farms downstream from the places of infection as the disease is water borne. Although the season is passed, he said that a ban on irrigation might be considered if there was any evidence of the bacterial disease having entered the watercourse. Since dickeya was found in Scotland, procedures have been tightened up and seed growers have again been urged to join the voluntary Safe Haven scheme which is designed to keep disease from entering the country. Dr Saddler said Government should not bear the complete responsibility for ensuring disease did not enter the potato crop in this country, growers also had responsibilities in this direction. More than two thirds of the seed area is now covered by the Safe Haven scheme which is based on purchasing seed from known safe sources. It does not stop the introduction of new varieties from the Continent but they have to go through a quarantine procedure that ensures there is no importation of disease. Earlier Dr Saddler had highlighted the drivers for more infection coming into the country. The increased globalisation of world trade and climate change both brought with them added risk of imported disease. The entry of countries such as Bulgaria and Turkey into the European Union could see the return of an old enemy, Wart Disease which almost a century ago devastated the UK potato crop before special legislation was brought in to help control it. SASA are also wary of exotic diseases such as Zebra Chip which is transmitted by insects and which is now endemic in New Zealand.

69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 19

ARABLE Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

Compost Benefits


ith a government keen on increasing recycling rates, there is an increasing tonnage of compost available but there is also a reluctance by the farming industry to be seen as providing a ready unquestioning home for this material. “There is compost and compost,” according to Kathy Peebles, livestock development officer with Quality Meat Scotland, who said that while farm assurance schemes had no problem with green waste, which met Publically Available Specifications, there was no way that either animal waste nor waste collected from households would be acceptable. From the other side of the equation, Peter Goldie, from Dundee City Council Waste Management team, said the growing problem was in disposing the material. “The problem is getting farmers to take the compost. The site I look after is now generating more than 5,000 tonnes annually. We send it out to allotments but we could do with more farmers taking it.” Will McManus from Zero Waste Scotland estimated there were now about 3 million tonnes of compost being generated in the UK annually. This was ten times the figure of a decade ago, and he said the amount of waste being recycled into this type of organic fertiliser was still rising rapidly as local authorities sought to cut the amount of material going into landfills sites. The local authority site in Dundee is one of about 20 such recycling units throughout Scotland, and McManus estimated that some 60% of the end product went onto agricultural land. He accepted that there were concerns by some farmers over the potential bringing organisms such as Potato

Cyst Nematode onto the farm but said that the maturing process and the requirements laid down in BSI PAS100 were sufficient to remove any problem. Growers with such concerns should just go for “green waste” compost, which is made mostly from garden material compared with “food waste” where there might be potato peelings. In fact, he said that some research had shown that the end product contained organisms that could “out compete” any nematodes in the soil so it could actually be used to clean up fields infested with PCN. “All together, compost is a very safe fertiliser with very few Potential Toxic Elements.” While it is classified as a fertiliser, McManus said the main benefit came from its ability to improve soil structure. This was because it contained twice as much lignin as farm yard manure. The improved soil structure brought other benefits such as increasing the water capacity of the soil leaving more moisture available for the plant’s needs. Although there has not been a great deal of scientific work on the qualities of composting carried out, some experiments had shown that a long term increase in yield of between 5-10% could be achieved. He advised farmers to consider using it to substitute a percentage of their fertiliser needs. As such it was a very cost effective compound with pure fertiliser costs being far less than for artificial fertiliser. The potash contained in the compost was more available to plants than artificial fertiliser. With prices for artificial fertiliser once again back on the increase, compost was a good buy, he reckoned.


69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 20 Issue sixty-nine • September 2010


by Hugh Stringleman

Russia Sparks Fears of World Wheat Shortages


ussia has suffered a savage cut of one-third in its 2010 grain production, expected to be down to 65 million tonnes from a forecast 95 million tonnes. Wheat is down 27% to 45 million tonnes, most of which will now be required at home for human and livestock consumption. The effect will be to cut exports of wheat to nearly zero and trigger a looming worldwide shortage. Already the world price of wheat has risen 66% over the past two months. As Russia has been in recent years the third-largest wheat exporter, this will have huge knock-on effects in world markets for grains, feedstuffs, meat and dairy. Russia has experienced summer temperatures which have been 14°F (8°C) above normal, resulting in drought, low crop yields and widespread fires. The government has slashed its grain output forecast and will reduce its exports to 2.0-4.5 million tonnes of grain this year compared to 21.4 million tonnes last year. But despite the crisis, which is expected to leave many farms close to bankruptcy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that there would be no domestic shortage of grains for the country's own purposes this year. He has already banned any wheat exports until December 31. Flooding in Pakistan and China, drought in Canada and locusts in


Australia have contributed to a growing fear that climate change is biting into food security. Fortunately, US farmers are anticipating a record crop this year. The US Department of Agriculture has forecast wheat exports to jump 36% in reaction to higher prices, and in a rare move raised its one-month-old harvest forecasts and price forecasts for several major US crops, including wheat, corn, and soybeans at the same time. United Nations officials have dampened down talk of grain shortages, by pointing to the US crop expectations and the reserves of 36 million tonnes in storage in the US, about twice the level of recent annual Russian exports. However, should the USDA estimates begin to come down as the harvest proceeds, then world prices will rise and food fears will be renewed. The UN worries that producing countries will ban exports of cereals and rice, as they did in 2007-08, thereby creating panic in developing countries. Fortunately rice reserves have recovered also, to about 90 million tonnes, with 40 million tonnes in China and 20 million in India. Volatility in world prices for grains, meats, dairy products, stock foods and energy sources is now the new normal. But that doesn't automatically flow through to higher supermarket prices. Since the soaring prices of 2007-

08, followed by the steep falls of 2008-09, hedging of forward prices by the major food companies is now widespread. Companies like Tyson Foods, General Mills, Kraft and Kellogg now lock the prices of their grain needs for 12 months or more. That may insulate them from the downside of soaring grain prices, leaving them free to use the news of such peaks to lift their sales revenues. Rabobank said the total Russian grain market would be in deficit this year, putting a big strain on its livestock industries. It said Russia had been building up its chicken and red meat industries in recent years to reduce imports. "We believe that low feed grain availability has been the primary driver behind the calls for a ban on grain exports," the bank said. India is well insulated from the global wheat crisis because it produces more wheat than it consumes and it has a virtual ban on exports. It is the world's second largest producer after China and has produced more than 80 million tons of wheat in each of the past two years, according to the Indian Ministry of Agriculture. India consumes around 70 million tons of wheat per year. Commentators believe its reserves of wheat may total 50 million tonnes, although authorities claim 15M tonnes. Storage is a big problem and

rotting and wastage results from water damage during monsoons. This is unacceptable politically in a country where millions are starving. So too is food price inflation, which drives the cost of subsistence purchasing beyond the reach of many. At the beginning of August, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) cut its 2010 world wheat forecast by 4% to 650 million tonnes. But the FAO said the world wheat market remains far more balanced than at the time of the crisis, and that fears of a new global food crisis are not justified at this point. "After two consecutive years of record crops, world inventories have been replenished sufficiently to cover the current anticipated production shortfall." Even more importantly, stocks held by the traditional wheat exporters, the main buffer against unexpected events, remain ample, the FAO said.

69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 21

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69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 22


Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

How is your emotional landscape?


hen was the last time someone that asked how you were? What was the reply? 'Fine'? 'Alright'? Perhaps 'great thanks, yourself?'. Did you stop, really stop to think about the question before you answered or did you just give the obligatory response and quickly deflect the question back to the originator? All too often we are so busy with our lives, our work and our relationships, working to keep a roof over our head, taking care of family, meeting friends or finding the right partner that we can put ourselves right at the bottom of a very long list of priorities. What's more the current economic climate and everyday stress of modern life can take its toll on our mental wellbeing. Demands on our time, struggles with finances, relationship difficulties, bereavement, unemployment – the list goes on. Remember to STOP It's important that each one of us remembers to take some Breathing Space. Time out, 'me' time. Recharge the batteries. It might be as simple as having a long soak in a bath or reading a good book or having a catch up with a good friend. For others it can be working up a sweat at an exercise class, enjoying a round of golf or listening to some music. For people living and working in Scotland's rural and farming communities there can be quite particular pressures and feelings of isolation. Richard Leckerman, National Development Officer with Breathing Space Scotland, the phoneline service for people experiencing low mood or depression comments, “Many people contacting the phoneline or visiting our website are expressing feelings of loneliness and isolation, a feeling that no-one understands their situation and that they have nowhere to turn. They often have many things going on in their lives that are contributing to feelings of emotional distress and here at Breathing Space we can take time to talk through the issues and offer


practical advice. “People living is close knit rural communities can often find it particularly difficult to ask for help about a mental health problem perhaps for fear of being stigmatised or judged by those in their close knit community.” It's quite possible that you will know your local doctor or health visitor and this can make it particularly difficult to ask for help. Moreover the availability of mental health services may be limited in rural areas. The Breathing Space phoneline and web service is witnessing record numbers of people contacting the service. With around 6,000 calls received each month. People are getting in touch with everyday problems such as relationship difficulties, money worries all of

which can lead to the onset of low mood and depression. Richard stresses “Breathing Space advisors can listen, offer advice and signpost callers onto help in their local area. The service is free, confidential and anonymous. It's vital that people know there is help available should they need it.” Here when you need us Breathing Space Scotland aims to offer a service that is accessible to everyone across all parts of Scotland. By operating a free phone number and opening the phone line from 6pm on a Friday until 6am on Monday (6pm 2am on weekdays) we're “here when you need us most,” during the out of hours periods when many services have closed their doors for the day. Breathing Space can listen, offer advice and guidance well into the

small hours. The Breathing Space website offers a resource for people experiencing problems to access help via home or library computer. It provides useful information and guidance on a wide range of mood and problem areas and can signpost people to help in their local area via the Scottish Support Groups directory. You can access the Breathing Space website and then phone and speak to a Breathing Space advisor or if you have access to the internet then log on to Rural health week Breathing Space is marking Rural Health Week (19 - 25 September) by hosting a series of visits on Orkney. For further information contact

69 MAG 1/9/10 3:51 pm Page 23

EDUCATION Issue sixty-nine • September 2010

Study at SAC


ll schools will encourage their students to research possible courses, attend open days and talk to other students before making their choices. If you, or someone else you know, is looking to go to university in 2011, you'll know that September marks the start of the application process. SAC – the Scottish Agricultural College – with its unique place in Scotland's higher education system, may well offer exactly what is being looked for. From three campus locations in Aberdeen, Ayr and Edinburgh, SAC offers degrees, awarded by either the University of Edinburgh or Glasgow, and higher national courses in subjects, which reflect the diversity of the land-based industries, rural enterprise, and the environmental agenda. All SAC's courses are designed in close consultation with the industries they provide future employees to. Partnerships with leading research agencies, and world renowned organisations such as the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, ensure students learn the most up to date knowledge and skills. The college's

own international research and consultancy services provide guest lectures, real-life dissertation topics, action learning case studies, and work experience to the students. Public interest in climate change, animal welfare, renewable energy, and environmental sustainability, and exciting related career opportunities, have led to lively interest in SAC courses, which all consider how 21st century living should be balanced with the responsible use and protection of natural resources. This is one of SAC's strengths; introducing its students to the wider issues and showing how other subjects relate, interpret and respond to the land-based and rural agenda. Regular field trips, industry presentations and study tours complement lectures and seminars, and where appropriate, lab work (science and environmental courses), and practicals (sport and countryside courses) will be part of the timetable. The student population at each campus is diverse, with school leavers studying alongside those returning to learning. Students come from all over Scotland and the UK, many following

a family tradition of studying with the college. There is also a growing number of students from Europe and further afield including New Zealand, Canada and Tibet. SAC students agree that this mix of backgrounds, aspirations and experiences means they all learn from each other, and they feel better prepared for life beyond college. The structure of SAC's courses also means that students who already have a HND or Foundation degree are able to enter into year 3 of a related degree. Entry to year 2 of a related degree or HND is also possible with an HNC. Considerable investment has been made in SAC's physical resources, including the building of its new campus, in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland, in Ayr. This will open to students in September 2011. SAC is a unique institution with a respected history of over 100 years of higher education, an enviable staff: student ratio and a reputation for friendliness. Its graduates' success provides the greatest endorsement however; entering the world of work

ready for the challenge, and to make a difference. And students also enjoy their time. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at SAC and wouldn't hesitate in recommending SAC to future students.” Sally, graduate in Agriculture. Open Days are scheduled throughout the UCAS application cycle with details available on the website Alternatively, contact the SAC Recruitment team directly 0800 269453 to talk through what is on offer and to request a prospectus.


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issue 69 magazine ­ 'Best read in Scottish Agriculture."

issue 69 magazine ­ 'Best read in Scottish Agriculture."