Page 1

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:57 am Page 1 Issue seventy-five • March 2011

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:57 am Page 2



TEL: 01698-263963 OR MOBILE 07710 329609

Specialists For Over 40 Years

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:57 am Page 3



4 6




Issue seventy-five • March 2011 Issue seventy-five • March 2011

Lambing Shearing



Eilidh MacPherson

farmingscotland EDITOR: Eilidh MacPherson Marbrack Farm, Carsphairn, Castle Douglas, DG7 3TE

irstly I must apologise for a complete blank in my editorial last month I’d written through the night, finishing at 6.50am. The scanner arrived at 7am so no time for any blethers! Many thanks to all of you who took the time to fill out our survey. The winners are highlighted on page 5. This issue we have interviewed five potato farmers from across the country in a new tattie quarterly. Alison Martin conducted the telephone interviews and pieced the article together. It is quite amazing how different the conditions are in each area. Dairy Monitor farmer Sandy Milne of Calcary Farm, Brechin, Angus has written his first blog this issue, while Hugh Strilngleman reports on Milk Price Wars. Other features include lambing by Dr John Vipond, Grassland by Andrew

Best, Watson Seeds and Kingan Feeds by Bill Soutar. The Golden Shears took place at the beginning of the month. Gavin Mutch was the only Scot to make the grade in the NZ Top 30 this time. Lambing time is about upon us. We have around 160 due to lamb from this weekend, with the bulk starting in April, so it will be multi-taksing for the next issue. Off to the Ministerial Launch of New Alliance of Scotland’s Rural Colleges and SAC in Edinburgh followed by meeting a prospective member of the advertising sales team over afternoon tea at the Balmoral Hotel. Better dash and hunt out some alternatives to wear other than the Bekina Wellies, waterproofs and Hoggs of Fife tops that seem to have been permanent fixtures for the past while!


Nutrition BOCM

10 13 14

Arable Potatoes

World Markets with NZ correspondent

Hugh Stringleman


Dairy Calf Rearing

Tel: 016444 60644 Mobile: 07977897867 PUBLISHER - Eilidh MacPherson ADVERTISING – South West & National Eilidh MacPherson – 016444 60644 North West & Argyll Fiona McArthur – 01583 421397 Ayrshire & Central Alison Martin – 01292 443097 North East Amanda Carter – 01330 833838 Cover - Scott Country Potatoes - SAOS Text and photography by Eilidh MacPherson unless otherwise stated Cover-


Page 5 - Winners’ own Page 4- Dr John Vipond Page 7 - John Watson Seeds Page 9 - Kingan Page 10 - Alison Martin Page 15 - Sandy Milne


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:57 am Page 4 Issue seventy-five • March 2011


by Dr John Vipond


armers may be wondering how the early snowfalls will affect their lambing. Early scanning results showed lots of lambs and a fast lambing can be expected, so have 1 pen ready for every 8 ewes. Later tupped ewe lambs and gimmers have fewer lambs this year but ewes are in good condition generally with plenty of lambs. However a lot of extra feed was given to ewes during the snow and with little control over intake forage reserves were plundered. Running out just before lambing is not an option so getting rid of passengers not in lamb at scanning is a priority. Take the good price on offer and do not give barren gimmers a second chance. If you have not scanned, barren ewes can often be picked up in the race four weeks pre lambing when vaccinating by their shape. Barrenness can be confirmed by palpating their stomachs. Barren sheep can also be spotted sparring at the trough and dancing about. Make best use of what forage is left by planned feeding. This means getting your hands on the backs of the ewes and splitting them up according to condition score. Try to achieve ewes lambing in condition score 2.5 i.e. fit. A ewe should start at tupping at score 3.5 that's pretty fat. Ideally lose no weight in the first month as


Feeding The Ewe this is best for developing embryos. Over the second and third month losing half a score, which is about four kilos in weight will, for a fat ewe encourage her to make a bigger placenta, but for a thin ewe the opposite applies. Severe underfeeding can affect the foetal ovaries and this will reduce lambing percentage at every lambing for the rest of the adult life of the foetus. This often happens with sheep on hill farms and is a safeguard as having twins could prove fatal. In the last two months of pregnancy for lowland ewes take another half condition score off. This will save feed – losing 80g/day releases 2 MJ from fat – equivalent to double the weight lost if fed as compound feed. Losing 5kg saves 10 kg of cake worth £2.30. As the ewe loses fat she releases fat soluble vitamins A,D and E. If by late pregnancy ewes are already thin make sure supplements are fully mineralised as their reserves have been used up. Thin ewes in late pregnancy put less brown fat reserves down for their lambs than fit ewes so lamb them on the most sheltered fields or inside. Tupping ewe lambs Ewe lambs need feeding differently. They need to be in finished weight and condition at mating. A Mule ewe lamb at mating should be 45 Kg, but

if lighter do not feed heavily to grow them out. These adolescents, if overfed after tupping are short of progesterone causing no end of problems for the foetus affecting its viability and lifetime performance. Feeding heavily in mid pregnancy is also a problem as the ewe lamb will prioritise her own body growth over the lambs and have undersize placental attachments. Maximum weight gain should be about 50-100g/day. So if you have had to house ewe hoggs because of the snow check they are not getting overfed. Aim just to keep them in condition score 2.5-3.0 on moderate silage or hay, with up to 0.5Kg of concentrate /day by lambing. If overfat they can lose half a condition score in the last two months but keep feed quality high by ensuring a high digestible undegraded protein (DUP) content of the diet using up to 100g soya/day for the last 3 weeks. Supplementing ewes Much new information on how feeds work has been discovered so it is worthwhile keeping an eye out for changing trends. We now know the ewe redistributes protein in her body during pregnancy, putting as much as possible into the liver, lungs etc. as these are under huge stress in late pregnancy. As the lambs grow and take up space the rumen is

compressed so daily throughput is increased and as a result feed is digested for a shorter time in the rumen. This effectively reduces the degradability of feed proteins. This is good if you have high DUP in the diet e.g. soya, or cottonseed meal as this then supplies extra, but not so beneficial if the diet has only low DUP ingredients like beans. This is no time for low quality feeds or being dependant on urea. Exposure to cold weather and winter shearing has the same effect on rumen throughput. DUP has several effects; it increases colostrum production and its quality and absorption by the lamb and helps the ewe maintain her immunity. Feeding an extra 200g/day of soya in the last three weeks of pregnancy will reduce the ewe faecal egg count to a very low level. Trials also show feeding 300 g per day for 3 weeks during lactation at a cost of around £2.25 could increase lamb liveweight at weaning by as much as 4 kg. due to more milk and less worm challenge. This avoids having to drench ewes, reducing anthelmintic resistance building up but will only be effective where ewes and lambs are run on clean grass. Due to the weather sheep have had better feed and mineral supply so far and all is to play for, do not cut back now on quality feed ingredients.

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:57 am Page 5

Watsons are Winners


any thanks to all the readers who took the time to fill out the 2011 survey. Congratulations to both our winners, who happen to share the same surname – Watson. Kenneth Watson, his wife Yvonne and two sons will be jetting off to Spain for a week in the October break. They farm 750 Mule ewes, 20 Luings and 20 pedigree Texels and crop a small acreage of crops at Nether Kidston Farm, Peebles. “We are absolutely delighted to win – we never win anything!” said an elated Kenneth, who has read the magazine since its inception seven years ago, when he was informed. Both Kenneth and Yvonne read the magazine and enjoy the Beef, Sheep, World Markets, Sheep Shearing, ATV and Machinery sections in particular. Kenneth feels that the publication is inspirational. Of the other titles he reads, Kenneth feels that the Farmers Weekly is value for money, but says

that a major defect is that ‘ it is not local.’ Cumbrian farmer, Ian Watson, Newlands Farm, Carleton, Carlisle was the lucky winner of the Island Retreat.. Three people read the magazine on this farm, which rears 250 beef cattle and grows 110 acres of cereals. Last year Ian and his wife lunched on the Isle of Skye as part of a bus tour. They felt they would have liked to spend more time on the island, so were totally rapt to win a week at the Shepherd’s Cottage on Skye. Ian informed me that he had once interviewed me on a Nuffield Scholarship Panel and had followed my progress ever since! I had opted to study wool and how it could be marketed across the world. It was probably a bit ahead of vogue as Prince Charles is now on a global wool crusade! Both winners have enquired about products and/ or bought them, having first read about them or seen them advertised in


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 6 Issue seventy-five • March 2011


Hat-trick for Johnny R

espect for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake may have been the crucial ingredient as Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick annihilated a field of the World’s best to win his third Golden Shears Open championship in Masterton on Saturday night. Wife Raylene commented shortly before the six-man final, which took place in stifling–on-stage heat but still producing the fourth-fastest time in the event’s 51 years, that it was the calmest she had ever seen her husband before any of his 14 Golden Shears finals in the last 15 years. Often giving the impression of a man carrying a lot of pressure to perform, but still excelling through a myriad of winning efforts, he had commented after the February 22 earthquake that the pressure was nothing compared with what the people of Canterbury were enduring. Already the warm favourite to repeat his 2002 and 2008 Golden Shears triumphs, the 40-year-old settled and got on with the job, winning two of three finals he competed in the weekend before returning to Masterton’s War Memorial Stadium where the Shears have been held each year since its inception in 1961.. Te Kuiti veteran Dean Ball, who ultimately had to settle for the minor money in shearing in the final for a 13th time still without winning, was one who recognised the controlled focus, and knew Kirkpatrick was the man to beat. Kirkpatrick did all that was needed as 98 shearers ventured through the heats on Friday and qualified seventh for the Top 30 quarterfinal Shootout that night. He was then top-qualifier for the semi-final and then into the final, which cemented the swinging of shearing bragging-right from King Country to Hawke’s Bay. The top four qualifiers, including two newcomers, eventual runner-up Rowland Smith, from Ruawai in the Far North, and Adam Brausch, of


Dannevirke, all do most of their shearing in the Bay. The other was 2006 winner Dion King, of Hastings. King Country’s hopes, a shadow of some races in the 1980s when up to five from their territory occupied shearing’s most famed stage, were led by Ball and icon David Fagan, marking 30 years since his first Golden Shears (third in the 1981 Senior final), and a milestone of 25 Open finals which brought 16 wins from 1986-2009. With a packed stadium roaring from the start of the showdown just after 9pm, the blow-for-blow combat of the first few moments soon became the jockey-sized Kirkpatrick’s quarter-hour as the attention focused on the dimmer light of Stand 6 at the right-hand end of the board, where he blasted through his 20 sheep in 15min 50.823sec. More than half-a-minute quicker than the 25-year-old, two-metres-tall Smith, who was next to finish, it was a time bettered in Golden Shears history only by Fagan’s record 15min 27.4sec in 2003 and Kirkpatrick’s own 15min 43.8sec in finishing runner-up that year and 15min 35.43sec in winning in 2008. Kirkpatrick was never going to have to worry that he might add to a record of seven second-placings, and his ultimate 1.987pts vistory over Smith was the biggest winning margin since he was beaten by King five years ago. Fagan, to whom Kirkpatrick had been runner-up four times, was more than a sheep behind at the end but produced the final’s best quality points to edge into third place overall, while King was fourth, as less than seven-tenths of a point covered the first-group of also-rans. Ball claimed fifth, for the fifth time, 0.161pts clear of Brausch, a contemporary and workmate in Central Hawke’s Bay of 2010 winner and World champion Cam Ferguson, who was eliminated in Friday night’s quarterfinals with an early cut, which incurred a maximum penalty of five points which put him out of contention.

Kirkpatrick has now won 14 of 20 competitions he's contested this season, consistency which made him an eventual $1.90 favourite with the TAB, which reported punting was 50 per cent up on last year's record figures, which shearing bookmaker Kieran McAnulty said highlighted the rocketing popularity of shearing sports. Canterbury shearer Tony Coster guaranteed that despite the giant strides made by new faces at the top table in the shearing season there were still no new winners of the major titles, when his superior quality helped him claim the PGG Wrightson National Series final for a third year in a row. Former Golden Shears senior champion Angus Moore, of Ward, made it a South Island quinella in the event shorn over 15 sheep of five different wool types, and 2006 winner Dion King was third, having won the race in 16min 49.65sec. Fagan, winner of that title nine times, was eliminated along with Ferguson in the semi-finals on Saturday morning. The jubilation Coster, Ferguson and Grant Smith, also of Rakaia, had shared when shearing New Zealand to a first Transtasman win in Australia for eight years last October was dimmed in a stunning payback by Australians Shannon Warnest, of Willalooka, SA, Jim Dolphin, of Naracoorte, SA, and Bill Hutchison, of Gilgandra, WA, in the latest test. Romping home by more than 11pts on almost no preparation after arriving in New Zealand, they scored Australia’s first win in New Zealand in six years, thanks mainly to 2005 win survivor and two-times World champion Warnest’s fastest time of 16min 22.047sec for the 12 sheep comprising 6 merinos, 3 longwools and 3 second-shears. Last off the board, two-and-a-half minutes later, Dolphin produced the best quality points, but there was still six points between Warnest and Dolphin finishing first and second on

total points, with Smith next the best of the Kiwis. On top of Kirkpatrick’s win Joanne Kumeroa, of Whanganui, made it a double for those entering the naughty 40s in the major Golden Shears titles, when she won the Open woolhandling final, increasing her record number of triumphs in the event to five, dating back to 1995. Working in Australia for much of the season, she only entered this year’s reckoning when winning the Pre-Shears Championship at Riverside, near Masterton, last Wednesday. Reigning New Zealand Open champion Joel Henare, of Gisborne, had to settle for second for a third year in a row, having reached the final in all his five seasons in the Open class. Second-time-finalist and home-town hope Waimiere Peneha was third, and first-time Golden Shears Open finalist and sole remaining South Island prospect Robyne Murray, of Alexandra, was fourth.

Too Mutch


nlucky for some, Gavin Mutch qualified in 13th place in the Open Heats at the 2011 Golden Shears competition. He was the only British shearer to make the Top 30. Jordan Smeaton came in at number 49 and and Grant Lundie 53, Alan Grant 58 and Una Cameron 74, with Tom Wilson just behind on 76. In the Top 30, Mutch moved up the 8th position, making the cut for the 12-man semi finals. He held his place in the semis, so missed out on the final. The Tui Open Invitation Final, for the six who missed out on the final, saw Mutch become master, with a 1.174 point lead over James Fagan. Matt Smith, Jason Win, Jerome McRae and Paul Avery were third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 7


We contribute to the cost of these vital trials, as do all the more enlightened seed merchants in Scotland, but Scottish Government support is vital. The funding is under Issue seventy-five • March 2011

Without that data, we would, over time, be unsure that we were acting in our clients' best interests and have to rely solely on data from the breeders of the material, rather than the existing independent system that has worked so well for decades. A thriving agricultural industry is vital for the future prosperity of Scotland and if ever there was a time for the Scottish Government to get behind the industry, it is now. The Watson Seeds Catalogue for 2011 is now available, highlighting all that is best in grass seed mixtures, utilising first choice grass varieties from the SAC grass list


he recent collapse of the banking industry came as quite a shock to us all and we are now beginning to see the ramifications of the crisis as public budgets are squeezed. In Scotland, agriculture benefits from an independent grass and clover trialling system run by the SAC, in part financed by the Scottish Government, where the grass and clover varieties included in their annual publication are classified according to their potential usefulness for agricultural purposes, under Scottish conditions. In addition, the classification is based on accumulated data from the variety evaluation programmes of SAC and is reviewed annually. When information becomes available or older varieties become outclassed, merit ratings are adjusted accordingly. A key element in the system is the retesting of varieties that have been around for a considerable time and as a result, varieties are downgraded as their performance declines from the original rating. New trial data from recent trials of the important late tetraploid ryegrass group has been very significant. Of the fifteen listed, six are now being downgraded, which is a significant number. We, at Watson Seeds, have decided not to use any of these varieties in our 2011 Castle mixtures and have worked hard at securing stocks of the best varieties in the group, in particular, Dunloy, Twymax and Navan. This is to ensure that we continue to deliver mixtures that will maximise animal performance. If evidence were needed of the performance of the Watson Seeds

grass mixtures, during the last Agriscot Silage competition in 2010, seven of the top twelve finalists were long term users of Watson Seeds grass seed mixtures. The importance of silage quality is emphasised by the following example:-

review and we need to continue to argue that the investment in independent grass and clover trials is vital if we wish to continue to be at the forefront of animal production.

Top big bale silages averaged 12.1MJ/kg/DM Per tonne of silage DM this will produce 356kg of beef For Scotland, average big bale silage is 9.7 MJ/kg/DM Per tonne of silage DM this will produce 285kg of beef This is a difference of 71 kg of LWG per tonne Which represents ÂŁ92 extra income* per tonne of silage *ÂŁ1.30kg LWG


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 8


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 9

NUTRITION Issue seventy-five • March 2011

Technical Solution Increases Production at Kingan Farm Feeds by Bill Soutar


ncreased demand for blends following the introduction of BOCM PAULS' Agribusiness Desk at Motherwell, two new Account Managers, and the efforts of our merchant partners, put both staff and equipment under pressure at Kingans Farm Feeds near Annan. “This is the kind of problem every business wants,” explains General Manager Andrew Bowles, “but a solution had to be found to reduce the workload for staff and ensure that we are able to give our customers the service they deserve.” As an interim measure, an evening shift was introduced, giving time to plan the best way forward. As we go to press the new equipment, a large mixer under hopper and a state of the art computer control system, has been installed and is being commissioned. The DSL system chosen, already controls nine BOCM PAULS' compound feed mills including Penrith, Preston and Newcastle Under Lyme. In addition to controlling mixing, co-ordinating conveyor and elevator movements for bulk outloading and adding molasses, the computer system will forecast raw material requirements from orders placed, and track incoming raw materials and product deliveries. The operator can work comfortably from the cab of his loading shovel. Ingredients required for each formulation are displayed on a giant flat screen monitor. Weights from the mixer load cells are recorded on the system for auditing, traceability, and raw material stock control. Foreman Kenny McWilliam explains “We can now load a vehicle in half the time it took using our old manual system. We will be able to turn BOCM PAULS' and contractors' vehicle round so much quicker, and

more importantly reduce the waiting time for our self collect customers.” The Kingan blend business was purchased by BOCM PAULS Ltd in 2004 as part of their drive to offer customers a total feed service. The recent addition of their Feeds Marketing Division, supplying straights, co-products and minerals completes the circle. The UK is currently supplied by seven BOCM PAULS blending plants, from Turriff Farm Feeds in the north to Exeter in the south. Dairy, beef and sheep farmers are under immense pressure from the rising tides of feed costs and legislation. High performance animals have exacting dietary requirements. “Not only do we need to optimise animal performance, but we also need to ration for, and monitor feed conversion efficiency,” says Account Manager Greg Leishman. “Dietplan's Feed to Milk / Meat lets us demonstrate this to our customers, and enables us to ration for fertility and health.” “The demand for bespoke blends is on the increase” explains Andrew Bowles. “We take account of the feeds available on farm and design each blend to balance nutritional requirements, including minerals.” BOCM PAULS' unique ingredients such as Lintec, Levucell, RapePlus, WheatPlus and Soyaplus are all available for inclusion in blends. These are difficult times for livestock farmers, but there is no doubt, that with a rapidly increasing world population and rising standards of living, food production has a great future. Kingan Farm Feeds looks forward to playing their role in that future, in partnership with their customers.

90%of readers find the magazine an inspirational read survey 2011


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 10 Issue seventy-five • March 2011


Ayrshire – Girvan Early Potatoes

Tattie Talk


outh West of Scotland is the ideal area for growing early potatoes because of the influence of the Gulf Stream and light to medium loam soils. However, this Westerly location also means dealing with an annual rainfall of between 38 and 42 inches and the cost of haulage to the pack house, in Central Scotland (approx 130 miles). Alec Kyle of Robstone Farm who has been growing potatoes for 55 years is now retired from farming and as Chairman of Girvan Early Growers (GEG). His son, Andrew, has taken over the running of the farm. Alec was succeeded by Drew Young as chairman of GEG which was formed in 1990. GEG is a cooperative of six farms, spanning 70 miles of the Ayrshire coast from Drummore just south of Stranraer, to Monktonhill Farm,


Troon. Altogether they work 550 acres of potatoes, 75 acres of carrots, and 10 acres of Swedes. They supply approximately 50% of the market for early potatoes from Ayrshire. Their facility at Girvan incorporates 800 tonnes of cold store and 22,200 square foot of shed where they clean, grade and size. GEG works closely with Cygnet PB, who supplies their seed and markets the crop. For over 100 years, Ayrshire potatoes were grown within sight of the sea, often in the same fields year after year. Most of the land used now is a mile or two from the sea, on land with a less intensive potato history. The 50-70 acres of potatoes, which are grown close to the water, are protected from salt burn by polythene, which also keeps the heat in and helps to promote early growth. Using polythene adds 10% to

growing costs. In addition to the cost of material, polythene has to be laid and removed, and can only be used once before disposal. Instead of paying the local landfill £50-£60 per tonne simply to dump it, GEG sends its used polythene to Cardiff to be recycled at no cost. GEG grows only to order. It selects land carefully to suit the needs of the varieties chosen by customers to ensure optimal quality, rotating rented land to accommodate at least five years between potato crops. Epicure, the traditional Ayrshire Potato, is now grown only in small quantities. Current varieties are Rocket, Maris Peer, Carlingford, Saxon and Osprey, and this year Cassablanca will be grown as a higher proportion of the crop for the first time. A very small amount of Cabaret is grown as a chipping potato.

This winter the coast saw very little snow cover, but a good five or six weeks of hard frost with temperatures down as far as -10 and -12 ˚C broke the soil down well and will have killed off pests. In many previous years there's been no frost at all, leaving the soil 'like pudding.' A dry window before rain started at the end of January allowing carrots to be drilled. At the time of writing (22nd February), seed potatoes are chitting or sprouting in the store to promote early growth and it looks like conditions will be dry enough at the beginning of March to start ploughing, which will immediately be followed by deep ridging, de-stoning and drilling potatoes. Crop % 80% Ware –20% earlies, 50% small salad, 10% bakers 20% Seed – 50% used by cooperative, balance to open market

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 11

Highland – Alan Gordon, Bindal, Tain


lan Gordon in partnership with his father James and uncle Douglas trade as W .O. Gordon Bindal & Co, Bindal Farm, Portmahomack, Tain. Just over 140 miles North West of Arbroath, land up here is 'as coastal as it gets.' They' are on a peninsula, so they farm from coast to coast. “Annual rainfall is 25 inches, with a temperature range of -7 to 23˚C. Soils vary from blow away sand, to light and medium loam – there is no heavy clay at Bindal,” said Alan. With a total of 1059 acres, the Gordons own just over 919.03 and rent the balance. Almost every field has a hill of some description, which is normal for the area, although one potato field this year will be very flat. This year, potatoes will take up between 172 and 180 acres, depending on headlands etc., and the rest is split as follows: grazing for 300 breeding ewes – 212.90 acres, Spring Barley (Malting) – 331.16 acres, Winter Oil Seed Rape – 142.32 acres, Winter Wheat – 180.45 acres and 19.89 acres set aside/fallow. The potato crop is split approximately 75% seed to 25% ware, with varieties Maris Piper, King

Edward, Vivaldi, Markies, Sassy, Kerr's Pinks, Cabaret, British Queen, Golden Wonder, Ambo. New this season are Casablanca, Saggitia and Fontane, while Ambo is being dropped. The Gordons sell seed direct to farmers, or through merchants, with modern varieties as usual sold back through the companies that hold the Royalties. W .O. Gordon Bindal (Potatoes) is a separate company, which buys and sells Potatoes from other growers. Besides the three Gordons, one full time tractorman, and four casual staff are employed from mid-September to mid-April for grading potatoes. Ploughing is usually done as early as possible, in mid-November. This corner of Scotland didn't get as much snow as other parts of the country. December saw plenty of low temperatures, with quite a lot of nights at -6 and -7 ˚C. Some days in December, temperatures didn't get above freezing, so there was very limited movement of potatoes at that time. January was reasonable and February was wet. The frosty weather will have definitely broken down the soil, but

Alan won't know for sure how much until he starts preparing the ground. Very little ploughing was done in February due to wet weather, and March has definitely come in like a lamb, so he's hoping it's not too much of a lion at the end of the month. Alan reckons they're probably on time for planting potatoes at the end of March, early April even though he didn't manage to plough much in November or the start of December and they're well through dressing last year's potato crop. A fortnight of dry weather means they're are up to date with top dressing for winter wheat and oil seed rape, while some of his neighbours have started sowing their spring barley. “One overall concern, that most will share, is that costs are going to be up significantly this year. Fertiliser is up, chemicals are up for this season, fuel has gone through the roof, machinery and repair costs are up and timber for potato boxes is up. Interest rates could possibly increase this year, and haulage rates are up due to fuel costs.” Alan says he has another slight concern, “We have taken on three new varieties this year. Part of me is

quite excited, but part of me thinks, what if they don't perform? Will they stay healthy? Will they store ok? Sometimes you think better the devil you know, but we have to be open to new ideas.” As seed producers, Alan says it's often challenging to work out what their customers are going to want in two or three years' time and this year has been no exception. “There has been a lot of planning and thought to ensure we have the right product for our customers in two and sometimes three years' time, hence three new varieties.”

Fife – Jim Orr, Milton of Blebo, Pitscottie


im Orr farms 700 acres at Milton of Blebo in Pitscottie, Fife, 180 acres of which are ware potatoes. Five miles from the coast, near Cupar, Jim's land is mixed in terms of gentle to steep slopes with sandy through to heavy loam soil. Annual rainfall is 26-28 inches and the average summer temperature is 19˚C. Somewhat surprisingly, this slightly warmer temperature is a function of proximity to the North Sea. Besides potatoes, Jim grows 160 -170 acres of broccoli, 40 acres of carrots (and sometimes parsnips), 25 acres of Swedes, 350 acres of wheat. He also has 35 beef cattle. Jim's varieties this year are Harmony, Coultra, Estima and Sante (organic) for the prepack market, which mostly go on to supermarkets although Coultra and Sante go elsewhere. He also buys some new seed crop and grows it as seed for himself. During the last two years, in a bid to avoid being tied to one packer, Jim has become one of three partners in Bennett Potatoes of North Lincolnshire – a facility which grades, washes, sizes and packs potatoes. There's a possibility that in the future, he may source ware locally for the

pack house, although that's not on the cards just yet. There is usually less Winters than a week of snow at Milton of Blebo, however the last two winters have been unusual, with snow lasting four to five weeks, and this year there was very little frost. The rain, which followed, only let up during a window

in late January and continued through February. Despite this, Jim can see few signs of benefit or harm in terms of soil breakdown following this weather. He usually starts soil preparation in February/March, aiming to drill in late March, early April. At the moment things are obviously behind schedule

due to the wet, but a change in weather could easily put things back on track. As Jim says, “Growing potatoes is a bit like running in the Grand National. You set off on this gallop or season, with your land and your chosen varieties and as far as I'm concerned just getting to the end counts as winning.”


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 12 Issue seventy-five • March 2011


Borders – Scott Country Potatoes


he rolling hills of the Tweed Valley, 25 miles inland from Berwick, is home to Scott Country Growers. Gareth Baird of Manor Hill Farm, and partners John Jeffrey of Kersknowe, and Graeme Aitchison of Lochton Farm produce 250 acres of seed potatoes. Besides potatoes, the group members have a diverse range of interests. Gareth is Chairman of the cooperative and also Vice-Chairman of GrainCo. He focuses on arable but also raises suckler cows, while John has pedigree Charolais and Simmentals and finishes lambs on a hill farm at Dunbar. Graeme grows oats, barley (feed and malting), wheat, oil seed rape and vining peas. The group employs three permanent and up to 10 seasonal staff. They share their machinery and their harvesting squad, allowing all three members to attend to their other business. All potatoes are stored centrally in the 8,500 tonne capacity fully refrigerated and positively ventilated store. They have full sizing, grading, bagging and despatching equipment. Safe Haven accredited, the group produces the following varieties: Cabaret, Marfona, Markies, Lady Rosetta, Lady Balfour, Amora and Saxon for seed potato merchants, variety control and private clients. Some Saxon and Estima are kept for

themselves. Despite little change in latitude, from Girvan, annual rainfall drops a whopping 15 inches to 25 inches. Average summer temperatures are much the same as Girvan at 18˚C and the soil is sandy to medium loams. Last winter was very early, with snow on the ground from the third week in November for six weeks, and there is speculation that cumulative falls of snow reached 47 inches. So, while some ploughing traditionally starts in November and December, with more in the early spring, ploughing started in late February this year. The group have however, also found benefit in SAC's suggestion to wait to start ploughing mid March. This way the roots on the stubble of the preceding crop create natural drainage, the now dry surface soil is ploughed down. Despite the winter, everything is still on schedule. In seed growing, warm soil is critical to encourage daughter tubers. Dressed according to customer specification, and in store at 2˚C, the seed is ready to plant during the third week in April. As usual weather is a concern, and with the ware market being more buoyant, this year there will be a sensitive balance between production and price. Virus control is another concern, although Gareth believes that high grade seed is free of virus so far.

Angus – Guy Stirling, Gilchorn Farm, Arbroath


ngus based, Guy Stirling farms Gilchorn Farm, Arbroath. Three miles from the North Sea, Guy's land avoids the effects of salt, and is just out of range of the sea haar. With an annual rainfall of 25 inches, summer temperatures reach a maximum of 24˚C. His land is undulating, with sandy to clay loam soils. Guy is farming 1000 acres, 20% of which is rented. Besides potatoes he grows Spring Barley (malting), Wheat (feed) and Oil Seed Rape. Some of his land is rented out for growing Sprouts which go to M&S. Growing seed and ware for Bartletts, Guy is particularly impressed with Vivaldi, which goes exclusively to Sainsbury’s, “It's a great all rounder, with a very creamy texture, and good for salad or as a


baker.” He grows seed and ware Vivaldi, Maris Piper and Maris Peer with Charlotte as ware. Alerted to an appropriate SRDP grant by his bank manager, Guy put together an application to expand his operation in super quick time, with the help of Colin Dargie at the SAC office in Forfar. The application took two months to compile and was in for the August 2009 deadline. Building started in February 2010, and it was in use by September 2010. As a result he's been able to double his storage, giving him a total of four cold stores with an overall capacity of 5,200 tonnes. He also installed two new grading sheds with graders, locker rooms for seasonal labour, a weigh-bridge and a farm office. Potatoes are warmed up before

grading in a thermostatically controlled heating area while the ambient despatch area has a capacity of 600 tonnes. For Guy, soil preparation usually starts with ploughing down potash in autumn, and continues with deep ridging in mid April, giving plenty of time for frost mould to break the soil down. With more snow than ever in December, followed by a hard frost in January and four inches of rain in February, soil was saturated, putting the schedule a little behind: ploughing has just started in windows on heavy then lighter ground. Concerns for the year ahead? Like many others Guy anticipates that overproduction would lead to disastrous low prices, so he's hoping to see export markets open up this year.

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 13


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 14 Issue seventy-five • March 2011


World Markets –

Price Wars by Hugh Stringleman


ear-record world prices for dairy commodities, and the prospect of still higher prices to come, has prompted New Zealand's co-operative Fonterra to freeze the wholesale prices of liquid milk in its home market. In Australia and the United Kingdom supermarkets have embarked on milk wars. Coles chose Australia Day to launch $1/litre milk price specials, to which Woolworths had to respond. Australian dairy farmers fear they will be the losers in reduced supply prices, although both supermarket chains are trying to assure farmers the huge discounts won't be taken out of their hides. Coles in Australia is run by three British executives recruited by owner Wesfarmers, who cut their teeth in UK supermarket contests, the likes of Asda's milk price play last October. Australian farmers have watched fearfully the subservience of UK dairy farmers to the giant UK retailers, which means milk returns below the cost of production even when world prices have never been better. The Queensland Dairy Farmers Organisation, whose members are trying to recover from devastating floods, has tried to refute Coles claims and promises. Milk prices to farmers have dropped by more than 10% in NSW and Victoria and 15% in Queensland in the last 12 months, which includes farmers who supply milk into the


Coles supermarket branded milk bottles. “Many Queensland dairy farmers [have] costs of production higher than the farm gate price. This situation is not sustainable, as Woolworths has pointed out. “Our fear is that the British executive team of Coles is set to treat Australian dairy farmers as farmers in the UK have been treated, where farmers have been squeezed to a point where farmers are now unprofitable.” The Australian supermarket industry is a dominant duopoly, although Aldi has in recent times entered the contest. So too, in New Zealand, where the Australian-owned Progressive Enterprises group (Countdown, Foodtown and Woolworths) goes head to head with the NZ co-operative store chain Foodstuffs (New World, Pak n Save and Four Square). Steady price rises in dairy products during the past year has whipped up consumer anger, creating claims that Kiwis can no longer eat the dairy products, which are their birthright. The supermarkets came under fire for what was claimed to be 50% to 100% mark-ups on milk. Foodstuffs managing director Steve Anderson claimed his mark-ups varied between 10% and 30%, which he said were necessary to meet retail costs, keep the stores open and make modest profits (around 4%). Then the unexpected happened. Dairy giant Fonterra, the world's

biggest exporter of dairy commodities, announced it would freeze the wholesale prices of its domestic milks for the remainder of 2011. ”We recognise milk is an important part of the diet in New Zealand and we want to ensure that future generations of New Zealanders grow up enjoying it every day,” said chief executive Andrew Ferrier. “It would be great to see retailers getting in behind this commitment for the benefit of consumers,” he quite heavy-handedly said. A Fonterra spokesperson added, “We have insulated consumers and retailers against any further rises in international dairy pricing for the remainder of the year.” But it's not that simple. Fonterra is an almost monopoly supplier of raw milk domestically, through its own Anchor range under Fonterra Brands and to its major competitor Goodman Fielder with its Meadow Fresh range. About 95% of the milk produced by New Zealand's 13,000 dairy farmers goes into exported products. So Fonterra has made this big gesture to NZ consumers secure in the knowledge that if world dairy prices continue to rise, the downsides are confined to only 5% of its throughput. Indeed it has assured farmer-shareholders that what is called the basic milk price, which sets the payout for the whole season, won't be dragged down by the

domestic freeze. The freeze could, however, impact the profitability of Fonterra Brands (its local arm) and flow into the so-called distributable profit, or dividend, which is paid to shareholders over the basic milk price. And while the price freeze only applies to Fonterra Brands supplies (about half of the total liquid market), it certainly crimps the options for Goodman Fielder. It has no dairy farmers of its own and relies upon an historical deal, written into legislation, to purchase 250 million litres annually from Fonterra and the basic milk price plus a transport charge. So if the basic milk supply price goes up, Goodman Fielders margins get squeezed. That is because both supermarket chains responded to Fonterra's call to peg retail prices. Unknown downstream effects may have been created by Fonterra's unilateral suspending of the export price flow-on model, which is supposed to be free of interventions or subsidies. Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie said the dangers of intervention include market and pricing stresses in the future. If international prices continue to rise, as many commentators predict will be the result of more mouths to feed and limits on production, than Fonterra will have a public relations headache at home in 11 months time.

75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 15

DAIRY Issue seventy-five • March 2011

Monitor Farmer – Sandy Milne, Calcary, Brechin, Angus


ot only have we been selected as one of the two Dairy Co monitor farms, but I have also been asked to put my dubious blogging skills to the test. I farm Carcary Farms in partnership with my mum and dad. I am married to my lovely wife Emma who by the time this goes to press will have hopefully had our second child. The business is spread over two blocks of land, 6 miles apart, running to 1250 acres. We used to have a dairy on each farm but decided to amalgamate them in 2004 and are currently milking 370 Holsteins. Half the herd is red and white, stemming from our Ayrshire cattle roots, which genetics we haven’t used since the early 1990s. Cattle are housed on 250 cubicles and a straw yard, which accommodates 90 cows. We are a level production, 100% TMR fed herd, which are milked three times a day through a 32x32 De Laval rapid exit parlour. The herd averages 10,000 litres of milk a year, with milk sold to Wisemans Dairies on a standard non aligned contract. For labour, we have 3 fulltime and 1 part time, along side 3 part time staff, which rotate around the evening milkings. We undertake all our own foot trimming and A.I work and are very fortunate to have a good dedicated team. The arable enterprise consists of 420 acres of wheat, 150 acres of Winter Barley, 200 acres of Spring Barley, 120 acres of grass for silage along with land let for potatoes and peas as well as some permanent

pasture. Of this, 180 acres of wheat is wholecropped, and 100 acres of winter barley is crimped. We also buy in draff from a local distillery, dairy blend from East Coast Viners and molasses. The 2 fulltime members of staff on the arable side are also responsible for the replacement heifer rearing and mucking out of the 90 cow loose housed area of the dairy which is done every 3 weeks. Phew, I think that covers the gist of the operation! I have also recently become involved with the NFUS Milk committee and chair our local East Central branch meetings. It’s great to be involved beyond the farm gate with a group trying to address some of the problems currently plaguing our industry. We have just finished the first year of our three year commitment to the monitor farm project. We decided to get involved to try and establish a group of farmers that could discuss and benchmark their businesses in an open and constructive way to try and improve our efficiency and profitability. So far, it has been a good experience, and it is interesting getting down to the nitty gritty with like minded farmers. We tend to find we are not alone with our problems and challenges! The main targets on our Monitor Farm are Johnnes disease control and mastitis/cell count control. Progress can be frustrating at times but by the end of our three years, we hope to have made some head way.


75 MAG 16/3/11 8:58 am Page 16

Issue 75  

Monthly Scottish farming magazine.

Issue 75  

Monthly Scottish farming magazine.