Thursday, April 16, 2020

Economic self-sufficiency will be farmers'​ new goal

Like many, I've been trying to make some sense of it all. You know what I mean and what's on my mind, and like everyone else, it's a new experience. 

To me it really does feel as if all the world’s a stage. There’s no need to explain why… the life of every human, in every village, in every country across the globe is effected by a single variety of microscopic bug. 

We have become news addicts, amateur microbiologists, and look for the power of prayer to turn the grim statistics on the graphs downwards. Have we reached the peak? Will there be sufficient PPE for the hospital staff should I get it? We have become fearful of everyone, family and friends as well as strangers. Have they been close to anyone carrying the virus? 

Authority becomes agitated with people breaking the rules, the guidelines, the swiftly written laws. Incongruously it’s mounted policemen on well groomed hunters who patrol the parks for sunbathers and the under 2m joggers. 

The global shut-down has unbelievable consequences. Flower growers in Kenya are dumping 50 tons a day. Half the Colombian coffee crop is unpicked. Global milk prices collapsed simply through distribution changes. With empty roads and clear skies oil prices have gone from $75 to under $30/barrel. 

On the farm, life is unchanged. This spring, the busiest season for any farmer, is being kind to us farmers. Lambing has generally gone well in good conditions, and this spell of warm weather will bring them on a treat. Cows too have got some decent grass under them, and spring calving sucklers have got it good. Crops look better than expected, though some are wanting some rain. The plants and animals have no clue of the change in their environment, and a good thing too.

This week I took a call from a farmer who said that, when he’s on the farm, he finds himself forgetting all those ghastly events on the TV, in the paper, on-line. 

“You focus on the job in hand, checking stock, crop walking, fixing something. On the farm here there's a lot to look after and help along, and thankfully the virus should be no-where near”

Despite that, these global events are going to have a huge impact on his farming, and in the not too distant future. Economic recession will have consequences on prices and values; heavy support will be needed for many industries and government services including the NHS, just the same as it was for farmers in foot and mouth.  

Since the start of Practical Farm Ideas in 1992 I have promoted self-sufficiency, from an economic standpoint. A part of that was making things to make the farm work better. I often say that the welding classes allowed me to reduce the quantity of string which held the farm together, but in fact the bits of kit I bodged together helped increase yields and reduce costs at very little expense. Over my PFI years I have seen changes made by innovative farmers which have increased their profitability hugely. In the next issue I have an organic farmer in Ireland who has near doubled his organically grown spring barley yield by doing it differently. The challenge is to make these and similar changes on your farm. 

Economic self-sufficiency is going to be the new goal for many farmers, and this magazine will do all it can to help show the way, as it has done for the past 27 years. 

 4,500+ ideas devised by working farme

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What UK Farmers need to look out for after Coronavirus.

Too much to take in

What’s the big story for today? The virus? The lock-down of UK plc? The FTSE crash? Not much else is getting a look-in. Even Greta Thunberg, Prince Harry and Prince Andrew have all lost the lime-light. You'll have difficulty in finding anything on farming. 

And maybe that's because, compared with many other sectors, farming isn’t such a bad business to be in. We work from home anyway. Mostly, we live isolated virus-free lives. We can endure a few  months of restricted movement. 

Demand for farmer's products looks pretty solid and certainly hasn’t disappeared like it has for airlines. Neither are we looking a shed loads of equipment being parked up like their planes. 

So far we are not facing shortages of inputs, and the cost of some of these, like red diesel, is on the decline… if only slowly. 

And, to cap it all, our non-cap basic payments are assured for this next year.  Lots to be thankful for. 

Looking ahead 

Looking further ahead and the view becomes somewhat murky. Forget climate change, further controls on chemicals...  and the main issue is the change in payments. The public money for public good. It’s the next big issue for farmers.

Future Practical Farm Ideas issues will be looking at what this means, and we have made a useful start in the Financial Focus of the current issue. It takes a broad look at the decision to go for what we have called 'eco-money' or continue farming as before. 

It has similarities as whether to go organic. So much depends on the soil you farm. Years ago I visited a farmer near Newent who went organic and found he was getting better arable and grass yields than before. In passing he told me the top soil across much of his farm was as deep as his 3C digger could reach. I had 12 inches where I farmed in Wales, which is why I never thought seriously about it. 

Workshop projects for the next issue

Being confined to barracks means no farm visits, which are the backbone of each issue of Farm Ideas.

The new issue will be done via farmer contacts, with pictures being emailed and the story from phone calls. It’s not impossible, but clearly depends on farmers finding the time to volunteer.  

A fencing trailer is needed on every farm. This one is featured in the current issue   and carries all the tools, a lot of wire and a reeler, posts and rolls of netting. If your fencing tools are all over the place this could be the coronavirus project which stands the test of time

Please contact me if you have a workshop project or idea which can add to our content. Where ever you are!   M:  07778877514   

 the farming optimiser - since 1992

 4,500+ ideas devised by working farmers

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Coronavirus: how long will livestock marts remain open?

I wonder how long livestock marts will be permitted to continue?  It’s a fast moving story. The disease is in escalation mode, schools will be closed from this Friday. The question on many livestock farmers' minds is whether livestock marts will follow suit.

Farmers who use marts might be asking what the near future holds, and so I asked the NFU what their take was on the marts remaining open. Their reply seems as if they are expecting life to stay as normal. 

So auction marts movements shouldn’t be disrupted but obviously we’re now being told to avoid busy public places – we’re just advising farm businesses to take the lead from the advice that’s given by the authorities.” 

was the response from their press office. If the advice changes the result would be considerable. Video auctions are a likely substitute, conducted by existing companies and new ones.   

Two livestock marts close doors

In the past couple of days we hear that two marts in N Ireland; Saitfield in Co Down and Armoy on Co Antrim have stopped sales “with immediate effect” on Mar 16, “in the interest of health and safety of our customers and staff… their health is our main priority” In NI the mart at Ballymena is having a normal sales calendar in line with government recommendations.

The Spring selling period might be a problem

Buyers and farmers wanting to move stock on before spring are making marts very active. While marts in England, Wales and Scotland are continuing to trade, all are restricting visitors to those directly involved buying and selling. Like many marts, Melton Mowbray has spread its wings to hosting various food fairs, sales of all kinds, including fur and feather, and even weddings, and these are all cancelled. Concern about closure might have contributed to their busiest day ever with 650 cattle and 4,500 sheep. 

Viral soup in Chinese markets 

UK livestock marts need to be concerned because it's the markets in China which have been fingered as the source of the coronavirus disease. In Wuhan bats and snakes are possible culprits. The markets sell a wide variety of live animals which are bought for immediate slaughter and consumption. Numerous species in cramped conditions are good for viruses to mutate. 

China has been the source of many zoonotic disease outbreaks, where a virus jumps from animals to humans. The growing popularity of wild animals for food is barely regulated in China and other parts of Asia. They are brought in from the forest and there is no regulation. Poor regulation in markets means that diseased animals are penned in close proximity to healthy ones of different species. At a recent conference former WHO specialist Dr Jonathan Quick said “When you have this viral soup and you have a collection of pigs, poultry and bats, such as in the Wuhan mart, you have a perfect incubator for novel disease.”

Practical Farm Ideas

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Low cost lamb warmer takes little time to make

Made it Myself ideas for early January

LAMBING is just around the corner, and this lamb warmer will come into its own. 

Instead of a static box that's away from the ewe, here you move the heater into the pen. 

The barrel holds the heat and when the lamb gets strong it can walk out and get a feed from mum. 

The creep gap stops ewes from getting in. 

Heat is controlled by adjusting the height of the lamp. 

You can also fit a timer switch so it goes on and off. 

It's so cheap you can make as many as needed.

Before switching on get someone to check your wiring:
1.   to see the power is connected to the correct terminals
2.   to make sure the cables are routed out of reach of sheep so they don't chew
3.   is connected to a circuit breaker 

Other equally simple ideas for January:

*  Waste oil drainer and collector

*  Slurry pipe handle

*  Large spanner holder

The current issue, #111 Vol 28 issue 3  carries 41 workshop projects

The cover story:

Irish farmer has fitted two cameras on his front mounted mower. Turning onto the road is now 1000% safer.

The finance article:

Getting a financial grip:  Managing farm borrowing

Get this issue as the first of your subscription
   only £18.50/year  which includes postage. 

Best wishes

Mike Donovan, editor & publisher   website updated Dec 24, 2019