Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Appalling negative attitude to UK Food Production by Defra

Last week I wrote about the importance of research for pasture based dairy farmers.
I believe we must have vibrant Agricultural research teams in the UK to allow us to drive forward & compete on a world stage. I think we need to seriously back research teams with talent & imagination that understand low input pasture based dairy systems.
I'm not convinced we are getting value for money (DairyCo levies) but farmer members of the new industry research committee have written to me this week reassuring me they are trying to get a fair hearing & more research input into pasture based systems.....we wait with eager anticipation to see if they will be successful.
But is the Government really serious about food production & food security in the UK?

This week Defra have reportedly cautioned against self sufficiency in food!!!!!

They write of the risks of UK extreme climatic events which would put at risk a policy of "self sufficiency". For goodness sake who are these people??? UK surely has a very favourable climate & very good soils for food production. We have willing farmers!
We are in a world threatened by massive food shortages.......the UK has the potential to hugely increase food production yet our own department is anti.....depressingly negative & anti!.

Surely given the right incentives the UK should be planning to help feed the world......but no, the Defra people are warning against even attempting self sufficiency!!!!???!!?

If this is how the policy makers see agriculture & farmers what hope is there to get increases in research funding?
Dairy farmers in the UK should be appalled by this Government's attitude & negativity.

Lets be positive
Lets sort ourselves

Pasture based dairy farmers need to organise themselves to plan & manage a research portfolio that is totally under our control.

A really good model for doing this is the Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) in arable Australia.

Discussion Groups need to react & join together to seriously consider the "Birchip model" of 'participatory on farm research'.
C'mon! We've got lots of work to do in Carbon management, Soil Sequestration, Biochar, Climatic change impact on grass growth using the EA's predictive models (exactly how is climate change going to affect our ability to grow grass in the UK?), water management, removing water from slurry, On Farm Energy reduction, summer active pasture varieties & forage crops just to name a few research priorities. Groups need to talk about dairy research priorities.
GRASS GROWTH SLOWS DRAMATICALLY....Impact on Cow Condition Scores
Grass growth has slowed due mainly to colder soil temps as frosts & dull days indicate winter has arrived with a blast.
It concerns me on a number of farms where Cow Condition scores are being monitored that condition is being lost.......are you drying cows off quickly enough to achieve the best condition score at calving???? It appears that CS is still being lost even after drying off?? You need to build this into your wintering plans & allow time for each cow to achieve calving condition. After drying off cows need to be put onto a full milking ration to pick up liveweight.....with the use of 'good drying off practices' this should not affect udder infection rates. Time is limited.
Go & look at Cow Condition NOW
Pasture Covers & Current Pasture Growth Rates
Northern Ireland 2190 KGS DM Av. cover& growth of 16kgsDM per ha per day
Dumfries 2350 & 17
Cumbria 2050 & 20
Nth Wales 2103 & 30
Nth East Wales 2300 & 10
Shropshire 2280 & 26
Staffordshire 2285 & 21
Derbyshire 2179 & 11
South West Wales 2389 & 30
South East Wales 2480 & 42
Gloucestershire 2320 & 18
Gloucestershire 2320 & 27
Somerset 2070 & 14
Dorset 2014 & 12
Dorset 1982 & 25
Hampshire 2500 & 20
Cornwall 2100 & 33
Curtins Farm Teagasc 2154 & 22
Southern Ireland 2200 & 24
Average Covers 2215 & average growth of 23kgsDMper ha per day
Very good covers but growth has dropped dramatically.
Drying off decisions now crucial!
Last week before Nuffield applications are due. Lets get some pasture based dairy farm scholars off on travel studies around the world.

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