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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
A farmer's diary: Returning to normal
In his regular diary for BBC News Online, farmer Adam Quinney describes how the slow recovery process is starting after the slaughter of his cattle last week.

At long last, the sun has started to shine, and there is a real sense that summer is on the way. The bluebells in the wood are now coming into full flower - they have to be my favourite wild flower.

The ewes that are lambing are having good, healthy lambs. With about 100 waiting to give birth it should not be long before we finish. Although a bit late, the spreading of farmyard muck for the maize is now well under way.

There is a very real sense that while the financial problems are still with us, we can at long last get back to some sense of normality.

The financial situation would be improved if Maff had not reduced the compensation for the lambs slaughtered last week, from 45 per head to 27, two days before ours were slaughtered.

Blood-testing sheep is not always easy
Blood-testing sheep is not always easy
While the crisis continues for people across the country, at least in Warwickshire the restrictions are now starting to wind down. Part of the winding down process has been the blood-testing of sheep on farms close to any outbreak.

This meant that Maff came back to the farm. Taking blood from sheep is not easy, as the vet has to battle through several inches of thick wool.

The sheep does not help by trying to jump up and down at the same time. I thought at one point that we could end up with more blood from the vet than the sheep!

One other problem raised its head this week. We had planned to have Severn Trent come and spread sewage cake on the land for maize, but this could not happen as they have decided for foot-and-mouth reasons not to go onto livestock farms before the end of June.

This has meant that we have had to buy in artificial fertiliser instead, which could delay the planting process further. Not to mention increased costs again, by some 1,600.

One of the tasks that must happen on all farms in the spring is the filling in of the dreaded IACS form for Maff. On this form, we declare which crops are growing in each field. It sounds straightforward, but, as always, it is the details that can catch you out.

The muck-spreading has been delayed
The muck-spreading has been delayed
The form has twenty columns for each field, and the data that you enter has to be spot-on. A grass field may include footpaths: an arable field must not. Any set-aside field must have the correct cover crop grown, based on the previous crop, and all fields must be mapped to 0.01 of a hectare.

I even had all my subsidy claims delayed one year because I had under-claimed by less than a quarter of a hectare!

Any field that has been divided up has to have extra maps submitted, so I spend many an hour with a measuring wheel trudging around fields to confirm my calculations.

It is so important to get this form right, as my entire subsidy is based on it (the IACS guidelines alone are a packed twin-volume set).

The subsidy I receive from the EU for the cattle is based on a combination of the number of cattle and the amount of grass that I grow. The EU will not pay cattle subsidy on more than three cattle per hectare: any more cattle than that and I will receive no subsidy.

Time to go back up to the ewes and lambs. The lambs are reaching an age when they start to run up and down the field in groups of up to fifty. They only do this for a few weeks, but while it lasts it is great to watch - far better than paper work!

Previous diaries from Adam Quinney:

  • 8 May: Death in the afternoon

  • 25 April: Drowning in bureaucracy

  • 19 April: A close shave

  • 12 April: Rain, lambs and skylarks

  • 4 April: Tough decisions

  • 29 March: An Anxious wait

  • 22 March: Staring ruin in the face

  • 12 March: A farmer's fears

  • Analysis





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