Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 1000 cow dairy unit

Montgomeryshire is a farming county. Its a whole lot more as well, but agriculture has always been at the heart of the local economy. And its quite true that as farming has changed over time, conflicts have arisen about how the industry should develop. Just such a conflict hit the headlines while I've been away on a family holiday - though the young farmer concerned had already discussed his plans with me before I left. A new proposal for a 1000 cow dairy unit near Welshpool has been submitted by local farmer, Fraser Jones.

There are two reasons why I start, instinctively from a position of supporting this dramatic proposal - subject to assurance that it satisfies proper environmental concerns. Firstly, my own background in 'farming' leads me to be aware that Montgomeryshire farmers must keep up with commercial developments to remain competitive. And secondly, I always start from a position of supporting planning proposals, unless I can see a good planning reason to refuse them - a basic principle that, in my opinion should always be applied to planning applications.

Now, I accept that there may be solid planning reasons to refuse Fraser Jones' 1,000 cow dairy unit on Lower Leighton Farm, (about one mile from the edge of Welshpool) - but not some of those I've heard being put forward so far. There is no logical reason to believe that a 1000 cow herd should have lower welfare standards than any other sized unit. And there is no reason to oppose dairy cows being indoors for about 250 days per year. Many farmers keep cows indoors for 250 days now, and some even zero graze. Almost all pigs and poultry are kept indoors. What always matters is that the animals are looked properly cared for, whether indoors or out.

Its interesting that a proposal taking dairying into a new dimension should have been proposed at Leighton, which has a glorious history in the field of agricultural pioneering. There are a host of conservation orders all over the Leighton Farm Estate that stand as monuments to the initiative and entrepreneurship of the Fraser Jones of previous centuries.

And while I'm about it, lets consider poultry houses. Several local farmers are deeply frustrated at present because local planners seem to have developed an antipathy to expansion of poultry units. Again, there may be strong reasons to refuse individual applications, but an attitude of being anti-expansion will simply drive the industry elsewhere. I've lost count of the times farmers have contacted me about this. At least one Montgomeryshire based agent will no longer deal with applications in Powys, because the whole process is so much easier in Shropshire. I really find it difficult to get my head around how a planning department can approve wind farms all over our beautiful mountains, and refuse jobs-providing farming enterprises in locations that can be landscaped.


Anonymous said...

Talking of wind farms, did you know that two such planning applications have been admitted to PCC by Mick Bates' family, does this stink or what?!!

Anonymous said...

you can't compare windfarms with animal welfare.

I thought we were supposed to be getting away from "factory farming" and however you dress it up, keeping 1000 cows indoors so they never see daylight or graze on fresh grass is cruel, and I can't believe that anyone can think this is "a good idea".

The arguments against this have been mainly the smell and possible noise that local people to the farm may have to endure. I come from the angle that it is the most appalling way to farm any animal, and I just despair.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon 1 - Mick has mostly been open and public about his support for wind farms - which, in my opinion must mean that he will support the 400kv line and all that entails. Personally, I have no problem with his family wanting to site wind farms on their land, as long as everything is transparent. It may well be that relations of mine are also involved - though not that I know of.

Anon 2 - I do not accept that 1,000 herd is the same thing as 'factory farming'. When I had a dairy herd, my cows were inside for 150 days a year - and I was considered to be an 'extensive' farmer. I understand that this herd will be housed for 250 days per year, and will be out for the rest of the time - much as happens on many other dairy farms. The size of the unit is irrelevant.

Local people are right to be concerned, and it will be the planners job to impose conditions that deal with problems - if they decide to approve the application.

Anonymous said...

By Mick Bates' family I mean his wife, no wonder he was all for the curse that's TAN 8, but should he have been allowed to vote, seeing as he is gaining personally?!

Anonymous said...

I am totally against this form of farming but the agricultural industry is in a tight corner. Consumers want cheep products and supermarkets will continue to demand more for less. If this is the only way forward then I am sickened. Shame on you Britain!

I hope Glyn Davies MP can provide figures for the amount of dairy farms lost in Montgomeryshire alone over the years and why has no other option been examined to stop this decline from happening?

The majority of us want fresh milk daily, but are we all happy for it to be imported from countries where animal welfare standards are alot less relaxed or non existent?

And Glyn, This IS factory farming. Where an animal is force fed to mass produce a product in as much volume and in speedy time, then it not natural. hence the term "factory farming" These forced animals will have a shorter life span than a naturally reared animal too. That applies to ten animals or even 5000. Stop feeding us lies. People can see through you far too easily.

As you are our MP, I am sick and tired about reading your lame comments passing the buck to someone else. You are in a position to cause a stir, cause much needed public debate on a national level. Do what you were elected to do before the people of this county begin to realise that Lembit wasn't such a bad choice after all! Save us from that at least!!!

Glyn Davies said...

Anon 1 - Must admit that I do not see a problem. We all know where Mick Bates stands on wind turbines (and he was the Lib Dem spokesman on this issue when I was an AM) so we can take into account his opinion into account when he speaks. It was one of those areas where he and I held very different opinions. I preferred Mick's approach to certain others who said different things, depending on the audience..

Anon 2 - We can agree that the consumer is driven primarily by price, and those who farm extensively make a commercial sacrifice - some thing I did throughout the decades that I was involved in active farming. When I was young I farmed in partnership with my father (who died young) and we milked around 60/70 cows, which became uneconomic in the 1970s, which led us to switch to beef and sheep. Today, the 'economic threshold' is much higher.

Where we disagree is that the practices adopted in a very large herd are less desirable than in a smaller herd. What I'm opposed to are unnatural practices such as the use of Bovine Somatotropin (BSE). Neither am I keen on zero grazing, though this opinion lacks logic because I accept it in respect of poultry and pigs. Not sure what point you are trying to make towards the end of your comment.

Anonymous said...

Powys have only approved one windfarm to date. The applications for a large number of the windfarms in Montgomeryshire will be approved or refused by the Conservative Government in London rather than PCC. Are you discussing your concerns with Chris Huhne?

The 1000 cow dairy unit will seriously affect the landscape around Leighton and can't really be hidden with trees. It will be very visible in the lower Severn valley. It's not really in keeping with the area - is it?

Anonymous said...

mr davis, can you just clarify for me if you are supporting the farm expansion, as it stands, in leighton? i'm not totally clear from your comments where you stand. although you say the site is about a mile from welshpool, i am sure you realise that it will be barely a few metres from leighton primary school and village hall. do you not think other sites would accommodate this kind of 'mega-dairy' better?

Anonymous said...

We have now seen how a proposal for 1,000 dairy herd has its knock on consequences. Fraser has now bough Marrington Cottages farm nr Chribury (in Shropshire, easier planning apps?). He intends to rip out 7 MILES (11km) of historic hedgerows and change this area of countryside for ever. This I can only guess is to grow food stuffs for this 1,000 dairy herd. We will now have to endure 'priarie farming' in a corner of Shropshire / Wales, our beautiful border country. His planning application by agents MMP is just so pathetic it beggars beleif. "No wildlife value in the hedgerows and they are not historic"...well some are the border between England & Wales! How much history do you want? So this is what 'industrial faming' brings... I for one would not want to drink a drop of his milk from these two schemes. Things have to change (and yes I mean the supermarkets, big business killing the whole planet etc) and the politicians if they had any guts they COULD acheive it!

Anonymous said...

re the outrageous proposal to rip out 11km of hedgerow from merrington farm by fraser jones.
unfortunately greed is the driving force here yet again.
I live very near to Merrington farm and am a wildlife photographer.In the last 7years I have photographed barn owls,tawny owls,hares,curlew,lapwing,slow worms,damoiselle flies,
bats,red kites,starlings,song thrushes,peregrine falcon to name just some of the wildlife in the immediate vicinity.I have also seen a pine martin.
How anybody in their right mind could consider ripping out hedgerows on this farm wil have their blood on his hands but I don't suppose will care as long as they can retain their high standard of living.
The superior human being takes only what he truly needs from this planet.