Phil Latham: 'It is a huge privilege to be part of our team and show off our facilities'

farm lifeBovine TBWeather

Phil farms 385ha (950 acres) in Cheshire, split between the family farm on Lord Cholmondeley’s estate and Organsdale Farm near Tarporley. He milks 300 cows, mainly pedigree Brown Swiss, as well as diversifying into business units and an equestrian facility. He is also a Nuffield Scholar. Twitter: @PhilLatham


There will no doubt be a price to pay for the glorious weather, but this last month’s sunshine has been terrific. Sunny days always improve the horse trials and the weekend passed without major incident.


Nearly 1,000 horses competed mostly at the British Eventing event, but we also hosted a side saddle competition and our first arena eventing competition on grass. I have to say it is a huge privilege to be part of our team and show off our facilities when everyone has put so much effort in and the place looks so good; the feedback has been really rewarding. The sun has also meant we are ahead with our forage plans.


The maize went in easily and we have now done 70 hectares (175 acres) first cut at 30-plus per cent dry matter. By May 1 the grazing platform had grown 500 tonnes more fresh grass than the same period for 2016, which is fantastic.


With the event over we are back into full swing injecting slurry and trying to prepare the grass for a crop of haylage which is urgently needed as we have sold out of 2016’s stock and are struggling to source quality alternatives for clients.


As county chairman for the NFU I get involved in a range of things which previously did not figure on the radar. Last week I attended a meeting for ‘Operation Shield’, a great local initiative aimed at protecting rural properties in the Cheshire west area.


It is great to see that rural crime is on the chief constable’s radar and that communities are working together to discourage theft. I also get to hear more about problems, chief of which is the rise of bovine TB. I have a number of acquaintances and friends who I know are experiencing their first TB outbreak, some of which are ‘explosive’.


Cheshire’s bTB is increasing at an alarming rate, with 50 per cent more herds being restricted than in the same time period last year, it is not good news. I am surprised Defra is not demanding the deployment of blood tests in the high risk areas of Cheshire given the area will be re-classified as an ‘edge area’ in January and there is clearly a large burden of infection within some herds.


There needs to be change in TB policy governance. Government bean counters have a lot to answer for but it is time everyone, Defra and farmers, stopped paying lip service to controls and got on with it.

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