Press releases from Countrywide:
By Colin Shepherd, Northern Commodities Manager, Countrywide Farmers
Over the last 3 months we have seen spot wheat prices drop to just under £100 in places, and then rally to around £120 now for spot movement for specific homes. Hipro Soya has been on offer as low as mid £270’s for May to October 2015, but spot prices are still trading around £335-340. Very good opportunities have been available at times for the likes of Wheat Distillers, Rapemeal, Maize Meal, Wheatfeed and moist feeds. This is all about being open and flexible, taking advantage of the deals when they are on offer.
What to look for now with Proteins?
- It feels that if the right deal comes along, there is plenty of business still to be done for this up and coming winter.
- In the last article, we highlighted the size of the North American Soyabean crop, this feels like it will be bigger again. In the last 3 months we have seen the projected crop size go from 103.42mmt to 106.87mmt at the last USDA report – If anything reports suggest it will be a little higher than this (remember the 2013 crop was 89.51mmt which was viewed as good).
- The spot Soya market, as already highlighted, is relatively expensive and tight in supply, so cover up to the New Year if not already and watch for opportunities in December to book forward business (May 15 onwards). We believe that the Soya price for May/Oct 15 and beyond will fall back towards the £270’s (depending on location and load size), and with a bit of lady luck better than that. This year’s huge crops are too big not to present us with really good buying opportunities towards December.
- If you have not covered spot Soya requirements, then at least look at other protein options. Rapemeal (Protected), Syrups and Moist Feeds are all offering potential to take some protein at very good value, which when balanced with your forages should give an opportunity to save costs. However, one product that must be considered, being high in energy and protein is the distillers grains coming from the UK ethanol plants – they have moved to a level that must be at least investigated, giving the potential to reduce costs now and throughout the winter.
Given another very good year for world production of cereals, Maize and Wheat in particular, forward cover needs to be thought through now for any energy related products. The market continues to move in cycles, we are seeing that now with milk prices as you are all too well aware. It will happen again with all feed prices. The trick is covering at a time when the market feels it has run its course at the low end, and putting sensible cover down.
- The current situation provides very good potential to look for opportunities to put cover in place through to April 2016. However, with this latest rally of around £15/mt on wheat, leave it for a month or two until things settle back.
- When buying opportunities arise, chip away adding more cover slowly, up to 50% through to October 15 or even April 16. When you have done a trade, be happy that you have contracted some of your forward requirements and concentrate on other aspects of running your business.
- Cereals, wheat in particular, are around 30% down in price from a year ago, this lower price range will not last forever, underlying world demand is still good for commodities, we have just gone through two years of great supply – it will turn, so covering in the next month or two looks sensible.
In summary, in a difficult period for milk production, it is hard to pull away from the hard reality of supply and demand of all commodities. We have had unprecedented supply of feed commodities, building up over the last two years, leading to a situation of much higher stocks of both energies and proteins. However, do not be lulled into a period of inactivity, these lower prices will pull in demand from other sectors such as ethanol production. Therefore, look at your current cover percentages, and if you are comfortable for this winter then fine. But be aware of spot opportunities for products you may not historically use, if you need to buy over the next few months – good buys are out there.
Finally, keep an eye on the potential of covering product from May onwards next year. As outlined on both cereals and proteins it feels like we are close to the lower end of the cycle for both feed stocks. We would be surprised if the next two months will not offer some great buying potential for the 18 - 20 months beyond January 2015.
Ewe nutrition: 'precision pays' says nutritionist
Correct feeding and management of ewes is vital to ensure a successful lambing outcome. This is the view of Mark Hall, Commercial Nutritionist for Countrywide Farmers, who believes attention to detail and precision at every stage, from flushing prior to tupping, through to late pregnancy will be rewarded.
“Silage qualities in 2014 are generally very poor, but as always there is a large variation between farms. Supplementing silages should always be carefully considered, every year is different and feeding regimes should be adjusted accordingly,” says Mr Hall.
“The value of flushing or ‘steaming up’ in ewes should never be under estimated,” says Mr Hall. “Firstly, it gets ewes in the correct body condition score (BCS), of between 2.5 to 3.0, which helps to reduce any nutritional stressors on the system and prepares the body for mating. Secondly, it stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin is a very important hormone in the mating cycle in that it signals to the reproductive system that the body is in a sufficient nutritional state to ovulate.”
Insulin production is stimulated by the feeding of high starch compounds or concentrates and high energy lick buckets. “This is very important for the first 2-3 weeks of tupping as it is vital to get ewes cycling as quickly as possible ready for the rams,” continues Mr Hall. “Then 2-3 weeks into the tupping period feed concetrates can be reduced to switch off insulin production.”
Early and mid pregnancy – maintaining BCS
The main goal throughout early and mid pregnancy is the maintenance of BCS. “Now isn’t the time for ewes to be losing or gaining weight,” explains Mr Hall, “and ideally the BCS of 2.5-3.0 that has been achieved pre-tupping can be maintained throughout pregnancy. Care must be taken so that animals do not become over conditioned, which can lead to significantly reduced dry matter intakes at lactation. It is lamb development that occurs during this period rather than actual lamb growth so both energy and protein requirements for the ewe are relatively low at this time, not rising much above maintenance levels.”
Late pregnancy – preparing for lambing
In contrast, 75% of lamb growth occurs during the final 6-8 weeks of pregnancy greatly increasing nutritional demands on the ewe. Again, precision pays and scanning is a vital decision making aid when it comes to the partitioning of groups.
“Wherever possible split singles, twins and triplets into groups, to allow target feeding,” says Mr Hall, “providing less for singles, and more for triplets, to ensure that animals don’t get too fat or too thin and save on compound costs. Thin singles should be put in with twin lambers and thin twins should be put in with the triplets to allow a return to the correct BCS. Nutrition during this late pregnancy period is vitally important as it also governs colostrum and milk quality when the ewe does eventually lamb. Poor nutrition at this stage results in not enough milk being available for lambs and very poor early growth rates.”
The closer to lambing, the more demands on the ewe increase and, in the last two weeks, a final increase in the level of nutrition can be required.
Get the ration right
Mr Hall recommends that farms should always get silage or hay analysed and match the compound and feed rate to the forage, that way you are providing a balanced ration that meets the flocks nutritional needs in the most precise and cost-effective way.
“When considering which concentrate or how much to feed sheep, there is no such thing as the ‘best cake’ only the ‘right cake’,” advises Mr Hall. “The overall diet must be considered. There is little point in feeding the most expensive, highest energy density cake on the market at the same rate every year; if you are already providing your sheep with an 11ME, 15% CP grass silage. Not only is this expensive, but the sheep will become too fat.”
“Therefore it is crucial to know the nutritional value of what you are feeding, depending on silage quality it may even prove more cost effective to feed a high quality compound but at a lower rate.”
Given that cereal prices at an all-time low, the other option for 2014 is to utilise home grown or even bought in cereals. They can provide a very cost effective method of feeding ewes however when feeding high starch cereals it is vital to consider two key points; which protein source to mix with and how to avoid acidosis.
“Soya or protected soya is the gold standard for breeding ewes, mixing soya and cereals will give you an excellent mix that can be fed alongside silage,” explains Mark. “High Digestible Undegradable Protein (DUP) levels will support excellent milk production ensuring lambs get the best start possible. Failing this a high soya protein pellet can give you a more cost effective option if you are unable to take bulk loads of Soya in a significant tonnage.”
“Acidosis is an ever present threat when feeding cereals, compound feeds rarely reach 40% starch so can be quite safe in sensible quantities, cereal rations can be as high as 60% starch, bringing about rapid acidosis. If ewes are housed then plenty of fresh fibre should be provided and feeds should be split into small quantities that can be fed little and often. If lambing outside ensure there is enough trough space for all the ewes to feed at the same time and where possible try to split feeds into small amounts at regular intervals.”
Attention to detail and knowing exactly what individual elements of the diets are made up of at every stage is the key to tailoring diets to the flocks’ specific nutritional needs ensuring better returns at this crucial time of year.
Countrywide Farmers plc has announced the appointment of Andrew Webb as Chief Commercial Officer to the Board with effect from 5th January 2015.
Reporting to Chief Executive Officer, John Hardman, Andrew Webb will be responsible for leading the exciting new strategy which will see Countrywide become the leading multichannel retailer to the rural community. Andrew brings extensive experience of the development and delivery of successful multi-channel experiences to customers in a wide variety of leading businesses including Equifax, Game Digital, White Stuff, East, and Carphone Warehouse.
Commenting on his appointment, John Hardman said “This is a really important appointment for the business and demonstrates our ambition to provide our customers with the best multichannel shopping experience. We recognise customer buying patterns are evolving and we want to stay at the forefront of these changing trends. Having previously operated as Chief Operating Officer at White Stuff and Chief Executive Officer of East, Andrew has over 20 years’ experience of growing retail and e-commerce brands, where he adopted a highly customer centric approach whilst focusing on loyalty and profit. Andrew's appointment coincides with the roll out of Project Fusion, a new technology platform which will integrate our existing network of 53 stores, in-field sales team, online, and catalogue shopping; it will provide our customers with the widest range of shopping options as well as driving efficiencies across the business.”
Speaking about his appointment Andrew Webb recognises the opportunity in the rural sector, “no one is dominating this space and Countrywide represents a real opportunity to occupy a market leading position in a growing sector. Drawing on the insight from the largest rural loyalty card programme it feels as if the business is on the verge of delivering a step change in service levels to the rural customer. I am excited to be coming to Countrywide to build on all the good work so far and to lead this multichannel implementation.”
Carwyn James, Farmers Apprentice finalist 2014, has been appointed as Ruminant Nutritionist in West Wales at Countrywide Farmers plc, the UK’s leading supplier of products, advice and services to the rural community.
Currently a finalist in the Farmers Apprentice programme being run by Farmers Weekly, Carwyn will be responsible for Ruminant Nutrition in West Wales, where his local knowledge and Welsh language skills will add value to Countrywide’s customers. He is undergoing the award winning Countrywide training programme which includes an in depth course at Harper Adams on dairy nutrition to hone his existing knowledge.
Having been part of the Fresh Start Dairy Academy and the Tesco Future Farmers Foundation, Carwyn has been pro-active in furthering his knowledge and skills. A fourth generation farmer, he farms in partnership with his mother and brother. The 300 acre farm, based in Pembrokeshire has300 breeding ewes and 70 Hereford sucklers, however Carwyn is also looking at diversification options to develop the farm further.
Mr James, said: “I am really excited to take on this role, like many in agriculture I know that there is a bright future and plenty of opportunities to succeed. I’ve always made sure to stay focussed, learn from those more experienced and worked hard. I’m looking forward to developing my knowledge with Countrywide.”
Speaking of Carwyn’s appointment, Alistair Folly, Countrywide’s Agricultural Director, commented: "Carwyn has the essential package that we look for in a new team member, he is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and has the support of his community; we are delighted to have him as part of the growing Countrywide team.”
Mr. Folly continues, “At Countrywide the recruitment process is important in attracting the right people. We are currently visiting with all the leading universities to showcase the graduate opportunities we have. However we would like to highlight that while a degree is desirable, we can see that talented young people such as Carwyn who have shown drive and determination and have practical experience in the industry can be just as knowledgeable.”
Coverage of the Countrywide Pet Event, September 2014
Safety is Critical for Homeowners as They Prepare to Warm Up For Winter
Householders and businesses that use LPG for heating are being urged to ensure all gas appliances have been checked and serviced as winter approaches, to avoid the potential for deadly gas leaks, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
UKLPG, the trade association for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry has issued the stern warning as part of Gas Safety Week (15-22 September), an event co-ordinated every year by the Gas Safe Register.
Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive of UKLPG, explains: “Every year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. It is a highly poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning and just one of the many reasons that gas appliances need to be serviced and checked every year by a Gas Safe Registered installer.
“It is vitally important to invest in proper boiler and heater maintenance, including portable LPG heaters that may have been stored in a garage or shed over the summer. Calling in a Gas Safe registered fitter to service and safety check your appliances is a small price to pay for the safety of your loved ones.
“Illegal gas fitters can put lives at risk, so always check the engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card, and if you rent your property make sure you see a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record confirming that a gas safety check has been carried out within the past 12 months.”
Warning signs that a gas appliance isn’t working properly include lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
Audible carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted at homes that use gas appliances. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
For gas safety advice or to find and check an engineer visit the Gas Safe Register website at www.GasSafeRegister.co.uk
‘Coals to Newcastle’ coup for Countrywide Grain
4,400mt of milling wheat exported to France marks a ‘coals to Newcastle’ coup for Countrywide Grain.
“It is very rare for France to import milling wheat,” says Grain Manager for Countrywide Farmers, Edd Britton, “and has only happened once in the last 13 years. This year a wet early summer in France has hit quality meaning more feed wheat and a lot less milling wheat, this leaves France struggling to meet existing commitments. We were able to upgrade feed wheat contracts and pay big premiums at a time of year when wheat is hard to move and premiums are under pressure.”
The milling wheat cargo which left Poole on 19th August follows Countrywide Grain’s first shipment in July - a major milestone for the Amesbury based team which was established in 2013 from Heart of England Grain and the SM Hackett and Son businesses, both already owned by Countrywide Farmers.
The Amesbury office has now exported 11,600mt at harvest out of Poole comprising 3,000mt of feed barley to Ireland, 4400mt of milling wheat to France, 2200mt of OSR to Germany and 2000mt of OSR to Belgium.
“This is an exciting development following so quickly on the back of our first export,” says Grain Manager for Countrywide Farmers, Edd Britton. “Securing such innovative opportunities, good, honest trading, and building strong relationships are all essential as we continue to grow and expand our business.”
Pick your moments….. Buying Opportunities if you’re looking!
By Colin Shepherd, Northern Commodities Manager, Countrywide Farmers
Since our last update almost all markets have seen significant falls in price. We have seen wheat drop by around £35/t and Soya drop by anywhere between £17/t to £50/t depending on the position. On the back of this, all other products have followed, be it rapemeal, distillers, maize, soya hulls or any raw material that a bovine can utilise!
Why has the market fallen so much?
- North American soybean planting has been estimated at 84.1 million acres harvested area, up 11% on 2013 and a record high by more than 7.4million acres. This in itself would give good reason for the market to fall, but combined with yields projected at 45.2bushels per acre and 75% rated good to excellent, is giving a projected U.S. production of 103.42mmt (2013 89.51mmt). If realised, projected stocks will be the highest since 2006/07.
The graph below shows current predicted increases in soya production over the past three years.
- The European rapeseed crop is currently looking like it could be as high as 22.9mmt (up from 21.5mmt in our last article), easily surpassing that seen in 2009 and well up on last year’s 20.7mmt.
- US Corn and wheat crop progress: The US Corn planted area for all purposes in 2014 is estimated at 91.6 million acres, down 4 percent from last year. This represents the lowest planted acreage in the United States since 2010; however, this is the fifth largest corn acreage in the United States since 1944, the crop is currently predicted at just 65mbu below last year’s record crop.
- The UK is looking set for very good grain yields for Wheat and Barley. Whilst Europe appear to be having quality issues with considerable tonnages reportedly not making milling spec and having to find homes as feed wheat, this has added pressure to UK feed wheat markets.
Given another very good year for crops for both Grains and Oilseeds, this year will see ending stocks increase significantly helping ease prices. The crux of it, and the question we get on a daily basis, “are we at the bottom of the market”, is difficult to answer with great confidence with a yes – we haven’t seen this weight of supply for a while and we are working through the potential scenarios here on in. But we believe the following advice stands;
- The current situation provides a very good potential to look for opportunities to put cover in place through to April 2016
- When buying opportunities arise, chip away adding more cover slowly, up to 50% cover through to October 15 or even April 16. Do not be afraid of putting cover down now, for 12 to 18 months forward. Buying forward generally pays.
- Remember historically this time of year proves to be right for putting forward cover on. If feels like the trading range will be tighter for the next 9 months, take advantage of these much lower levels year on year.
- We are through new crop rapeseed and progressing well through wheat in Europe, this harvest will provide opportunities to buy products relatively cheaply – keep talking to your merchant to look for these.
- We know the markets ebb and flow. The next major direction will come from the final numbers on the North American soyabean crop, the northern hemisphere maize crop (both around October) and new crop planting - what acreage is planted and how will it develop are key questions.
Once again Countrywide, the UK’s largest equestrian specialist, are holding their ‘popular Equestrian Events between the 17th and 19th October with amazing offers in stores and online all weekend.
“Our autumn Equestrian Events focus on offering great deals to ensure our customers are stocked up and ready for winter,” says Sara Blackshaw, Equine Category Manager for Countrywide. “We handpick some of our most popular products and make them even better value – just what our customers need to help them meet the rising cost of keeping a horse or pony healthy and happy through the winter.”
Countrywide will be offering a range of special offers over the weekend on Kadence and branded turnout rugs, footwear, hats and body protectors, and also selected products from the feed and bedding range.
Visitors to the Equestrian Events will be able to take advantage of free expertise and advice - from the complexities of autumn worming, to feeding and rugging, from our trained, AMTRA qualified equine specialists.
Equestrian Event – prepare for winter:
- Get rugs cleaned and repaired before the cold weather sets in, ask in store.
- Have barrier cream ready to prevent mud fever.
- Get out your reflective wear to avoid being caught out with the nights drawing in.
- Ask a specialist in store for advice on autumn worming and faecal egg counting kits or order online with Countrywide’s animal health ordering system.
- Get your clipper blades to us for sharpening before winter clips are needed.
- Look into savings on bulk deals before stocking up for winter, ask in store.
Don’t forget your catalogue
Visitors will also be able to pick up the latest Countrywide Equestrian Catalogue. The glossy 150 page catalogue now has 7,500 products to choose from, and provides ‘everything for you, and your horse, all in one place’ from a staggering array of clothing, safety wear and footwear to all you could ever need for your horse and pony featuring all the best brands: Jeffries Saddlery, Ariat, Gatehouse, Robert Lemieux Horse Health and Countrywide’s own Kadence range.
“Visitors should also consider signing up to our Countryclub reward scheme which will give them 2 points for every £1 they spend – plus a 500 point bonus when they join, and double points on our great Kadence products. All the more reason to come along – we look forward to seeing you there,” says Sara Blackshaw.
Mild winter impacts trading results for Countrywide Farmers
Leading supplier of products and advice to the rural community, Countrywide Farmers, today announced full year results to 31st May 2014 as the mild winter of 2013/14 and a falling commodity market significantly impacted the financial performance
Figures released today reveal a 2.5% fall in group turnover to £298.2m(2013: £306.0m) and a fall in operating profit before exceptional costs to £1.9m(2013:£4.3m).
“These are disappointing results, particularly in the light of last year” commented Chairman Nigel Hall, “however the reasons are very clear. Trading conditions in general remain challenging and though the Company is well placed to address this environment, the mild winter impacted upon our business with a fall in volumes of 20% in LPG sales and 15% in compound feed sales”.
“We are confident that 2015 will see an improvement as we believe progress can be made across all areas of the business. A more normal winter will also have a positive impact upon profit. Our growth strategy remains focused on delivering a true multi-channel approach to service our customers and to increase market share. Our investments in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and a fully integrated IT platform will help deliver substantial progress in the near term". Concludes Mr Hall.
Commenting on the results John Hardman, Chief Executive recognised the impact of the weather but believes the underlying strength of the business is robust and that the future performance of the business will be significantly improved by the further development of its multi-channel strategy.
“We have finished the analysis and design stage of Project Fusion, a project looking at overhauling all processes across the business and implementing a fully integrated IT platform. We are now ready to implement technology which will draw together our existing 53 store network, in-field sales team, on-line, E-commerce and telephone traders, all aimed at enhancing the experience of our customers and making it easier for them to access the products they need, as well as driving efficiency across the business”.
Sales from Countrywide Farmers agriculture and energy business saw a decline in turnover to £201.8m (2013 - £214.4m) due to lower LPG and compound feed volumes.
The alternative feeds and arable business both showed increases in turnover and operating profit. The arable business has grown significantly and the integration of the trading businesses acquired over the last 2 years has created a strong platform with the ambition in the near term to trade 1million tonnes of grain and continue to offer the arable industry a growing alternative.
Although trading remained challenging during the year the retail business grew like for like sales by 0.5%, despite the mild weather adversely affecting a number of key categories. Margins fell slightly due to a successful initiative to clear terminal stock.
During 2014 more than 23,000 new customers joined the Countryclub loyalty card with total membership now exceeding 145,000.
“We now have the largest loyalty card programme within the rural sector”, comments Mr Hardman, “providing us with invaluable data to help focus our customer service. We have responded to feedback from customers and launched this year our first equine catalogue, a key component of our multi-channel strategy. ”
The UK economy is showing clear signs of recovery and increasingly observers are commenting on a return to what appears to be long term growth.
“Although some agricultural commodity prices are under pressure I believe the outlook for agriculture remains positive as global demand for food, renewable energy and rural access and development remains strong. Against this backdrop I anticipate a stronger business performance from Countrywide in 2015”
Finally I would like to thank all our employees who continue to work tirelessly in the support of our business and the rural community. They are our heritage and when armed with industry leading information technology systems will continue to be the backbone of the business as we move forward.”
Countrywide Farmers, leading supplier of products and services to the rural community, is one of the first retailers in the UK to offer a new and innovative delivery solution to its customers.
Online shoppers can now opt to have their purchases delivered to a Doddle parcel shop, to be picked up at a suitable time, avoiding the inconvenience of missed home deliveries. It follows a successful trial at Doddle’s pilot shop in Milton Keynes.
Located in Network Rail train stations and major hubs, Doddle is the UK’s first fully dedicated, staffed, online shopping collection and returns service. Over the next three years Doddle will open 300 parcel shops across the UK, the first of which include key locations at London Cannon Street, Brighton, London Waterloo, Three Bridges, Bromley and Chelmsford.
Brian McArdle, Online Channel Manager, Countrywide said: "As each Doddle parcel shop opens Countrywide customers will be able to have their items delivered to those locations. The majority of Countrywide customers are based in the rural community and subsequently spend a great deal of time living and working outside, which proves to be inconvenient when it comes to home deliveries. We have for some time been looking at various solutions to this challenge to ensure customers receive greater flexibility and value when shopping online with Countrywide.
Doddle offers a good opportunity to further grow and develop Countrywide's online offer and operate as a true multichannel rural retailer."
Online shoppers will be able to use the Doddle service on items weighing under 16 kilograms and packages measuring less than 50x50x40 centimetres in size.
Tim Robinson, Chief Executive of Doddle, said: “The Doddle service will complement and enhance the existing delivery options already open to people shopping online with Countrywide Farmers. Our dedicated shops are open seven days a week, early until late, which means they fit in perfectly with people that spend large parts of the day away from home.”
3,000t of feed barley exported to Southern Ireland marks a major milestone for the Countrywide Farmers Grain team.
The first export for the team, established in 2013, the shipment departed Poole docks on 21st July and will be swiftly followed by a consignment of oilseed rape to fuel the German bio diesel market.
“This first export is a real landmark for Countrywide Grain as our business continues to develop,” says Countrywide Grain Manager, Edd Britton. “We have had considerable local support allowing us to keep haulage rates down and pass the benefit back to our customers. Over the next few months and, with a good harvest, we will be exporting more out of both Poole and Portbury as we continue to grow our business on the back of innovative, good and honest trading.”
Formed in 2013 from Heart of England Grain and the SM Hackett and Son businesses, both already owned by Countrywide Farmers, Countrywide Grain now trades from offices in Preston Capes, Amesbury, Wiltshire and Newport in Shropshire and benefits from close links to leading blue chip millers and major feed compounders.
“We now have substantial supply agreements,” continues Mr Britton, “and offer customers the opportunity to market a wide range of crops, from feed grains and milling wheat to malting barley, with a business they can work with and trust.”
As part of Countrywide Farmers, Countrywide Grain is the final link in a chain that extends from the supply of seed, fertiliser, chemicals and agronomic support through to the final grain contract and delivery.
“Building strong relationships is vital in business,” says Mr Britton, “and we focus on establishing strong bonds between customers and our experienced trading team, allowing them to deal with the same person from start to finish. It is all part of the Countrywide ethos and our on-going commitment to the arable sector.”
For more information please visit www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk or call Countrywide Grain on 01386 429729
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Sara Blackshaw Equine Category Manager from Countrywide Farmers the UK’s largest equestrian specialist answers:
We all look forward to the summer when we can spend long hours at the yard and out riding in the sunshine. However with these warm conditions arrives the horse owners’ nightmare: the fly.
What is available?
- Fly masks
- Fly rugs
- Fly spray
- Insecticidal shampoos
You can use a combination of all or just a few depending on the severity of the fly problem. Some rugs even have specially designed sprays which can be applied to the rug and can last up to 30 days.
Top advice to protect your horse from flies
- Prevent where possible - There are lots of fly rugs, masks and sprays on the market and these can be effective in preventing bites. It is important to keep rugs clean, it may be worth having two rugs – one to use while the other is being cleaned.
- A clean environment - Remove droppings and soiled bedding as soon as possible while stabled and similarly in the field, regularly poo-pick and clear out the muck heap.
- Be aware of the time - flying insects are most active in the early morning and at dusk – ensure your horse has shelter, a fresh application of spray or is rugged at these times.
- Dirt and sweat attract flies - Your horse as well as its rugs must be kept as clean as possible particularly after exercise. Hosing off or using an insecticidal shampoo is advised, although shampoos should not be overused as it will remove natural oils and dry-out skin.
- Avoid water - Insects are attracted to standing water and love warm, damp conditions so try and keep your horses away from large puddles, ponds and avoid turnout in boggy fields.
- Soothing bites - There are many products available that can soothe bites that have occurred. However if these become large, infected or if you are worried seek veterinary advice.
Your local Countrywide equestrian specialist will be able to give advice on the various fly products available including getting the right fit and picking the correct sprays and soothing creams. Safety and comfort are paramount for all equestrian products, so getting advice from an in store equestrian specialist will ensure that you have all the information you need to make the correct purchase.
Countrywide, the UK’s largest equestrian specialist, have launched a new Faecal Egg Count (FEC) service to help customers keep their horses ‘worm free’ and in peak health.
A FEC test counts how many, and what kind of parasite eggs are found within the horse’s faeces and indicates what parasites that horse is carrying - or not, as the case may be - helping owners, and their advisors, to determine the best course of treatment to follow.
Whilst worming has always been a vital part of equine health care, the development of resistant worms has meant that simply using any ‘regular wormer’ is no longer adequate and may even exacerbate the rise of resistance.
An individual approach for each horse, with a FEC test every three months, reduces unnecessary treatments, ensures the right, most accurate worming products are used and can be more successful and cost-effective.
“Even horses which graze the same pastures can carry different worms,” explains Sara Blackshaw, Countrywide’s Equine Category Manager, “with 80% of parasites being carried by only 20% of horses. It is really important to find out which parasites your horse is carrying and use the best, most appropriate wormer. That way you are doing the job in the most cost-effective way possible and, by using wormers only when needed, helping to maintain the efficacy of wormers in the future.”
Countrywide FEC kits
The tests – available as one and two horse kits – can now be bought in store at your local Countrywide. Having sent samples of their horse’s droppings in the kit’s prepaid envelope, these are tested by Westgate Laboratory and the results returned to the owner’s specified store.
Owners can then discuss the results with their Countrywide SQP, (Suitable Qualified Person), a highly trained equine specialist who will be able to analyse the results, recommend the most appropriate wormer – if one is needed - and help calculate an accurate dose.
“We recommend that you start by doing a worm count on each horse at least once every three months,” says Sara Blackshaw. “Tapeworms can also be a problem, as they rarely show their presence in a worm egg count they are better tested using an ELISA Blood Test which is available through your vet.”
For further advice on equine worming, please speak to your Countrywide SQP.
Download 'The most appropriate test for equestrian parasites'
Countrywide, the UK’s largest equestrian specialist, have launched a new Forage Analysis Service to allow equestrian customers to formulate more accurate feeding plans.
“Hay and haylage make up a large proportion of a horse’s daily feed intake, but every harvest is different and all too often we are not fully aware of its nutritional value or how it fits in with the rest of the feed plan,” says Leonie Ibberson, Countrywide Account Manager and Equine Nutrition specialist.
By measuring protein levels, metabolisable energy, minerals and trace elements in hay and haylage, the analysis allows customers to feed the right amounts of forage to their horses, whether they are good doers, performance horses or horses which are hard to keep weight on.
“Each horse’s diet should be bespoke,” confirms Leonie, “taking into account all of their inputs - from pasture, dried forage and concentrates to the nutrients they receive through licks, supplements and balancers. For us to develop accurate feeding plans we must know the value of forage.”
The new forage analysis service offers two levels of analysis and is available to order through Countrywide stores or via dedicated Account Managers.
Customers are provided with a sample bag for their hay/haylage, which should be returned to the store or their Account Manager. Within 2 weeks the analysis results, and an accompanying report, will be ready.
A forage analysis report is best used in conjunction with advice from a nutritional expert believes equine nutrition specialist Leonie.
“Our specialists can help customers to make the most of their results by supplementing the analysis with free feeding plan advice,” says Leonie. “This will cover forage, pasture and concentrate intake and takes into account the type and condition of the horse or pony. Workload and temperament are also factors that need to be considered.”
“It really is vital to understand and factor in overall nutritional values,” concludes Leonie, “particularly when developing feeding plans for competition and breeding horses. And whilst all ‘hard’ (concentrate) feeds have nutritional constituents declared on the label, most sources of forage do not.
“By working on a feed plan quantities can be adjusted, supplements added and any imbalances corrected – all benefitting the horse’s health and performance – and significantly reducing feed bills. Analysis therefore should always be the starting point for feed planning.”
Death of a Director.
Countrywide Farmers plc, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of products, services and advice to the rural community, is saddened to announce the death of Sir Ben Gill, Non-Executive Director, who passed away on Thursday 8 May 2014, aged 64.
Nigel Hall, Chairman of Countrywide, said: "Ben made a tremendous contribution to the development of Countywide during his nine and a half years on the board and he will be sorely missed by all his colleagues and friends. His strategic vision, commercial acumen and tireless enthusiasm, right to the end, are a testimony to his character. Everyone at Countrywide extends their heartfelt sympathy to his family."
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Liphook Countrywide and Denes Country Store saddle up together.
The Liphook local community helped launch the towns new look Countrywide Store at a special opening event on Thursday 1st May. Britain’s double gold Paralympic Dressage rider Natasha Baker MBE, celebrated with shoppers and Countrywide staff, and declared the store officially 'open for business'.
The store has been re-launched following a merger with Denes Country Store, previously located less than a mile away.
Steve Collard, Countrywide Stores Director, explains “Denes Country Store has been owned by Countrywide for over 3 years and merging the two stores has been a long anticipated move for the business. Customers in Liphook will now have easier access to our leading range of products, services and specialist advice, all under one roof.”
The store has been specially designed to ensure the focus is on Equestrian, Pet, Farmer/small holder supported by Country clothing/footwear along with machinery and gardening. Customers can also use in-store, on-line kiosks to browse and order from an extra 15,000 product lines, while still benefitting from one-on-one expert advice from in-store staff. Key equestrian brands on offer include Joules, NAF, Ariat and Countrywide’s own brand Kadence range. “From the stores layout, to the items that it stocks and the staff available, it has been shaped to meet the needs of Liphook’s rural community. I would like to thank everyone involved for how hard they have worked to make this project a success” says Mr Collard.
A Sales Office has been included for equestrian and farming customers to meet with Countrywide specialists: including qualified agronomists, nutritionists, animal health experts and the area’s business Sales Managers, who will split their time between working in store and out and about with customers. The office provides a dedicated area for customers who want advice or to discuss bulk deal pricing. Qualified in store specialists will be on hand at all times to advise on the best choice of product, including feed and animal health medicines.
Caroline Alexander, Countrywide Equestrian Specialist, who previously managed Denes Country store, will now be based full time at Countrywide in Liphook. “We have a very loyal and passionate equestrian customer base in this region and the merging of these stores will ensure we continue to offer value for money, a wide range of products and an improved service. As a rider myself, and fully qualified equestrian specialist, I understand what it takes to care for a horse.
“I very much enjoy getting to know our customers, offering them specialist advice and expertise on health and nutrition when required. From professional yards to amateur riders, I look forward to continuing my work with equestrians throughout Liphook and the surrounding areas.”
To mark the opening event, customers were treated to some stunning deals and discounts. Countrywide will continue this theme by offering special offers across a wide range of products throughout the store during the next 3 months.
Rita Lawson, Liphook Store Manager, who has been with Countywide for 12 years and lives within the local area, said “It has been a great evening, we have been working hard on getting the store into shape and it looks fantastic.” says Rita. “It’s all here for equestrians, farmers, smallholders and pet owners - we also have clothing and a wide range of accessories. And now customers can order anything they need in store using our on-line kiosk, which has multiple delivery options available – and still benefit from our one-to-one advice.
“We have a great team at Liphook ready to work with customers and look after all their rural requirements!”
The relaunched Countrywide store for Liphook is located on the Iping Road, Liphook.
The official opening took place at 6pm on Thursday 1st May 2014.
Managing acidosis at grass.
Managing acidosis at grass
Countrywide customer in Wales one of the UK’s top yielding herds – article in Cow Management magazine.
Improving cow facilities and herd management ‘turned on’ genetic potential
Mild autumn impacts first half results for Countrywide Farmers
Leading supplier of products and advice to the rural community, Countrywide Farmers, today announced a group operating loss of £0.5m in the six months to 30th November 2013(2012: £0.5m operating profit).
“Group sales at £143.6m showed a 3% increase on last year” commented Chairman Nigel Hall, “however retail margins declined in the face of tough trading conditions which, combined with a warm autumn, has produced a performance short of our expectations”.
In a first half of mixed fortunes, agriculture continued to grow with feed volumes finishing 14% ahead of last year and arable sales significantly recovered after the wet harvest of 2012. In contrast grain trading volumes and margins declined as a continuing consequence of the poor 2012 harvest and the warm autumn significantly affected LPG gas volumes.
“The first 6 months of the year is always our more difficult trading period”, says Mr Hall, “however we have made significant investments during this period. Our retail store portfolio has increased with additional stores in Glastonbury, a new trade counter in Marlborough and with the purchase of Abergavenny Farm Supplies a significant increase for our Raglan store. Re-launching our website has delivered an 85% increase in on line- business whilst our relationship with NFU Countryside has helped make the Countryclub Reward Card the largest loyalty scheme in the rural market”.
Following a recent strategic board review, Les Collins, Finance Director is leaving Countrywide and the business is in the process of appointing an interim FD whilst commencing the search for a permanent replacement. “Les has made a significant contribution to improving our business over the last 7 years and we wish him well for the future”, says Mr Hall.
“Finally, I announced last summer the Board’s intention to seek an AIM listing for the business that should allow a more appropriate market value and greater liquidity to be achieved for the business for the benefit of all shareholders. There are a number of enabling measures we are considering with advisers and I have nothing further to report in terms of timing at this stage”. A further update will be given alongside full year results in the summer.
“The long term outlook for UK agriculture remains positive”, says Chief Executive, John Hardman, “although the recent widespread flooding is causing concern for both arable and livestock farmers. On this note we have been donating feed and haulage and I would encourage anyone who would like to offer help to go to the NFU website or donate direct to the Farming Community Network, RABI or the Addington Fund.
“Our commitment to our farming customers continues to strengthen through investment in our agriculture portfolio bringing in key specialists and ensuring the business is structured to provide the best possible service and product choice for the farming community”, concludes Mr Hardman. “ To this end I would like to thank all our staff for their continued hard work and commitment, their passion for the industry ensures Countrywide continues to deliver a good deal better to our customers.
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Countrywide Farmers chooses DOGS for the DISABLED as Charity of the Year 2014
Countrywide Farmers has chosen Banbury based Dogs for the Disabled as its Charity of the Year 2014.
Dogs for the Disabled is a life-transforming charity, creating exceptional partnerships between people living with disability or families with a child with autism and specially trained assistance dogs.
Through practical tasks dogs can offer freedom and independence to children and adults with physical disabilities. In addition an assistance dog becomes a reason to go out, giving a new found confidence that opens doors to fresh opportunities including friendships, hobbies, education and even careers. The partnerships created between people with disabilities and dogs are life-changing.
Countrywide Farmers is the UK’s leading rural retailer with over 50 country stores and offers a wide breadth of products and services for pet owners, including feed, bedding and animal health products, delivered by specially trained in store pet specialists – who offer advice and expertise to customers.
John Hardman, CEO, Countrywide Farmers, comments, "I am delighted to announce that our new designated charity is Dogs for the Disabled. The two organisations are an excellent fit and I look forward to working in partnership during 2014.
“Dogs for the Disabled is a wonderful charity, transforming the lives of many disabled individuals. It currently supports nearly 300 adult and children assistance dog partnerships and provides an innovative support service - PAWS - for families affected by autism. Our staff will be engaging in fundraising activities throughout the year, raising money and awareness, and offering our full support when and where it’s required.
“At Countrywide we have worked hard to develop a ‘complete offer’ to dog and pet owners, including an extensive range of pet products, services and expertise, delivered to customers via qualified in store staff, who offer advice on everything from pet health and well-being to feed and nutrition.”
Peter Gorbing, Chief Executive, Dogs for the Disabled, adds “We’re thrilled that Countrywide has decided to support Dogs for the Disabled as its charity of the year and its staff fundraising will make a real difference. Dogs for the Disabled receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations to continue its work. We will train 50 new assistance dogs in 2014, but with over 2000 enquiries each year there are many more people we could help.”
For more information about Dogs for the Disabled and Countrywide Farmers, please visit www.dogsforthedisabled.org and www.countrywidefarmers.co.uk
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Directorate Change at Countrywide Farmers
Following a recent strategic board review, Les Collins, Finance Director is leaving the business. The Board of Directors would like to wish Les well for the future and thank him for his significant contribution in improving the business over the last 7 years.
Countrywide is in the process of appointing an interim Finance Director whilst it commences its search for a permanent replacement. A further announcement will be made in due course.
Sarah Francis will replace Les Collins as Company Secretary with immediate effect.
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Get your paddocks into the best condition ahead of Spring
Sara Blackshaw, Equine Category Manager offers advice on what horse owners can practically do to improve their paddocks for spring turnout.
Now is the ideal time to repair any winter damage and prepare the ground ahead of a new crop of healthy grass.
But first things first, are fences in need of repair? And do wet, boggy areas suggest poor drainage? If so, check ditches for overgrown vegetation and make sure drainage pipes aren’t blocked. For a temporary solution, a mole plough can be used to create an underground burrow through which water can drain away. Muddy areas around gateways and troughs can be given extra stability using hard core or heavy duty mesh.
After the winter, soil can be compacted. Regular harrowing is essential to remove dead material from the field surface, giving plants better light. Aerating, using a roller with knives, or a sward lifter, can allow the soil to breathe and helping plants get their roots down into the soil and its nutrients.
Now’s the time to look out for bare patches or those ‘poached’ by heavy use: if left they can quickly be overtaken by weeds. Start thinking whether to reseed these areas or bite the bullet and do the whole field in spring.
Top-seed or reseed?
For just a few bare patches the best option can be to rotivate to get a good level tilth and top-seed. However, for fields that are more than 50% mud, or full of weeds, it will be best to do a total reseed later in the spring: the benefits can be dramatic as older paddocks yield less in terms of palatable, high energy grass.
Keeping pasture in good condition will also mean weed control either by hand (poisonous ragwort needs to be dug out and burnt) or by spraying.
It is always worth knowing your soil’s nutrient levels. Soils need an index of 2 for phosphorous, potash and magnesium and soil pH should be around 6 to 6.5. Ask your Equine and Agronomy Specialists at Countrywide to advise on a fertiliser programme to ensure your grazing is providing cost effective nutrition.
Droppings should be picked up as horses won’t graze soiled areas which encourages weeds. Picking up droppings also reduces the pasture’s worm burden. If, however, the paddock is to be rested from grazing, droppings can be left to dry out (together with the worm larvae) and harrowed to give good fertiliser back to the land and improve its nutrient status.
- Consider a bark turn-out area to save paddocks in winter
- Avoid grazing grass below first leaf height - around 3cm
- Harrow, aerate and roll to stimulate healthy grass growth
- Regularly check for poisonous plants and remove anything you find. Given a short supply of grazing a horse may turn to other vegetation like ragwort.
- Rotate grazing paddocks where possible to give fields a rest and ensure that you don’t go below the recommended one acre of grazing per horse.
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