Red Tractor, EA, HSE inspection? Farm inspections usually precipitate a flurry of activity the night before, searching through filing cabinets, bookshelves and even kitchen drawers hoping to find all of what you think you need before the inspector arrives. But having carried out over 600 farm inspections, Zoë Winlow from 4R Reassurance describes how it’s the other, often overlooked areas that are left wanting and can catch you out.
Controlling these destructive residents not only protects your buildings, equipment and feedstuffs, but reduces fire risk too, given a rodent’s ability to chew through electrical wiring.
Physical checks are an important first step, and farm assessors will be vigilant in looking for any signs of vermin activity or access. Damage to buildings through general wear and tear can leave gaps and holes small enough for rats and mice to use as easy access points – and birds when they’re in the roof. Holes showing daylight and gaps around sliding doors are common causes of non-conformances. Weeds around grain stores is another common source of rat runs and increased activity.
Bait remains the primary control measure and for inspection purposes, records must be kept of when and where it is laid, and when the points have been checked. Bait points should be recorded on a farm map, with details of rodent activity and subsequent actions also noted. Failure to provide and keep bait points replenished and maintain up-to-date records not only risks a non-conformance, but also a loss of certification, access to markets and therefore income.
It’s important to remember that if traps are being used on the farm, that they are being checked regularly and a record of this is made.
Broader pest management also brings with it a number of requirements, some of which have a tendency to be forgotten.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans need to be updated annually for some farm assurance schemes, e.g. Red Tractor, and help demonstrate fulfilment of the Plant Protection Products (PPP) code of practice required for cross compliance SMR10. An up-to-date IPM plan also helps the industry demonstrate good practice in an area now under scrutiny. At a farm level, an IPM plan can help business decisions aiming to improve productivity and performance. Completing a plan is relatively simple and can be done online for free.
Plant Protection Products (PPP) store
A PPP store is one of the most dangerous areas on a farm and farmers are well aware of the potential danger of the products they contain. Despite this, stores are often found unlocked and without adequate bunding. A bund should be made of non-fragile, impermeable materials, such as metal, concrete, bricks or stone slabs, and some stores may require rendering as well. Within a store itself, adequate space is vital, so provision needs to be made for the maximum amounts of product held during the year. Shelving allows for easier access and product recognition, and powders or granulated products must always be stored above liquids, to prevent damage caused by leakage.
Not knowing what’s in the store is another common downfall. Maintaining a full, up-to-date inventory, with duplicate copies kept in and away from the store, protects against records being lost or inaccurate and avoids a common non-conformance.
Operator qualifications and equipment certification
When undertaking crop protection, the equipment used must be fit for purpose and the operator adequately qualified. National Sprayer Testing Scheme (NSTS) certification is required for all Pesticide Application Equipment (PAE), with the frequency of testing dependent on the age of the machinery. Details can be found at www.nsts.org.uk. Operators can be registered with the National Register of Sprayer Operators (NRoSO), collecting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points by attending regular updates and training sessions. Any operator holding a competence qualification approved by the Chemical Regulations Division (CRD) can become a member of NRoSO. These details should be checked whenever contractors are employed – not just once, but every season.
Avoiding the pitfalls
Preparing for an inspection involves both the compliance paperwork and the farm’s physical standards; it’s not an either-or. Some assurance schemes, such as Red Tractor, offer pre-inspection checklists and seeking expert help can reduce the worry, save time and cut costs; non-conformances are expensive mistakes. Not only is rapid corrective action usually needed, but a suspension from marketing grain as assured can be costly and inconvenient as grain stores become full.
- Poor vermin control due to buildings in disrepair
- Inadequate rodenticide and bait site records
- Out-of-date Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans
- Unlocked Plant Protection Products (PPP) stores with inadequate bunding
- Incomplete and out-of-date PPP inventories
- Irregular checks of NRoSO details and NSTS certification
Phil Odam runs a large and successful contracting business near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, as well as farming 700 acres of his own land. He employs four full-time staff, taking on up to six more during harvest. Phil grows and manages most arable crops, i.e. wheat, maize, oilseed rape, barley and beans, as well as grass forage. His team offers the full range of contracting services from drilling to harvesting. He is also a haulier, supplies chicken manure and digestate, and builds and repairs his own machinery in an extensive workshop on site. It’s no surprise then, Phil found keeping up with paperwork a headache.
Phil started working with 4R Reassurance, having worked closely with the 4R Group on the digestate side of his business.
“I needed help getting all my paperwork into one place. It was all there as we have good records for our customers, but not necessarily very organised and so hard to find when needed. It’s now presented well, making it easier and quicker to access during inspections. It shows we’re taking compliance seriously and gives inspectors confidence in you,” said Phil. “It takes the stress out of it all and makes me more disciplined, rather than waiting until the last minute to find everything.”
“We are very aware of the importance around health and safety. Working with 4R Reassurance has made us more proactive rather than reactive, prompting us to make sure signs are where they need to be and first aid kits in place etc.,” he adds. “I see the work 4R Reassurance is doing as the way forward. It benefits us all as it makes us more active. They are at the forefront of compliance. Change is coming; we need to be more transparent. As an industry, we have to improve our compliance; for too long we’ve been incompetent in areas such as health and safety.”
Phil has been using precision farming for 10 years, starting with yield mapping and variable rate fertiliser and seed application, and has done a large amount of mapping work with 4R Reassurance over the 10 locations he farms. He’s now moving on to using it with solid manures and organic fertilisers, tapping into 4R Reassurance’s soil expertise. “The regulations are much tighter as the nutrients in these fertilisers vary so much – it’s not just ‘on the bag’. Planning and record-keeping are going to become even more important,” concludes Phil.
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