Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hot Tip: Save Energy $$$

Lower your thermostat by a barely noticeable 1°F this winter, and you'll save up to $40 a year on your energy bill, according to the United States Department of Energy. This easy move will also keep 250 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, say experts at the Environmental Defense Fund. That's about the equivalent of driving a car from Boston to New York City.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Merkel as a world star

BERLIN Germany's chancellor wants Europe's economic powerhouse to play a bigger role on the world stage. But how many Germans are ready for that?

WITH more than 80m people and the world's third biggest economy, Germany squats like a giant in the centre of Europe. For most of the six decades since the second world war, it has been a giant in chains. The desire to tie it down was one of the chief motives of the German and French politicians who founded what has become the European Union. Memory has added fetters, too. The horrors of the Nazi period have imbued today's Germans with a profound antipathy to war and foreign entanglements.

At the beginning of this decade, however, the giant stirred. Under the chancellorship of Gerhard Schröder, Germany began cautiously to use military power outside its borders, in the Balkans. When America and Britain embarked on their Iraq adventure, Mr Schröder made a dramatic break with the United States, vigorously opposing the war and showing a new readiness to assert Germany's own power and interests. Now a new chancellor, Angela Merkel, has spent a year in office at the head of a grand coalition, the forced marriage of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). Next year she will occupy the rotating presidency of both the EU and the G8 rich-country club. Where will she take German foreign policy?

When she took over the chancellery last November, many observers expected her to be a German version of Margaret Thatcher (minus the threatening handbag), and knock the economy back into shape. Instead, she has turned out to be more of a foreign-policy chancellor. To avoid political quicksands, she let visits abroad dominate her first few months. She was more effective in helping to bring about a ceasefire in Lebanon than in putting an end to annoyingly narrow-minded fights about health care and other domestic matters. And next year, she is expected to star, not just because she will lead the EU and the G8, but because so many of the other world leaders are lame ducks while she is just starting out.

In ten years from now, says one of her close advisers, the grand coalition may be remembered not for the disappointments on the home front but for the fact that it has helped to reconcile Germans to the truth that unification and the end of the cold war did not create a peaceful world, but a brutal one full of conflicts, "and that Germany must assume responsibility to solve them." But if Germans can no longer shield themselves from the harsh realities of world affairs, how they react to this "reality shock" remains an open question.

The change, of course, was not sudden. Germany began assuming a stronger world role once the end of the cold war brought the country not just unification, but full sovereignty. Its foreign policy, much like its welfare state, was obliged to face up to the consequences of globalisation. But whereas the welfare state could not be easily adapted to fit with the way the world was going, Germany's foreign policy turned out to be far more in tune with the new challenges of an interdependent world. The catastrophe of the second world war, and decades of living with limited sovereignty, taught the Germans the virtues of soft power and multilateralism. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a long-time former foreign minister, once famously said that Germany had no national interests, because its interests were identical with Europe's interests.

But where Germany long differed from its allies was in the ability and the willingness to send troops abroad. The Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, was set up to defend the homeland against attacks from the east. It would not have been politically possible, until the 1990s, to deploy soldiers in foreign interventions: most Germans were staunchly pacifist. Only in 1994 did the constitutional court rule that German soldiers could be allowed outside the NATO area, and then only if parliament had given its approval.

It took a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, both with strong pacifist leanings, to send the Bundeswehr into armed combat, thus breaking the post-war taboo. In 1999, Mr Schröder risked a vote of confidence to dispatch fighter planes to take part in NATO's war in Kosovo. Nowadays, Germany is one of the larger providers of peacekeeping troops, with nearly 9,000 men and women spread over a dozen missions that range from Afghanistan to Sudan (see chart).

Mr Schröder reconciled Germans to the use of military power but without compromising the country's belief in non-military intervention. Armed forces are still seen as one instrument only in dealing with a conflict. In northern Afghanistan, for instance, Germany is testing out a new type of provincial reconstruction team (PRT), which truly mixes military and civil groups. The German PRTs are led jointly by a military commander and a diplomat, and the soldiers are complemented by teams of civil servants and aid workers.
A new sort of German nationalism

Mr Schröder also introduced another novelty into Germany's post-war foreign policy: a kind of German Gaullism. Foreign policy, he insisted, "is decided in Berlin", and he vowed to defend Germany's interests. This partly explains his opposition to the war in Iraq, an opposition which helped him to get re-elected in 2002, but badly damaged transatlantic relations. His more nationalist approach led to close friendships with the French and Russian presidents, and also to the pursuit of a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

As a result, Germany was no longer perceived as a fixed star in the European firmament, let alone stolidly in mid-Atlantic. It was seen to be much freer, prepared to act on its own. Ms Merkel's contribution was to move swiftly to return the perception to what it had been. She has realigned Germany's position, putting some distance between herself and Jacques Chirac, and between herself and Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin, while edging closer to America's president, George Bush.

This effort to reposition Germany has guided her foreign policy. Mr Chirac's frequent hand-kissing notwithstanding, relations with France have cooled significantly. And when Mr Putin visited Germany in October, Ms Merkel did not hesitate to address the murder of a Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya. This was in sharp contrast to Mr Schröder who, during his tenure, called Russia's president "a democrat through and through".

At the same time, she has established an excellent relationship with Mr Bush, though she does not flinch from criticising the United States on such issues as Guantánamo and the CIA "rendition" flights. During her time in the EU presidency, her government would like to start a new transatlantic project. This would be a joint American-EU effort to come up with common standards in such areas as hedge-fund regulation and intellectual property.

An even more important difference between Ms Merkel and her predecessor is her position on EU enlargement, particularly the question of Turkish membership. Mr Schröder was a staunch proponent of Turkish accession, mainly for geopolitical reasons, seeing Turkey as a link between Europe and the Muslim world. Although Ms Merkel wants negotiations to go ahead, she thinks Turkey's relations with the EU should stop short of full membership — a position that is now supported by a large majority of Germans. This could spell trouble within the coalition, since the SPD still wants Turkey inside the union.

The quest to become a permanent member of the Security Council has been quietly abandoned, for now. Instead, Germany is playing an important part in foreign issues where it believes it can make a difference. Witness the negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme, in which Germany's involvement, together with the five permanent council members, is signalled by the shorthand "P5 plus one".

Germany, says Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, is now pretty much where it belongs: squarely at the centre. Whether it wants to be or not, the country is a Mittelmacht, or middle power. It is not a superpower, able to throw its weight about, but it is in a good position to take responsibility in cases where it can bring something to the table. This is so, for instance, in Central Asia, where Germany is not just the only European country with embassies in all five countries, but has also developed good links with civil society across the region.

It is hardly surprising, then, that Germans, so full of domestic gloom, are relatively happy about their current place in the world. But they are warned by Michael Zürn, dean of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, that this is no reason for self-congratulation. In a recent paper, he tries to assess whether Germany is doing enough to live up to its self-image of being "a power of peace". His sobering conclusion is not exactly, at least compared with other countries.
Hesitant power for peace

A direct comparison of Germany's defence spending (1.4% of GDP) with that of the United States (3.7%) is somewhat unfair: the whole point of Germany's foreign policy has been to avoid putting resources mainly in the military basket. But even if you add together the budgets of the ministries of defence, development and foreign affairs, Germany's record is not stellar. This share of "international policy" in Germany's federal budget has dropped from more than 20% in the early 1990s to 12% last year — not just because of less money for defence but also because there is less for development aid. Other indicators confirm that Germany is only a Mittelmacht when it comes to committing resources to development aid.

Moreover, the number of German troops abroad do not tell the full story. The Bundeswehr has been slow to adapt to a world in which conventional war in defence of the homeland is unlikely. Despite 253,000 soldiers and a budget of €24 billion ($28 billion), it has a lot of trouble mustering and equipping its peacekeepers. And these troops have rarely been at the centre of the action: in Afghanistan, they stay in the relatively calm north; in Lebanon, they patrol at sea, not on land.

More important in the long run, argues Mr Zürn, is the degree to which foreign-policy questions play a role in Germany's public debates. Though the coverage of international affairs in leading newspapers and broadcasts has increased, particularly when it comes to matters to do with the EU, domestic issues continue to dominate, even more than they do in other European countries. Politicians seem less and less interested in foreign-policy matters that pay no dividends on election day. Of the 109 new members who entered the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, at last year's election, only one admitted to an interest in foreign policy. Nor does it help that Germany is rather short on foreign-policy experts. "Foreign policy has no lobby of its own," says Mr Perthes.

Even though the public seems fairly content, at least for the moment, with the way that foreign policy is going, the country's leaders have not yet done enough to ensure that support will continue for the policy of sending troops abroad. In urging the dispatch of troops to Kosovo, Mr Schröder used strong moral imperatives ("Never again Auschwitz") to convince the public to allow fighter planes to go into combat. It is hard to follow so emotional an approach with less passionate justifications. There has seldom been any open talk about military dangers. And only low-risk missions are proposed.

There are obvious reasons for this. Pacifism remains deeply rooted. Moreover, parliament's powers in military matters is a German speciality: even a mission composed of two envoys in Ethiopia must be approved and its mandate renewed annually. But what this means is that, although the public now accepts the need for intervention and peacekeeping, the support is not all that solid. Most people see soldiers as little more than armed development-aid workers, who expend goodwill and good works, but do not get harmed. There may well be a backlash, says Josef Janning of the Bertelsmann Foundation, a think-tank, if something really bad happens, such as a busload of soldiers dying while fighting the Taliban.

Fortunately, the Bundeswehr has been lucky so far. Since 1991, 64 German soldiers have been killed, most of them by accident. But this state of affairs may not continue. In Afghanistan, for instance, the north is no longer an oasis of calm and German soldiers are regularly attacked. Germans are also discovering that their soldiers can come home as traumatised war veterans, and sometimes do nasty things in action. Witness the uproar created by pictures of German soldiers in Afghanistan holding up skulls. More to the point, NATO allies are turning up the heat on Germany to let its soldiers fight in Afghanistan's much more dangerous south.

The battlefield is not the only place where the rules of engagement are changing. For Germany, the negotiations with Iran were supposed to be an example of effective multilateralism. But now, with Iran unresponsive, Germany may one day soon have to decide whether it is willing to accept the price of tougher sanctions.

And this summer, Germany found that it, too, is not entirely safe from Islamist terrorism, despite its opposition to the war in Iraq. Two Lebanese students placed bombs on regional trains, though these fortunately failed to explode.

For decades, Germany was happy fighting culture wars over nuclear versus renewable energy, while conveniently forgetting that it was increasingly dependent on Russian gas imports. But a recently leaked memo by the foreign ministry's internal think-tank has triggered a heated debate that is reminiscent of discussions about the Soviet Union during the cold war — and also exposes frictions between the foreign ministry and the chancellery. The leaked paper argues that the EU should strengthen its economic and cultural links with Russia, an approach it calls "growing closer by interweaving" (which explains why some have dubbed it a "new Ostpolitik ", given that this was based on the mantra "change through becoming closer"). To critics, this amounts to ignoring both the issue of human rights in Russia, and the danger, for Germany, of energy dependence.

But, at least in the short run, the EU remains the most pressing issue for Germany. Although the government is trying to lower expectations, hopes still run high that Germany can salvage the proposed EU constitution. Yet the presidential election in France next May means that there is not much time, during Germany's six-month presidency, to tackle the issue.

In a sense, this presidency will really begin only on March 25th, when leaders of the EU's member states gather in Berlin for the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the union's founding document, and adopt a "Berlin Declaration". This is supposed to be only a few pages long and drafted in direct talks between governments rather than by the Brussels bureaucracy. The hope is that it will re-launch the union, by stating common values and committing members to a genuine effort on the EU constitution.

Germany will need to be more creative than that if it is to accomplish what Ms Merkel calls "squaring the circle": tweaking the constitutional treaty to make it more acceptable to critics, notably in France, but without obliging the 15 member states that have already ratified it to do so again. Ms Merkel will consult to find out what members can accept, and when decisions would fit into their political schedule. At the EU summit next June, Germany will present a report that outlines how the constitution might be salvaged until France takes over the presidency in 2008.

If there is a European leader to find a solution, Ms Merkel may be the one. Among her colleagues, says Gerd Langguth of Bonn University, who has written her biography, she stands out as being extremely rational, wanting to get things done and not making a big fuss about herself. At home, this has become somewhat of a weakness, argues Mr Langguth: she tends to underestimate the importance of emotion in politics and the need to demonstrate leadership. On the international scene, however, it may be a strength: international issues are mostly about interests and law — and not about calming erratic state premiers from Bavaria or North Rhine-Westphalia.

A successful EU presidency would give her the authority she needs to breathe life into the grand coalition, says Wolfgang Nowak, of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, a think-tank. This would be welcome, for things are not so good at home. Yet, in more than one way, Germany's political system is simply doing what it was built to do after 1945: protect democracy by making it hard to bring about fundamental change. In no other rich country do so many players have a say in how their nation is governed: the state premiers, the coalitions, the constitutional court. Many had hoped that this latest coalition would somehow manage to overcome the "joint-decision-making trap", bringing the country up to speed with the rest of the world.

In the coalition's first year, it was probably a good thing that it did not. Not trying too hard to cut the budget deficit encouraged the economy to recover nicely. Growth is likely to reach 2.4%, the highest rate in five years. Unemployment is down by nearly 500,000 on a year ago, to some 4.3m people. And, thanks to booming tax revenues, even the budget deficit is likely to fall to its lowest level since the country's unification 16 years ago.
A tough learning process

The real problem is that Germans are continuing to lose faith in their political system — mainly as a result of the bickering within the coalition. Both the CDU and the SPD are hovering around 30% in the polls. Worse, according to a recent survey, a majority of Germans now say, for the first time, that they are no longer satisfied with how their democracy works.

Such a snapshot should not be misread: Germans are not about to ditch democracy. But there is a danger that, unhappy about direction, they may rediscover isolationism. Already, Euroscepticism is on the rise. And two-thirds of Germans now think that their soldiers should not be sent on any new missions. "Germans are still learning that they have to take over more responsibility," says a top official at the chancellery. "The problem could become that the world will ask us to do too much at this stage of our learning process." Germany has made great progress at finding its place in the world since unification, but it is not yet over the hump of history.
Widely, but still fairly safely, spread German troops on foreign assignments[*]

Mission Number
Afghanistan, Uzbekistan 2,898
Kosovo 2,875
Lebanon 1,021
Bosnia 847
Congo 754
Norn of Africa 332
Sudan 37
NATO Mediterranean patrol 23
Georgia 11
other 44
Total 8,842

Source: Economist, 11/18/2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cancer Prevention News Tips


Men with lower cholesterol are less likely to experience high-grade prostate cancer — an aggressive form of the disease with poor prognosis. Johns Hopkins epidemiologists, in a prospective study of U.S. men, say lower blood levels of the heart-clogging fat may reduce a man's risk of this form of cancer by one-third.

Cholesterol, often stored in tumors, may change the structure of fatty cell membranes to produce signals that influence cancer cell growth and survival.

In the study, Elizabeth Platz, Sc.D., M.P.H., epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kimmel Cancer Center and her colleagues compared a group of 698 men with prostate cancer to an equal number with no evidence of the disease. All participants were part of Harvard's Health Professionals Follow-up Study. There were no differences in blood cholesterol levels in either group when matched up to the incidence of low-grade disease. But men with higher levels of blood cholesterol were one-third less likely to get high-grade cancers that tend to spread and grow faster.

Platz and her colleagues previously linked lower risk of advanced prostate cancer to men taking cholesterol-lowering statin-drugs. These two studies suggest that we may be able to prevent dangerous prostate cancers by tampering with cholesterol metabolism, she added.

This study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Co-authors include Steven K. Clinton from Ohio State University and Edward Giovannucci from Harvard University.


Searing meats in on open-flame grills or with other forms of direct heat creates tasty bits of char but also carcinogens called heterocyclic amines or HCA. Now, researchers have found that aspirin may reduce the cancer-causing effects of flame-broiled foods in women who eat the seared meats often.

In a study of 312 women with breast cancer and 316 cancer-free study subjects, women who reported eating flame-broiled food more than twice a month were 1.7 times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who never ate them.

Breast cancer risk was further increased in those who ate flame-broiled foods more than twice a month and had genetic traits that helped them rapidly metabolize enzymes called N-acetyltransferases that are often found in the gut, liver and breast. The digested enzymes activate the cancer-causing HCAs.

We also found that within the highest risk group, women who reported using aspirin significantly reduced their breast cancer risk to the same levels as those who never ate flame-broiled foods, says Johns Hopkins epidemiologist and oncologist Kala Visvanathan, M.D., M.H.S., who is the first author of the study.

The researchers say further lab work to better understand the biological connection between aspirin, flame-broiled foods, and breast cancer.

To cut HCA exposure, experts suggest marinating meat, frequently flipping it while cooking, or microwaving it. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

This study is based in the CLUE Cohorts of Washington County Maryland and the participants of this research are part of the CLUE 2 cohort. In addition to Visvanathan, authors include K. J. Helzlsouer from Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore; X. You, S.C. Hoffman and P.T. Strickland at Johns Hopkins; D. Bell from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; and A.J. Alberg from the Medical University of South Carolina.

Ascribe Newswire: Health, 11/17/2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Tips on Being at the Cutting Edge

Practical tips on plasma cutting from Mick Andrews, Welding Process superintendent at ESAB, are relayed by Andrew Pearce

After our introduction to plasma cutting and the way it works (FW, 30 June), here's a look at the practicalities. Setup begins at the torch, which has an on-off trigger and, in some cases, a stepped tip to follow a guide or template - useful in thin material. When working with precision in thicker stuff, rest the outer nozzle rather than the tip on a guide.

Torch components are few and fit together logically (picture 1). Switch off mains power before delving into the innards and don't lose the ceramic swirl baffle. If this is not in the fight place or damaged, plasma won't form properly and arcing inside the torch is likely.

The electrode and tip are both consumable. Use an electrode until it's about 5mm shorter than a new one. Wear beyond this makes it difficult for the pilot arc to jump to the tip, so the torch won't fire up.

The tip itself both constrains and directs the plasma jet, and cutting performance will suffer as the central hole erodes. With proper setup and a good tip, the cut line or kerf will be clean, narrow - much narrower than with a gas torch - and square-shouldered. Replace a tip as soon as its outlet elongates or grows (picture 2), or when the kerf widens and becomes untidy. The outer ceramic/fibre nozzle will gradually deteriorate but unless whole segments break away, this won't affect cutting performance.

The workshop compressor must be able to deliver ample air without flagging, or cutting performance will go downhill. About 120 litres/ rain air (4-5cfm) should serve single-phase sets, while bigger ones need 165 litres/min (5.5-6.0cfm). Fit the air supply point with a water trap and turn off or remove any lubricator. Use air hose of at least 8mm bore if a short extension is needed.

A good plasma cutting set has its own inbuilt water trap/regulator. This, and the one on the supply outlet, must be empty and clean. Set air pressure to the maker's requirement on the set's own regulator, using an air check facility where provided to mimic cutting conditions. Typical pressure will be 5.5-6bar (80-90psi).

All that's left to dial in is the amperage required for a clean, full-depth cut in the material you're working with. Experimenting is the best way forward, at least until you can see what your set will do.

The thermal conductivities of aluminium and stainless steel are different from those of carbon and cast steels, so cutting capacity is lower in these metals. Naturally, thickness has an effect. Using high current on thin material won't cause problems as long as you speed up forward travel to suit, while in thick stuff` you'll have to slow down progressively. The set's upper limit is reached when the kerf won't clear and slag blows back towards the torch.

A caution or two to start. When slicing with gas, even a tiny air gap stops the cut - but not so with plasma. The good news is that you can stack-cut several sheets at once. The negative is that when you're trying to separate one thing from another (say, a damaged bearing from its housing), you can no longer rely on the gap between parts to stop the cut. On top of that, you'll need to take more care when working over something you might not want damaged, such as an anvil.

And watch out where you put the set's return lead. As with any arc process, if current passes through the small contact points of bearings or bushes on its way back to the set, resistance heating can flat-spot them.

Cuts in thin materials or at low currents (below 45A) are made with the torch tip resting on the work. For higher currents and thicker materials, leave a 2-3mm stand-off gap between tip and work. A specially-designed stand-off nozzle can be used where consistent top-quality results matter.

To start a cut, position yourself where you can see the tip all the while. Hold the torch so the tip's central hole is just in contact with the work (picture 3). This allows the plasma stream to initiate quickly. Then squeeze the trigger. After a burst of compressed air, the arc fires up and the cut starts. Move off at a speed that keeps a steady stream of molten slag flowing from below (picture 4).

On thin sheet, hold the torch vertical. In thicker stuff; the plasma column bends on its way through, so allow for this by angling the torch slightly away from the direction of travel (picture 5). At the end of a cut, keep the trigger down until the sliced plate falls away. If you let up too soon, the plasma stream won't clear the bottom edge and leave a tiny island uncut.

Plasma can pierce holes in any conductive material, although maximum depth is limited to about 60% of the set's cutting thickness capability.

Like when starting to pierce with gas, molten metal will splash up from the surface. If fine metal spray interferes with the magnetic field around the plasma column, the column can sway into the tip and damage it. Or if molten metal bridges between the tip and plate, high current will flow through this bridge and wreck the tip completely.

Sidestep both problems by starting to pierce with the torch canted over at roughly 45°. Once the initial splash has subsided and a crater opens up, gradually bring the torch upright. Maintain a stand-off gap of about twice the normal cutting height between tip and plate, or as much as the set will allow. Work round the embryo hole until it is the required size.

Unless you're blessed with a good eye and a steady hand (or a circle cutting attachment), some shape modification is usually needed. While you can carve slices from the edge of a hole to round it out or increase its diameter, this is not as easy as with gas, because the plasma stream stops immediately when there is no conductive metal below it.

Gouging is a good way to open a preparation U-groove before welding. Plasma is ideal for the job, but you'll need a three-phase set - single-phase units don't have the grunt to produce a long plasma column. Which is a pity, because gouging with plasma is faster, more effective and less fume-ridden than with a MMA rod. Use a wide tip, hold the torch at around 40° and blow metal away, repeating if necessary, until the fight profile/depth is reached.

Plasma cutting is an arc process, so cover up exposed areas and use a welding filter specified for arc use. Gas welding goggles will not do. Torch maintenance must never be carried out with the plasma cutter switched on, either.

By Andrew Pearce

Feeder Wagon Maintenance

By Charlie McCarron

With grass burning off fast around the UK, diet feeders are being wheeled out to start bolstering rations. Charlie McCarron runs through a few tips to keep wagons running smoothly

As often is the case, the only service preparation a diet feeder will receive is a shot of oil around the pto - and that's only because it's seized and makes hitching up a headache.

At the risk of teaching proverbial grandmothers to suck proverbial eggs, we aim to point out a few key areas of attention before the season gets into full swing.

The Hi-Spec Mix Max wagon sold in large numbers across the country and is as good an example as any to use in highlighting what to look out for on the maintenance front.

* If the scales seem dodgy it could be down to the weigh-cells - one on each corner of the machine. The two smaller bolts should be tight, but the larger one should turn freely.

* On older machines the door ram mounting bracket was welded directly on to the tub. If this is the case, when the tub is wearing thin the bracket can be seen to flex when the door is operated. It is also a good idea to check the bracket for cracks and stresses even if it has been chassis mounted. - it may prevent a breakage later on.

* The majority of Mix Max feeders were fitted with side-door elevators. Underneath is one of the first places to wear thin. Fold up the elevator and tap the plate underneath to check for thinning. On some machines a door knife is fitted to ensure material doesn't snag as feed is being dispensed. Ensure it is kept sharp.

* An important aspect of diet feeding is getting weights and measures right, so you need to make sure the scales are functioning. A simple check to see if all is well is to hang off the scale arm. If you know how much you weigh, the display should read that amount.

* The chain-and-slat elevator is adjusted by two tensioners on either side. Two fingers are a good guide for chain tension, as illustrated.

* The bolts which hold the nylon rollers in place are fitted with grease nipples. Ensure the rollers are free-turning to avoid rapid wear.

* At the front of the wagon check the main drive gear 1 teeth for wear and ensure that the nylon guide 2 isn't worn on one side. If so, loosen the bolt and rotate it. Loosening the four bolts on the bracket 3 and winding the adjuster 4 adjusts the main chain tension.

* To ensure that the machine empties completely, the rubber pads on the mixing paddles should be in good nick. This makes for increased accuracy when working with strict mixed rations.

* Many thanks to Philip Male and the team at Bigwood & Partners, Taunton, Somerset for advice offered for this report