As farmers we just get on with the job

Writers Posted 30/01/19
Has parliament become a haven for egotistical people? as demonstrated by their squabbling, infighting and political posturing... I despair, says Monica.

I now have no faith in politicians. The Brexit shambles isn’t a good advert for democracy is it? I’m not advocating dictatorship but I’m fed up with the negativity surrounding our present situation. Has parliament become a haven for egotistical people, as demonstrated by their squabbling, infighting and political posturing… I despair. Are those in power too far removed from life in the real world? I wish they’d end the uncertainty.

If we farmed in a similar fashion, the result would be a chaotic shambles too! Negativity is not healthy, neither is worrying. I enjoy market, because you can always find someone who’s willing to chew the cud and share wise words. I agree with the sentiments expressed this week ‘No point in worrying about something that’s not under your control. Save your energy for making improvements to things you can change.’ As farmers we just get on with the job, perhaps politicians should do the same.

Fluctuations in the finished lamb market are perplexing. As a shepherd I’m aiming to produce good tasting meaty carcasses. We select the finished animals which are sold into an uncertain market. I admit to feeling anxious when selling because the price received puts our livelihood at stake. I take pride in my work, but fear economics could force me out of the job I love doing, but… Oops.. I’m not supposed to worry! On the subject of worry; if dog owners had to attend compulsory training, could they learn to control their dogs? Thereby reducing the horrific numbers of sheep worrying incidents.

It’s concerning that the Green Party are suggesting applying a meat tax. The former New Zealand Trade Minister comments have not been so widely publicised. He says that with the rise in plant based diets they’ve had an increase in cases of anaemia correlating with the decline in red meat consumption. A balanced diet has sustained the world for a millennia. Veganuary is gaining popularity. Who’s funding the hype that’s pushing an unbalanced diet? I’m suspicious that wealth is their top priority and not the nation’s health or ecology as they claim.

The Eat-Lancet Commission was founded in 2013 by an animal rights activist so it’s no surprise the recent report advocates cutting meat consumption. It suggests daily recommendations 7g beef or lamb, 7g pork, 29g of poultry, 13g of eggs, 250g of dairy. I hope the general public ignore this advice. The levy board should spend more money promoting UK meat. Within the space of five minutes our TV has advertised spicy veggie wraps from McDonald’s and Quorn ready meals. Adverts championing the benefits of meat could counteract these. Quorn is made from a fungus, grown in oxygenated water in fermentation tanks. Glucose, nitrogen, vitamins and minerals are added. The resulting micro protein is extracted and then heat treated, a binding substance is mixed in and it is textured to resemble meat. Personally I prefer eating grass fed naturally reared animals that help to maintain our countryside.

We should be optimistic as AHDB have been working on our behalf to open up new markets. China lifted its ban on UK beef. Japan is lifting its ban on beef and lamb. Taiwan is opening its market to pork and India is preparing to import sheep meat. Surely this news should filter down to create better prices for livestock farmers shouldn’t it? In the no deal Brexit scenario, they say while trading under WTO rules with a 40% export tariff, it’s sheep farmers that will be hit hardest. Can I ignore this? Not worrying, is not easy.

It’s much more fun being positive. Next time I chat with my sheep I might ask them to consider altering their attitude to life. Potentially this could be life changing for us both! If only sheep had a ‘can do’ mindset: when they are lying with feet waving skyward, they could achieve rolling over. When they are snorkelling in water, they could swim to easier places to climb out. When they entangle themselves in brambles, they could pull away from it instead of running into the thicket. They could appreciate the delicious grass in their own field, instead of plotting escape routes to pastures new. Positive thinking sheep could make shepherding a breeze.

Nigel tells me, there was plenty of positivity at the Real Oxford Farming conference. Over the past ten years the number of delegates has grown from eighty to a thousand. I’d intended to go, but tickets sold out quickly. It’s evidence that enthusiasm for the business of farming exists despite the uncertainty. These delegates are said to be younger and less stuffy than those attending the more expensive traditional Oxford Farming conference, held at the same time. Mr Gove spoke at both and managed to placate each audience. He talked of a fourth farming revolution, embracing change and technology including gene editing. Perhaps government could revolutionise themselves.

Geared up after listening to the optimistic farming conference, Nigel set off to the Lamma show. Here he feasted his eyes on all that is great and good in the machinery world. After the inclement weather last year, the venue has changed to the NEC, Birmingham. Being under cover enabled customers to spend more time looking, fact finding, chatting and in Nigel’s case dreaming in comfort. I understand the trade stands have incurred higher costs, and missing manufacturers included John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Case and Fords, I hope they revise their thinking for next year. Nigel arrived home, a head brimming with information and bag full of leaflets. Where machinery is concerned what impresses me most is the efficiency of the back up service. I suggested Nigel remove his rose tinted glasses and come and help bed down the cattle. Nigel replied, ‘“no worries”.


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