However, on the plus side is the result of the general election where, surely, we can at least have confidence over the continuity of the badger cull after the endless best science political guff being promoted, pre election, by the animal rights gang and their supporters, in both media and parliament.
They have been distorting the effects of the first two years’ culling, simply ignoring the positive effects of reducing the animals to a manageable, and we hope, more healthy population. From reports it may already be having an encouraging effect and the fact a couple of badgers might not have been shot cleanly is no reason to change course. Hundreds of badgers get killed on the roads quite unpleasantly too!
If these people were to actually see the stress and hardship TB places on humans and cattle, or had any interest in understanding the costs to the country’s taxpayers – which might even possibly include them – they might be a little more understanding about the effects of their blind obsession in allowing the creatures to run free.
There has been quite a lot of discussion between animal health authorities and farmers about what many dairy farmers believe is ill conceived official thinking that allows beef finishers to move animals in from high risk zones for finishing in clean, four year testing areas. There have simply been too many breakdowns recently among West Country bred animals subsequently bringing movement restrictions on to all other dairy/beef farms within three kilometres. These restrictions, at best, put them under pre movement testing but also under at least 18 months of very unreliable skin testing, and retesting, before they can move their stock freely again.
I know it’s hard for the fatteners but it’s harder still for the many closed dairy units (many already hit by abysmal milk prices) who are invariably greatly inconvenienced for little reason or advantage to anyone – other perhaps than the testers, who are being paid for doing the work.
We have been doing our best to keep a cap on milk output and avoid providing the buyer too much B quota milk. Since the fifties we bred high butterfat into the herd, yet, since the Milk Marketing Board was abolished, we have never been paid for it, because the only demand was for what was disparagingly called white water. Having bred this quality into our British Friesians it has stuck. We hope soon now, with an upcoming change of milk buyer, we will get some reward for the cream on top of our milk.
The maize went in to moist seedbeds in the first week of May and, after an inch of rain on 15 May, the first plants were through quickly afterwards but the first cut of grass from the meadows was a little variable. So to cover for this contractors recently Rounduped a worn out ryegrass ley for some extra maize before it is returned to a new ley come autumn. I suppose, like most dairy farmers at this time, we don’t want to spend any more money than we need and reseeding is not cheap. However this seems the most effective way to do that, with the new ley to be direct drilled straight into the maize stubbles come harvest.
This spring the lack of rabbit damage is even more obvious. This farm has its locally named Rabbit Bottom, where the pests came down from nearby Rewell Wood and regularly stripped vegetation down to bare soil through winter and early spring. This inevitably meant crops never had any change to bulk up, or indeed give any yield at all.
Now, over the past 2/3 years, these areas have almost disappeared. So why? Could it perhaps be the effect of our numerous buzzards and/or red kites taking the mature animals? I don’t think it is the usual viruses. However the effect is very welcome and obvious. I am not aware of any other predator capable of hunting the coney so effectively. I know that many farmers, other than those with shoots, will be quite thankful for these birds.
As you read this month’s magazine I hope to be fresh back from what will pretty inevitably have been a damp Scotland, checking on the growth of the sitka spruce up in Argyll. Shrouded almost incessantly in damp coastal clouds they live in an ideal environment where, from reports I regularly receive, growth continues apace. Over the three years before our last visit many had grown from their original six to eight inches up to four to six feet and on that basis, after a further 18 months away, I am anticipating seeing the hillsides covered green and many trees well up beyond seven to eight feet. They should also now be well above the risk of grass suppression, starting to be a big part of the cover needed to create that suppression. So this year they have just had their final trim round by the contract foresters and barring fire or wind blow are almost on their own until harvesting a long way in the future.
It’s good to be growing a crop that requires such little management although we are concerned that the present nationalistic sentiment north of the border could develop problems for tomorrow. One thing at the time!