What’s trending? In answer, £55 an hour per cow; that sounds good. What could possibly go wrong, I’m wondering as I try to rein in my imagination. I’m informed: “Cow cuddling is the new goat yoga”. But I’m relieved the headline states “a cuddle with a calm cow banishes the moody blues”. Perish the thought that a footpath walker, seeking a comforting cuddle, might wander into a bunch of freshly calved suckler cows, because they might get more than they bargained for.
Apparently, work-stressed Americans suffering from loneliness are finding that cuddling a cow increases happiness and lowers stress levels. Allegedly cows are good at keeping secrets, (that’s a huge relief) and animals love you to be honest; always good to know.
Youngest daughter is doing some mathematical calculations, and asks if we could increase the size of our herd. I imagine she is envisaging a cuddle festival. Do you think some of these cow cuddlers would mind (or realise) if we substituted a cow for a heifer or steer? If so we could potentially increase our cuddling viability, maximising our profit margins and increasing efficiency. This might boost our bench-marking kudos and be one way of combating the demise of basic payments, and rising machinery prices and running costs.
I did ask the family to come up with some innovative ideas as to how to take the farm forward. Research on the internet reveals people will willingly pay £12 an hour for an online experience of meditation with sheep. A 90-minute walk with alpacas/llamas will cost you £33. I see now that in the past I’ve missed a trick. Not many years ago I used to let Gertie (Gloucester Old Spot) and Clementine (Saddleback) accompany me on walks around our farm. Unfortunately it was when they started taking unaccompanied walks that they heralded their own demise. Sausages, bacon and pork chops just taste so good, especially if they’re free range.
When shopping in supermarkets people expect to pay low prices, which undervalues food. In fact supermarkets often sell products, for example milk and eggs, at loss leader prices. Consumers have little knowledge of the cost of food production as realities are distorted. Cheap food is, of course, politically convenient. In these challenging pandemic times the availability of affordable food is a necessity. Many people appear to begrudge paying for essentials, but happily spend large sums on life experiences and entertainment. Has today’s society got its priorities right?
If people understood the work and effort taken to get food ‘from field to fork’, perhaps they would be more willing to pay a fair price. That is why it’s so important that farmers should grab every opportunity to share the realities of country living with the urban population. The upside of the pandemic has been more people looking to source their food locally, and our beef boxes have been popular. Receiving positive feedback is a good morale booster, especially during tough times.
I’m determined that our grandchildren learn where food comes from. I spotted an advertisement for a complete patio potato kit; no digging, no effort, no garden required, harvest in just 10 weeks from planting. Three varieties: Swift (early) Desiree (main crop) Charlotte (salad), supplied with heavy duty 30 litre pots and organic potato fertiliser. Hopefully my grandsons and I will have some fun growing potatoes. The boys have ferocious appetites so doubtless they’ll enjoy the eating part of the process.
Everyone loves a bargain, myself included. On a whim I bought myself a chainsaw and a special gadget for sharpening it. My husband’s saws are well known makes but they are often temperamental about starting. When I triumphantly revealed my purchases, the reaction I got was disparaging. No matter, I was happy as this saw is easy to start and I can now use it when I need it, instead of adding to other half’s list. Don’t worry I’m very safety conscious because I well remember patching up chainsaw injuries. I’ve recently noticed someone else is using my saw. I’m not gloating, I promise, and guess what, blunt chains are now a thing of the past; turns out my gadget gets the thumbs up too.
One of my favourite and most useful possessions is an old crook which I inherited from my father; he had the blacksmith make it up. It’s attached to a drain rod, which seems quite a good idea. If you need to use it to recover a sheep from a river, you can add extra rods. It’s served me well. Nigel, however, has given me a ‘super crook’ which has a clip on it to stop them pulling their leg out. I am looking forward to trying it out when we start lambing in mid April, and will give you an update.
The ewes have been immunised with heptavac p. I’m checking them morning and evening, as we’ve had the odd one getting stranded on its back. Good preparation before lambing is essential and can make all the difference. Typically my shearing equipment decided to go slow just as I need it. I’m impressed by Horner Shearing’s service; they have been very efficient at fixing and returning it.
Stocking up supplies is important, not only for the sheep, but for ourselves as well. I’ll do some batch cooking because rewards for our hard work always go down well. The house is receiving some TLC as no doubt it’ll get short shrift once we get busy. Family members have all booked ‘holiday/lambing leave,’. It’s so lovely to have reinforcements on hand; much appreciated. They’ll be happy to get back to work after their restful break.
Red Tractor won’t like my responses to their consultation. I support the red tractor concept but I’m sceptical about the benefits for farmers, considering costs, time spent on paperwork and enduring inspections. I strongly object to wasting time documenting explanations as to who and why we are treating animals. Do they think we don’t know? In farming, time is precious. Will Red Tractor bureaucracy make me a better farmer? No. I’d rather get on with farming.
To all those lambing and calving, wishing you luck and kind weather.