Working on the assumption that something written in the magazine in advance usually turns to worms, I am tempting fate and expressing my concerns at this ongoing semi drought in the South East.
We have hardly had any mud around the cattle through the whole past winter and now, in May, the ground is so dry new seeds are either lying dormant, or germinating and then struggling to survive. The weather is so unusual that even “blackthorn winter” failed to appear for the first time in my own long experience.
It is quite a worry how a number of the really useful chemicals from the past are being removed – or threatened to be – from farmers toolboxes. Although hopefully it now seems glysophate/Roundup has been given a reprieve. Perhaps there is also a chance these decisions, all taken in Brussels, will within two or three years again be down to our own lawmakers.
Just the thought of having to revert to summer fallowing, multi cultivations, using excessive horsepower, metal wearing points and fuel oil to control couch grass is the stuff of nightmares. Anyone who still remembers the problems we had keeping land on the Downs clear of couch before the arrival of Roundup in the late sixties will surely share my feelings.
I’ve just come back from a run round the farm in the Arun Valley. It is always a pleasure to visit for several reasons. The main one perhaps, after its largely unspoiled beauty, is because there are no footpaths there, which keep it extremely private. This, to non farmers, may sound very selfish but I do find it annoying to see people walking, usually with loose dogs running free across areas where there is no public access. As someone who tries to encourage wildlife, the damage these people do is huge with game, wildfowl and ground nesting birds – particularly yellowhammers and peewit – being driven off their nests or even killed.
The access rights for the public are generally very adequate in the south, particularly on the South Downs themselves, where most visitors are well behaved and follow the signs. But there is an element, small but very active, who cause immense aggravation. These are the professional dog walking brigade who turn up regularly, open their boot and release up to half a dozen mostly out of control mixed allsorts.
Having charged a fee to walk other folks’ dogs, they then bring them to spread disease and mayhem on farmland with few leads and no control, basically running where they like, public footpath signs or not. When confronted it is of course never their fault. “We are not doing any harm,” and they usually storm off in high dudgeon despite the fact one tries to be firm yet as friendly as possible. At least on the first encounter!
So the wheels are now in motion for us in the UK to regain our independence. Like many others my own vote last summer, for leaving, was simply a protest, one in full anticipation of being on the minority side. After struggling with the pros and cons for months, and with the conviction the remainers would win, I made my vote purely against the way Europe has been run. The increasing moves to a federal state, out of control immigration and currency that has already caused huge problems in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal are just some of my reasons. Rule by non elected, political grandees, failures in their own countries – just think the Kinnocks. They have big salaries and influence, yet minimal value to Britain. Take the money and enjoy the lunches. We voted for a common market when the UK entered in 1974, not for the increasingly federal state they have turned it into.
So when the vote was counted last June I was almost more shocked than pleased. Obviously I was not alone in these feelings. We clearly have the result the country wanted, and as such it is going to be up to Mrs May to make the divorce work.
From farming’s point of view I worry we don’t have the political determination in government to ensure our farming future is protected and, as I have said before, just wish we had Owen Peterson fighting our corner. But I think perhaps he was seen as too strongly pro agriculture for the likes of other members of the cabinet. That is a shame as I feel he is in the mould of the NFU’s Henry Plumb or Labour’s agriculture minister Fred Peart, who both did great jobs, in their own ways, to promote and support British farming.
But then I ask myself how long will the European Union itself stick together unless its leaders really take notice of European public opinion and it reinvents itself after this year’s round of elections. But our shock is behind us and I do think the result is for the best, hoping the country supports the prime minister and her team.
As reported we actually sailed through last month’s TB test and have been informed we are now back onto 12 month testing which is great news. You probably think I am paranoid about these tests but, since 2002, we have had too many problems, “inconclusive” or “failures,” taking good cows away at simply disgraceful valuations. Apart from depleting herd numbers it’s really nerve wracking, particularly in a closed herd.
Even more so when the tests have all come back as clear and the cows are simply lost – killed for no reason. It is some 60 years since the threat of TB had been virtually abolished. Yet now, with the constant pressures from celebrity conservationists, musicians or bandwagon creepers – folk with too much influence on or within the media – the facts continue to be ignored and the toll still rises.