Most farmers I know are very proud of their heritage, very proud of their land and very proud of what they produce from it, even when they are choking back tears of anger and frustration from, for example, the three crop rule.
Which idiot thought that one up and what was the point of it all, other than enabling the pen-pushers at DEFRA the satisfaction of punishing any transgressions. But then farming, judging from the ministry’s title, is no more than a rural affair, which is a bit of a smack in the mouth for those of us who often work seven days a week and sometimes 18 hours a day for little or no return.
We used to have a Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Given that in years to come, and very shortly, food will not be an item that can be wasted, I believe it is high time we had a Ministry FOR Agriculture, a Ministry FOR Fisheries and a Ministry FOR Food, all highly important in their own right. It is we who keep Britain a green and pleasant land and certainly not the RSPCA, the CPRE, English Heritage, the RSPB and all those other bloated quangos who continue to make our lives a misery but who seem consistently to have the ear of Westminster ahead of ours.
Referring back to the September issue of this magazine where I raised the issue of the restrictions imposed by big abattoirs on our ability to supply cattle sold by auction, given that this is blatantly a restrictive practice, why have we taken it lying down? Come on NFU, come on British Beef Association, come on LAA, GLA and TFA – why have none of you joined forces and taken up the cudgel on this?
To further demonstrate how intransigent, how unhelpful and how far removed from farming are our friends at DEFRA I will recount the trauma, trials and tribulations of my neighbouring milk producer. Following his four year TB test in March, eight animals were deemed inconclusive reactors. These eight were retested 60 days later when one of them was found inconclusive again. This cow was sent for slaughter where it proved to be a negative reactor. A further complete herd test of 1974 head revealed six more inconclusive reactors, none the same as before, but on re-test on 4 October the whole herd was found to be clear, and after five days, movement restrictions were lifted. It is just worth mentioning that the TB test is 90-year old technology and widely acknowledged as being far from an exact science. His whole herd were shut up for over five months. Mind numbing! Between the two tests 550 calves were born, which obviously could not be sold and this affected his cash flow by well over £100,000, added to which he had to spend £15,000 on calf hutches to accommodate them and goodness knows how much more on extra labour.
During the two tests, milk yields suffered due to the cows’ daily regime being interfered with and a few had early abortions, no doubt due to the stress of it all. The second test eventually proved 100% negative, but because my neighbour was 11 days late in facilitating the test and came close to blowing his top, his annual subsidy payment was reduced by 3%. The ministry vets have never had the decency to inform him of the result of the culture test performed on the original cow but the only thing that helped him retain any sense of humour was the query made by the vet who questioned the need for a couple of green golf buggies on the farm! This clearly proved two things: one, the vet did not play golf, and two, he knew absolutely nothing about farming!
On matters more parochial, management nearly congratulated me on my shepherding prowess, when she learned that my Romney ewe tegs sold to £126 and averaged £117. We were both chuffed, but wonder if the same will be possible next year. I am not holding my breath on this, but then in farming of any sort, you don’t hold your breath, you hold your nerve.
PS: Cows to the tune of £30 million are slaughtered each year because of TB, while Chris Packham continues to earn a fortune spreading his rather warped and one-sided views on animal welfare. Badgers continue to roam the land because Government will not allow farmers to sort the problem out themselves – and at no cost to the taxpayer. Nil desperandum.