I might ask for a pay rise | South East Farmer

I might ask for a pay rise

Writers Posted 08/11/21
I think I might ask for a pay rise when it comes to cleaning out our chicken house.

“Public money for public goods” is a phrase farmers are becoming all too familiar with. What farmers want to know is: “Does our government perceive food to be a public good?” Their handling of our pig industry’s difficulties leaves much to be desired. I’ve been truly shocked by the callous attitude of the Prime Minister to the culling of healthy pigs. It’s sacrilege, a waste of good food. The mental stress and financial toll for the farmers caught up in this debacle is incomprehensible. At the same time, it’s frustrating to discover supermarkets prominently displaying imported pork products while British pork is often found on the least accessible shelves.

Wouldn’t it be great if ‘the powers that be’ recognised the environmental advantage of using home-produced food rather than hauling it halfway around the world? Surely if the food chain journey remains within the UK, it’s easier to verify the welfare standards and safe practices on farms and processing units alike. Global trade is part of the modern world, but food security shouldn’t be ignored. Encouraging people to work in all sections of the food chain should be a priority, offering better pay for essential but less popular jobs.

I think I might ask for a pay rise when it comes to cleaning out our chicken house. It’s not my favourite job but now it’s towable, I can use the pressure washer, making it easier. There’s no denying it’s messy, but the positives are that chicken manure benefits my garden and I do like eating freshly laid eggs with their lovely golden yolks.

Our eggs disappear fast because the family raids our supplies, but strangely there’s no queue for cleaning out duties. The grandchildren like letting the chickens out, feeding and collecting eggs. Grandma aims to teach them exactly where food comes from. Most cake recipes require eggs and keeping Granddad happy is top priority, after all he holds the keys to the tractors.

Unless you live in solitary confinement it’s difficult to escape the debate about climate change.

In my experience, practical farming in extreme weather conditions is challenging, sometimes dangerous (rescuing animals in floods or from fires for example), while looking after animals’ welfare in freezing or high temperatures is hard work and stressful. Extreme temperatures, too much or not enough rain contributes to crop failure. The bottom line is that ‘climate affects life’, so everyone should be concerned about the outcome of COP26.

I’m sceptical but hope the world leaders and politicians achieve cooperation to arrive at some workable solutions. How land is managed can play a major part in offsetting CO2 emissions. Farming has the potential to help achieve the net zero goal. Livestock are often disproportionally vilified, and yet only 5% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are from livestock. Unfortunately, agriculture is an easy target, which is why farmers need to publicise the true facts. Undoubtedly some present-day agricultural practices need to change to mitigate environmental impacts but I’m confident UK farmers will rise to the challenge of making that adjustment.

On our farm, preparations are underway to get the sheds ready for cattle to come into when the ground conditions dictate. We’re going to be tight for space, and an opportunity has arisen for us to try out-wintering some cattle on nearby parkland, providing we can get the correct paperwork in place and go clear at our yearly TB test.

Instead of terrorising me, I hope our new trio of rams will soon be diverting their energy to creating next year’s lamb crop. I haven’t dared mix them with the old boys, for fear of scrapping. We’ve replaced our cull ewes by keeping some homebred ewe lambs. With the high prices being paid for store lambs, time will tell if we’ve made the right decision to finish ours.

Lambs are currently grazing on clover. I confess that rather too many prickly sow-thistles are appearing amongst the clover, so I’m on a mission to destroy them with an array of different tools for the job. It’s surprising how satisfying it is routing out these monsters, I’m reliably informed this task is especially good for anger management, as is splitting wood the old-fashioned way.

Nigel is successfully marketing some of our finished cattle in the form of beef boxes. He’s recently started selling lamb as well. He sent off the sheepskins to be processed, which he’s convinced will make good presents. I’m impressed with the one he gave to me; it’s so soft, warm and cosy, as well as looking great.

The cheese makers selling Pevensey Blue and Nigel selling meat both attend the Eden provisions market at Ashburnham Place. When once this was cancelled at short notice, it was decided to try holding our own pop-up market at Hockham Farm. This proved popular, so now they are doing both on a monthly basis. 20 November and 18 December from 9am to 1pm are the next dates for Hockham Farm meat and cheese sales.

In our kitchen I’ve been making plum jam; smaller quantities this year. Despite best intentions I’ve not managed much blackberry picking, so I’ve only made one batch of blackberry and apple jam. We’ve not found as many wild mushrooms to eat this autumn. The old fallen oak with a bench cut in it had an impressive yellow ‘chicken in the wood’ fungus growing out of it. I’m told it’s tasty.

Uninvited night visitors broke into our locked container on the farm. Luckily they didn’t find anything to their liking. We were one farm of many in the area targeted that night. Reporting crime is not for the faint hearted. I dialled 101 and listened to recorded messages advising me to fill out a form online. This I did, but on completion I felt like I was the convict.

Details requested included my name, address, email, phone number, gender and ethnic origin; eventually there was a space provided for describing what had happened. Even the police are obsessed with data harvesting. Is all that information on the person reporting the crime reaping rewards in catching thieves?


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