Resilience of livestock farmers commendable

Writers Posted 02/01/20
Wishing everyone good health and happiness in the New Year.

I’m hoping that 2020 brings positivity for our agricultural community, fingers crossed.

To start with, we could do with less rain, because I don’t know about you but I’m definitely fed up with this mud making weather. I was alarmed and a little upset to discover that even our council deemed it necessary to label our lane as a ‘rough road’. Could this be a reflection on it’s inhabitants? I suspect they’re referring to the state of the road. A nearby road closure has increased traffic usage, the single track lane is not designed to cope. The result is a mess. Deep pot holes have appeared, but while the council are aware they make no attempt to repair them.

While moving our lambs down this lane, one wet Sunday morning, we were met head on by twenty plus Porsche’s all with their headlights blazing. Despite Brie’s and my best efforts to persuade our lambs to go past these vehicles, they point blank refused. Stubborn creatures! We had to admit defeat and return the lambs back to the T junction to allow the cars to pass. One of the driver’s wound down his window and with a beaming smile explained ‘It’s a Porsche day’. He clearly considered the experience to be a great adventure. I won’t say what I thought! I guess it was a case of bad timing.

It’s bleak checking sheep on the levels, but that said, I enjoy it. There’s plenty of grass and the ewes look well. No complaints from the tups. When I spotted something white in the river I worried a sheep had gone swimming, on closer inspection I was relieved to see a pair of swans. There’s plenty of snipe about and occasional lapwings. Back home, I’m reluctant to feed the turnips until conditions improve. We’ve not finished many lambs yet. Through necessity my other ewes are spending more time on the higher ground overlooking much of their grazing which is intermittently covered by flood water.

We’ve survived the yearly event which causes much trepidation, stress and worry. Will our cattle behave themselves when presented before the vet for their clipping, skin measurement, two jabs, Avian and Bovine. Cattle don’t appreciate this and their behaviour can be unpredictable, therefore I’m always concerned for everyone’s safety. When it’s wet and cold, flicking through sheets of paper finding correct ear-tag numbers and getting down readings can be challenging. It’s a relief when the last animal has been done, and all the columns filled in. Then the three day wait. Who can blame the cattle for being reluctant to go through the race on results day. Thank goodness ours were clear. It’s such a lottery I wish a better system could be evolved to tackle this problem.

As soon as the vet left, so did I. Heading for St Thomas’s Hospital, London, where our second grandchild was due to be born by caesarean section. What a stunning location, with a recovery room window looking out over the Thames, London Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament. Here I was introduced to Angus Arthur Preece, enough to melt anyone’s heart. I absolutely love newborn babies. New life is still a miracle in my eyes. As I left the hospital I felt grateful and proud of our NHS, they certainly provided an efficient service.

A few days spent in London on Grandma duties led to me becoming intimately acquainted with Tractor Ted, an invaluable resource for entertaining a sixteen month old ‘tractor mad’ Grandson. These films, available on YouTube, provide an educational way of introducing real life farming to children. Other pursuits included train watching and playing in the park. Leaving all things machinery in George’s hands I’m hoping that Angus will become equally enthusiastic about livestock, but perhaps I’m being a touch optimistic.

Confirmation that the livestock industry is staying strong could be seen at both the Ashford show and the Hailsham Fat-Stock Show and dinners. Lovely to see so many of the younger generation taking part and money being raised for good causes. The resilience of livestock farmers in the face of negative media coverage is to be commended. I was shocked by the BBC’s biased broadcasting and was disappointed, although not surprised when I received a generic reply to my complaint on their website. It did nothing to address my concerns. I suggest our levy money should be used to redress this broadcasting imbalance, by producing a film to be shown on prime time TV emphasising the environmental merits of grazing animals and the health benefits of eating quality UK meat.

I fervently hope that the Trump Boris friendship does not extend to allowing the influx of US factory farmed meat. However I’m relieved that election result gave a majority, hopefully facilitating progress. Why anyone would want the job of prime minister is beyond me. Good luck to Boris. I think he will need it, fulfilling all those promises. A nursing bursary will be good.

We’ve signed up to the Prince’s Farm Resilience programme which consists of a number of workshops. The first topic covered was ‘Business Health Check’ needless to say I let the younger generation feed in the data. The first session analysed the reasons behind the varying results and looked at the benefits of different methods of keeping and using records. Paperwork is not my favourite. I agree it makes sense identifying business strengths and weaknesses, and finding where there’s opportunities for improvements. But I was struck by the answer to the question. ‘What is the value of your labour?’ Monetary value for one hour of work. Manual tasks £10, operational management £50, strategic management £500. Looks like I best brush up on my strategic skills. It’s an exciting prospect being worth £500 per hour, think I’ll give it a go.


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