Today has been a nightmare. I fleetingly wondered if we should take up the Government’s offer of retiring from farming, but in my heart I know that’s not for us. One of the good things about farming is the challenges it throws at you. It’s amazingly satisfying when you figure out a solution but inevitably there are occasions when it all goes horribly wrong.
Our day started out as usual. I walked the dogs and other half went to check on the cows.
He called me to say we needed to investigate a cow that seemed to be struggling to calve. Since using an Aberdeen Angus bull our cows rarely need help. We penned the Sussex cow and discovered a head, but with both front feet tucked back and an unpleasant smell, not a good omen. We got one leg up but were struggling to get the other leg, mainly because the cow was straining, pushing against us. So we called the vet. Sadly, despite the best efforts of two vets in attendance, we had to put the cow down. In all the years we’ve been calving this was a first; I hope it’s the last.
Our difficulties pale into insignificance with those being faced by the Ukrainian nation. On the news they show the plight of the refugees and devastation in the cities, but also spare a thought for the Ukrainian farmers. The country was expected to produce 28 million tonnes of wheat this year. Those farmers still on the land are struggling to get diesel.
There’s short supply of herbicides, normally imported from China, not to mention fertiliser usually supplied by Russia and Belarus. April is when they sow maize and sunflower seeds. Even if farmers succeed in growing crops, will they be able to harvest them? The milk processing plants aren’t operating; dairy farmers are struggling to feed and milk cows and then giving the milk away. The problems are catastrophic.
The G7 agricultural ministers held a meeting on 11 March 2022 about the situation in Ukraine. It was incredible to read on the DEFRA website later that the UK Government “does not expect any significant direct impact on UK food supply”. I beg to differ, as I think it is beyond doubt that it will impact UK food supply. Time will tell, but only a few days into the conflict we have already seen fuel prices go up. Wheat prices have risen. Fertiliser costs are astronomical and energy costs are spiraling.
Youngest daughter sent a WhatsApp message saying: “Half our diesel is imported and a third of that comes from Russia.” She said I should have bought an electric or petrol motor. Why didn’t she tell me this before I did a deal? I was fed up with being car-less after my midlife crisis petrol convertible died. It had done 12 years’ good service and been a lot of fun. It still goes well if only I could get it started. Frustratingly it won’t recognise the key and will cost more to fix than it’s worth.
When I bought it, the family criticised me for not getting a practical farming vehicle, so I thought I was being sensible buying a 4×4 Skoda Karoq. It does seem to be fuel efficient, and the boot has ample room for transporting my working dogs or maybe the odd sheep.
The salesman did tell me that many parts for electric cars are made in Ukraine, and this will be a real problem for the electric car industry. It’s about time England started to make its own components and build up our industry, which will create more jobs for our increasing population.
The Government needs to put an end to their obsession with bureaucracy; shuffling paper is a nonsense. If they diverted those resources into building up industry it would be far more constructive and put this country in much better stead.
Greta Thunberg says: “Don’t listen to me, listen to the science.” I don’t think Vladimir Putin is listening, as his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine is likely to be exacerbating global warming. It certainly isn’t helping the aim of creating better ecology for our planet and ultimately benefiting all inhabitants.
Our weather patterns are changing, there’s no denying it. Storm Eunice with its 80mph gusts of winds caused havoc here in the South East. We had several trees come down on our farm and a couple of roofing sheets ripped from one building. A gate got blown open and cattle accessed the adjoining field, but no major damage done. We were left with no electricity. Candlelight and no television for one evening is a novelty, almost romantic, but by day two it’s an inconvenience. My main concern was our freezers.
Standing in the corner of the workshop covered in cobwebs and dust is an antiquated generator. It was last used 10 years ago. Earlier this winter I suggested we should upgrade it; this was unsupported. So when this beast was dragged from its hiding place, I waited with bated breath.
Other half calmly topped up the fuel, took out the spark plug and poured a little petrol into the hole, and screwed the plug back in. He then pulled the rope to crank it over and it burst into life on the very first pull. I was amazed and delighted, and there was me thinking he’d be tinkering with it for hours. “Who needs modern technology,” he asked with a beaming smile.
Our electricity supply was intermittent for several days. Luckily our water wasn’t affected, unlike some water supplies that were cut due to electrical pumps failing. I was shocked that water companies didn’t have a backup like ours. It was, however, a full week before some Scottish Power men clad in fluorescent jackets arrived to tackle the fallen tree being precariously held up by a power line. Up until then, users of our lane had adopted the high-risk strategy of driving underneath it, fingers crossed, and toe down, putting faith in the strength of the single line.
Happy lambing to all those April lambers; may the sun shine on us.