You can’t furlough a hen

Writers Posted 01/02/21
I’ve thought long and hard about what to write this month; the shorter the days, the longer it seems to take me.

Life goes on, albeit at 100mph, with farming, home-schooling and occasionally some forage work. Straw appears to be non-existent and the price seems to be sky high. We have had a few signs that the price is coming back a little. I suspect that by the time harvest comes round it will be back to £60/ton but don’t quote me. Everyone will bale anything and everything in sight this year.

Many small (and large) businesses have suffered as a result of Covid-19. At the present time, thousands of cartons of eggs are being donated to food banks as there is evidently a lack of consumer demand for eggs during lockdown. The majority of egg producers have seen their business halve since the start of the pandemic; unfortunately you can’t furlough a hen. The alternative is throwing the eggs away. In the build up to Christmas, business started to pick up but seemed to plummet in the New Year.

Livestock feed prices seem to be high at the moment. Have you fixed your feed contracts? Rising demand, growing population, rising wealth and biofuels are all contributing to higher feed prices. These costs are set to rise again. If only the end product would increase.

I’ve attempted to steer clear of discussing the Brexit theme, but while talking to our vet the conversation turned to our impending (dairy) farm assurance visit and all the paperwork that ensues with these ‘virtual visits’. The average farmer has to upload 187 documents to the online portal before the inspection can begin, ranging from rat bait plans to covid-19 contingency plans. The list is endless and doesn’t include the paperwork that the vet has to complete. Our vet happens to have a large number of large animal clients, and the average time for the vet to complete the paperwork is two to three hours. If you multiply this figure by 70 clients, before long you need a vet that just does TB tests and farm assurance visits.

If you wish to transport livestock to the continent, the list becomes even more comprehensive. A 12-page document for a horse to go abroad has turned into a 36-page document printed and stamped in every language of every country the horse is going to travel through. This takes approximately three to four hours and the cost is unbelievable.

I am a firm believer that consumers need reassurance that the food they are about to eat is safe and has complete traceability, but with the new rules and regulations coming into force with the Red Tractor scheme they seem to be treading on the toes of other organisations such as the Environment Agency and deviating into areas such as employment law. All employees should have appraisals, but surely it breaches GDPR rules to disclose them to Red Tractor? We can and will comply with all the new regulations; will chlorinated chicken have to go through the same process when it’s imported into the UK?

On the positive side, the roads do seem a little quieter around us. Foreign haulage companies seem unwilling to commit to regular travel across the channel. Time will tell if that will change. Hopefully it won’t mean shortages in the shops.

I am loving this home-schooling business. Not having a school run is brilliant and it’s amazing how much I can achieve in a day. The children can assist me in their lunch break and are home in daylight hours. It’s definitely a ‘win win’ situation for me, although the food bill has gone sky high again.

The ram has hopefully fulfilled his obligations and scanning is eagerly awaited. Sadly we said goodbye to Zara’s pony Crackle, who has gone to another amazing pony club home near Winchester, and we say hello to Bea.

I do hope you are all staying safe and well and hopefully Covid-19 free. Roll on injection time and life returning to a little more normality.


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