Christmas has come and gone in a whirlwind of excitement. Wrapping paper everywhere; I should have just purchased a cardboard box, and all would be fantastic in the eyes of a three year old. Stockings were all open by 5.30am and we were all out working by 6.15am, in for a hearty breakfast/brunch at 11am followed by a few more presents and then back out to work.

Christmas dinner is always a delayed affair in our household, so we all aim to sit down around 6.30pm ish…. If you are three years old, it all becomes a little too much by 7pm, so off to bed to repeat the day again on Boxing Day, albeit with a slight difference. We then start all over again but, with the Christmas decorations put to one side, the birthday banners can come out: “Happy Birthday Zara”. The child that’s up at 5.30am every morning mucking out, followed by a full day at school and then riding two ponies upon her return. Having a birthday on Boxing Day is quite tough at the best of times, but in 2020 with the Covid-19 rules and regulations in place, no hunting for us this year. Our local hunt has done a sterling job fundraising in an attempt to keep funds coming in while lockdown has been in place and hunting has been stopped. The huntsman always has a smile and a crude joke to tell when collecting the occasional deadstock.

On the topic of deadstock, the deadline of 1 January 2021 has been and passed and we, like all suppliers to Arla, can no longer shoot bull calves on the farm. Instead we must rear all calves to a minimum of 56 days. Thus we are selecting our replacement brood cows to be inseminated with dairy sexed semen and using a continental beef bull on all other cows.

While I don’t disagree with the ruling per se, there are some aspects to it I just don’t get; 56 days for example, the cost to the business is astronomical. The rules of the various farm assurances dictate that we cannot feed waste milk to the calves, so powdered milk to feed these calves is the only option, for a minimum of 56 days. The corporate wannabes that think up these schemes will say it’s all about brand protection; they may have a point, I don’t know, we will comply with the rules as we have no choice. All I do know is that it’s equivalent to a one pence per litre cut on the milk price.
Initially I do not believe that it will have an impact on the wider farming community, but time will tell when a substantial amount of low-grade quality dairy cross beef meat reaches the food chain. We see it in the grain trade. When feed wheat price is low, they do not continue to pay a high price for milling wheat. I am sure that this will apply to the beef trade in the not-too-distant future.

Despite lockdown two and Tier Three regulations, we just completed our on-farm assurance inspection, which went very well. I guess I should be pleased with no non conformances, but I find it hard to be particularly proud; more like three hours of my life that I won’t get back. Still, I can at least sleep easier now. I can relax in the knowledge that my environmental risk assessment for the use of rat bait on the farm is acceptable and it can go back in the file never to see the light of day for another 12 months, along with all the other written plan/risk assessments that we have no practical use for other than to wave in front of the assessor next time.

Outside all of the above, the farm ticks on; we must all be pleased that the winter crops have got themselves established better than last year. The wheat, grass and rape crops in our area look good, although I guess lifting potatoes hasn’t been all that much fun again this year. I hope the job goes well for them and that any hard frosts stay away. The price of straw seems to be stabilising and farmers seem to be opening their sheds.

As a new year begins … let us hope it’s a good one.

Happy new year to one and all.