Sunday, 6 March 2011

It's all about size.....

My husband and I have a bit of an on-going debate/dispute going on. He sees the dilemma of the smaller, more sustainable (mmm?) farmer as eventually getting through the public and the decision-makers. Then there will be a tipping point and things will have to get better, when the realisation dawns that 2 dairy farmers a day are leaving the industry. I'm afraid I am more cynical - as long as the supermarkets, our new lords and masters, have their "dedicated suppliers" and their guaranteed supply of milk the rest of us can just...well...sink or swim. What do you think?
In the meantime, calves born on a small farm have a good start in life.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Optimism in Farming

There seems to be a mood of optimism in farming at the moment - at least in my husband. Isn't it weird how farmers go from being irrelevant to crucially important for the future of the world? In a small way, Meadow Foods' letter about a modest price rise has been a boost, here for us. BBC Countryfile is now on at prime slot on a Sunday - Adam Hensen, an excellent communicator, has done farming's image a lot of good. We are having a crisis about where to go in the future here...more of that later.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Low price - low esteem

Cows need help sometimes during calving - you may have to use the calving aid, or - usually at the worst possible times - you may need to call the vet. That costs. Cows also have to be milked twice a day. There's a huge capital investment, also in parlours, milking machines and housing. It is more of a tie than running a pub. Come rain or shine, high days or holidays you have to be there in the parlour twice a day. You get crapped on,mucked up and ocasionally kicked. Anyway cutting to the chase, it is not the easiest of lives. So what is the supermarket's response to this - they give with one hand (to their selected suppliers)and take away with the other. Well, taking away after a fashion. How else would you describe the message they give by selling milk at half the price of water? What a way to educate people about farming, the countryside and sustainablility. Say what you like about celebrity chefs. They seem to have some moral compass, and are making some effort to educate us and curtail bad farming practices and our excesses. Supermarkets? Do they see past the shareholders returns? I don't think so.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Good for Miriam O' Reilly

I was interviewed once by Miriam O' Reilly for the Farming Today programme on Radio 4. That's when many involved in dairy farming were jumping up and down trying to get a decent price for the milk. Now, most dairy farmers have either packed up their tents and gone home - are are supping with the devil (got a contract with one of the big supermarkets). Anyway - less of me, more of Miss O' Reilly. I found her warm, knowledgeable and completely at home with the countryside and her journalist role. What were the BBC thinking of anyway removing someone like that, and taking on Julie Bradbury or whoever instead? Shame on them.

The TB Problem

I watched BBC Countryfile on Sunday night. Like many other viewers, I suspect, I held my breath while the the vet read the TB results on the excellent Adam Henson's cattle. The horrible sinking feeling when several failed at the end was obvious for all to see. We have been plagued with TB in this area. Our own farm has escaped, so far. But we did have a scare once. An in-calf cow was found to be inconclusive. So, it was isolated. It was due to be re-tested 60 days later. But, we had to ring up as we hadn't heard anything. By now she had calved. They came again on day 80 - the cow failed the test. She and the calf were taken away and slaughtered. Oh, and the final indignity - TB was not found at post-mortem.
This whole question of bovine TB needs serious research and review. Is slaughter really necessary. In the 21st century can we not come up with something that is less drastic and wasteful?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The thorny question of diversification

There was a piece on Woman's Hour the other day about rural women starting up businesses, to supplement the farm income, for one thing - it filled me with feelings of admiration and inadequacy in equal measure. We play with this question every now and then. Many visitors have looked at our old stone farm buildings with the light of enterprise in their eyes..."Why don't you...?" "You know you could turn them..." But we don't do it. I cannot honestly say whether this is because neither of us is really that much of an entrepreneur, or if it is more about trying to hang onto what we have, not wanting to the change the nature of the place. So, we struggle on, day-dreaming about what we'd do in the line of repair to the house roof or building some extra sheds - if our boat came in. Maybe, we think, the heifers that seem to be growing well will join the herd and this will boost things just enough. Maybe the milk price will improve - actually forget I said that one.....

Saturday, 1 January 2011

There's shopping and shopping

Simple things can make you happy. Shopping in my local indoor market does it for me. This is why. The pace is leisurely and you can day-dream. Go early on a market day morning and you see little huddles of people. Some of them have been meeting here on a Wednesday for donkey's years. Talking about a long time - the lady who runs the cheese stall first stood behind the counter during the war, when she came with her mother. That's continuity. The butcher's stall is always good for a laugh. They know your name and it actually does feel like "your butcher," unlike the big fake "your" of the supermarket. I like the greengrocers too. The boss man is weathered and tough looking, and the staff work quickly and cheerfully. Leaving the market with your bags feels nice - it's real. To think that the town developers were all for pulling this market down and replacing it with a shopping centre about 30 years ago...thank God it didn't happen