Tag Archives: farmers

What on earth…..

What on earth is going on… this is a really shocking story from BBC Wales.

Click here to read about the slaughter of horned cows.

It is also reported here in the Daily Mail

We are not in a position to comment much except we are very shocked.

However, I should point out many farmers work with horned cattle safely on a daily basis and shooting loose cattle is very, very dangerous as the likelihood of stray bullets and an unclean kill requiring several shots and much suffering from the animal as well as the onlookers is incredibly high.

Only once or twice in a long lifetime of livestock farming have I seen a loose animal shot out of total necessity because it was maddened and very distressed.  And this was only after we had tried sedation and the vet first. It is totally different from destroying an animal which is contained and I feel it is a very irresponsible action to take.

One wonders what the risk assessment for this terrible action was?

Whatever the real problem was, and they may be more to it, we are all completely outraged and this was not the way to solve it.



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the little red book

In my possession is a little red book. It has been in the family for a long, long time. The first edition was printed in 1885, my copy in the eighth edition and appears to date from the 1890’s.

It is called Everyday Farriery by Day and Sons, Crewe. It is a veterinary book that covers the everyday diseases of horses, cattle, sheep and pigs.

Every so often I take it out of the bookshelves and study it. Tucked inside the first leaves of the book are various items.

1)A letter from one Land Agent to another  with a mash recipe for cows.

“1 teaspoonful of carbolic acid in one ounce of water mixed in a mash and given to a cow in calf once a week – is the receipt you want. The mash must be well mixed and care taken to give each cow its own mash separately if you are dosing several cows,

yours sincerely..”

2) Other carefully saved clippings tucked away in the back page are cut from the Farmer and Stockbreeder newspaper with cures for Milk Fever, and Anthrax and Blackleg.

We have no idea what this mash mix was for, or even if it worked. My father gave me the book many years ago and I often read it as some things in veterinary medicine has not changed at all, and other things have changed a lot.

This little tome was not just about giving information though, it was also a sales catalogue as many of the cures involved using products made by Day and Sons. Their “Black Drink” is mentioned throughout the book but there is no clue as to what ingredients this actually contained, although it appears to be advertised as a panacea for many livestock ailments.

What fascinates me so much is how farming and animal husbandry does not change. The challenges faced by today’s livestock keepers remain the same. The farmer who originally owned this book faced exactly the same challenges in the 1890’s as Jethro does today. The original farmer would have had more labour but the issues of feed, health, weather and profit remain the same. Science and technology have moved on providing deeper veterinary knowledge and medicines and modern machines, but essentially a livestock farmers job remains the same as it has done for centuries.

I like the continuity of this, this finite thread that links each and every generation to the land.

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all change

Well, this week the first of the cattle came in for the winter, and the very last of the rams went out with the ewes but not before one of our best rams died suddenly as he waited in the shed.

As an older member of the team the anticipation must have been too much, or at least that is the reason we prefer most to believe. His place out with a particular batch of ewes was immediately taken by another home bred ram, and finally the rush of shepherding work at this time of the year is over and Jethro can settle back into a quieter routine.

Next to come in will be the calves, born this year. Those that were born in the spring and are old enough will be separated from their mothers and housed, the youngest calves will come in to another shed but their mothers will  come in too, and one of the bulls. The main herd of spring calving cows will remain outside on the drier chalk grassland.

Poor Ruby has slipped her calf, it was due to be born around the end of January, and was completely formed, a bull calf but without all his hair. The legs and the head were the same colour as Ruby, but the rest was still bald. It was a very sad sight when the vet pulled it out, and she was so very keen to mother this stillborn bundle of a calf.

It means no milking for us until she calves again, perhaps in the autumn next year. The vet says that around 1% of cattle sponatneously abort, there does not have to be a reason. I think in 5 years we have only had 3 slipped calves so we must be under the average but still it is hard particularly as Ruby is the family’s only cow whereas the rest belong to the farm business. It is not quite the same.  Unusually for farmers we do admit that Ruby is a pet, she leads from a headcollar and ties up and is so quiet even visiting children can milk her. I daresay when she is recovered and after she runs with the main herd and the bull for the winter she will take a bit of gentling again.


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uncharted territory

We are entering uncharted territory, the grain stores bulge with wet grain and damp beans. Beans were combined until 1.30 am this morning and we hope to get the rest of the bean crop today before the next band of forecasted rain due at tea-time today, everyone is exhausted.

The challenge of the Century is to now dry these crops without spoilage. We are not alone. This occurrence is being repeated all over the country by those who either have harvested, or are still trying to harvest sodden crops from sodden fields.

At Prosperous Farm the moisture varies from 18 to 25 percent, 15 percent is what is needed. Both labour and energy costs will be very high this year as huge efforts by both men and machines are concentrated on preventing spoilage in these gigantic heaps. However, we are the lucky ones as many farmers have written off their crops and unless conditions improve some farmers will not even be able to sow next year’s crops either. The newly purchased grain stirrer is currently creeping around the very deep pile of wheat and the fans are on full. More calor gas and more heaters have been ordered, and reading the electric meters beside the grain stores, in due course, will not be a job for the fainthearted.

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food and farming in the news

Today food and farming is in the news.

Compulsory cooking in schools, and free recipe books for 11 year olds, BRILLIANT. Cooking, or domestic science as it used to be called should never have been abolished.

There is also in depth harvest coverage on the TV news, or rather the lack of harvest of on account of the weather and the fact that farmers now have until 4th October to go on their waterlogged fields with extra permission from the EU. However, the media, EU and DEFRA probably do not realise that actually farmers do still decide for themselves if they are able [will] go onto the fields or not, whether to try to save a crop or write it off…

Boris is speaking out for farmers, and writes once again with knowledge and passion. There is so much extensively livestock production in this country on land that cannot be ploughed. It is what makes our countryside famous; think of the moorland and the hills from one end of the country to the other [Dartmoor, Peak District, Lake District, Pennines, Highlands, Southdowns etc], there are so many beautiful areas which have been shaped and cared for by farmers grazing livestock. Boris is right: it is not the animals that are the problem, it is the people.

My suggestion is: keep eating meat, but ASK where and how it is produced. And if you are able please choose local and extensively reared meat whenever you can. These types of systems are utilising the land in the best way possible and should be supported.

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the bluetongue mess

Yesterday, we vaccinated seven calves against Bluetongue (BT) disease. This is the eighth time since May that Jethro  has had to get the cattle in to vaccinate against this hideous disease. We were one of the first areas to be given the vaccine and owing to the fact that the cows calve steadily through the spring and summer months it has meant batching the calves and doing a few at a time, and then repeating 3 – 4 weeks later with the second booster dose on each calf. It is not an easy task, but one we take seriously and I wish that all the nation’s livestock keepers and policy makers were of the same mind.

The country is in a mess over the vaccinating programme, as devolved Scotland has decided so far not to vaccinate, despite the National Beef Association petition [please sign].

Wales and the north of England [ Cumbria and Northumberland ]are this month able to vaccinate and yet many individuals are dithering over whether to do so as they worry over potential trading difficulties with Scotland and other areas. However, in July, we were offered steers to buy from Lincolnshire and we turned them down as they were not vaccinated. The vendor was not bothered stating clearly that because others had vaccinated he did not need to. We have a lot of midges and whether there is BT around here or not*, we choose to vaccinate all our cattle and sheep, and we do not want to jeopardise our animals’ health and well-being by bringing in un-vaccinated ones. The new born calves get some immunity in the antibodies from the colostrum [first milk] until we are able to immunize them individually. [* DEFRA should do further testing across the country so we know if there is an underlying problem with BT infection or not. However the test must be able to discern the difference between either infection related antibodies or a stimulated response following vaccination. Clarification here]

Britain is a small country and to protect our livestock we need to be totally united, as we and all our livestock all reside TOGETHER on one island there should be one policy and devolution should be overruled.

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we are an island….

For heavens sake, we are an Island!

 Why, why, why do we import animals AND THEREFORE NASTY DISEASES in to this country, especially from an area with a known disease problem and we are still learning about this terrible disease and its effects?

We have good livestock in this country already [some of the best in the world], and other countries have import bans on live animals to protect their own industries. I am entirely with the Icelanders on this issue. Their Parliament decreed in 980AD that no imports of horses, and other livestock would be allowed, and this ruling still stands today. Icelandic animals may have developed a certain uniqueness over the last 1028 years, nevertheless they also have an enviable disease free status too.

Other countries also have restrictive import polices or outright bans from certain areas of the world and many are far better than us at policing the import of food, especially meat, through the airports. Why can’t the UK be better at all this, and try looking after ourselves for a change.

Today there are 2 reported case of BLUETONGUE disease in the south of England, both could have been prevented by not importing. Whatever were the farmers thinking?

More on this and  the regular update later…

PS For more indepth info regarding the outbreak and further in depth facts please go to Mary’s site 

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