Tag Archives: farming

a funny farming face

FACE stands for farming and countryside education. It is an organisation which is passionate about educating children about food and farming.

They have enlisted the help of one of the UK’s funniest comedians, Bill Bailey,  and last summer they made a video to help get their message across. Enjoy.

We love the shorts and wellies!


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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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A printed version of THIS ARTICLE has been kicking around on my desk for ages. I am having a major tidy and sort and after putting the magazine [The Furrow] into the recycling box I have found an electronic version for you to read, and another You tube video to watch.

Some things in farming change a lot and some things never change. This is the modern equivalent  of the mule combine, and costs at least as much as much as a decent house.

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and then there were ten

Well it is certainly time I updated the blog. 

I can hardly believe it is so long since I last wrote on here but family illness, and the all consuming world of running large farming business in the 21st Century have somehow dramatically eaten up a good few weeks without me realising.

I had a lovely few days away, unfortunately cut short by a family emergency. Since then it has been very very busy.

Yesterday, one of the gilts had her piglets, 12 were born alive, one was a runt and died leaving 11, then in the night a strong one climbed up a mini mountain of straw rucked up by the gilt and sadly fell into the water bucket. So now there are 10 and they are now doing well but are not out of the woods yet as they are so tiny and she is so large and does rather plop down in a heap every so often. They are learning to run under the heat lamp, which is behind bars, to keep them safe. It is really amusing to watch as the mother starts to get restless and tries to get up. This causes a procession of squeaky piglets, each no longer than a pencil, to turn away from their mother and start to walk in single file unsteadily to the safety of the creche. A second gilt is due to farrow at the end of the week.

It is currently very busy on the livestock side of the farm: the rams will be turned out with the ewes this week so that we lamb mid-April when the grass is good. The first batch of cattle has come into the yards and are already tucking into our home grown silage. Soon we will wean some of this year’s older calves and they will join the other young-stock in the shed.

Jethro is doing lots of calculations to work out the total stock numbers and the total feed stocks to ensure we have enough fodder to last right through to mid April. As an arable farm we are able to easily supplement the hay and silage we feed to the cattle with home grown rolled barley and straw. However, Jethro does this scientifically and weighs the animals regularly. Our beef is slow matured so we are only looking for continuous growth and gradual weight gain in the winter so the animals are ready to grow on well with next year’s grass.

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beans or gold?

Money, money, money is the talk of the media. Even Samuel Pepys seems obsessed with money on today’s entry in 1663.

I was asked a question this week. Who is richer in times of financial crisis: the man with the gold bullion or the man with the tins of baked beans?

Taking Maslow’s hierarchical needs  food and shelter come first. Land is needed to grow food as is knowledge. Is knowledge power? What will happen to the UK land prices as house prices continue to slip? Will skilled agricultural knowledge [farming] become a respected profession once more?

I cannot answer these questions right now, but time will answer them for us. In the meantime I think more and more people will dig for themselves as opposed to digging for Britain. This will naturally increase individual knowledge about land and production even if just from small plots and window boxes.  

We have lost our two long rows of main crop potatoes to blight this year. The stinking oozing tubers are a total write off, and one cannot help but think of the plight of those affected by the potato famines in Ireland and Scotland. It is such a terrible waste of good food [and effort], but nature is unpredictable and can be the final determining factor of food production. We are fortunate however, our early crop, although planted late, seems to be least affected and we have plenty of other vegetables to see us through the winter.

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courage and ingenuity

Farming, as a career, has always required courage and ingenuity by those involved and I am not sure in recent times that this has always been recognised.  However, perhaps as the credit crunch bites a bit harder people will reflect a bit more on what they buy to eat and how it is produced. I hope this will develop into a new found respect for those that are coping with the double challenges of this awful weather and diseases such as Bluetongue and Bovine TB.

This long running spell of poor weather has also impacted considerably on the livestock industry as both hay for feed and straw for bedding are in very short supply, and the quality of the grass for grazing animals is also affected by the incessant wet and lack of sun. We have enough hay, straw and silage here but there are many farms, particularly those in the Upland areas including England, Wales and Scotland who do not. This will feel like a very long winter for all of us as we all feel we missed out on enough sun and it has been a hard struggle since July.

Nevertheless the days are so busy, and so long, that there is no time to dwell on the latest disaster as there is always another chore to do. This is what keeps Jethro and all the other farmers going.

On top of moving yet more grain around, and finally finishing harvesting the wheat this afternoon [at only 16 % moisture] the ewe flock were all sorted today into the ones to keep and the ones to sell.  A top up dose of fly repellent was administered before they went back to the fields.

Later this week they will be sorted again into: the few ‘fatties’ to go on a diet with less grass and tighter grazing; the normal ones just turned back out into the fields; and the ‘thinnies’ to get some extra feed. All will be given a dose of wormer too. These vital elements of good flock management enable the majority of the sheep to be in the right condition for mating [tupping] in 8 weeks time. [NB: We lamb later than many sheep farmers on purpose to reduce costs and get the most from the spring grass.]

No year is ever the same and in truth probably no day the same either. An email message has gone around from the National Farmers Union and the RABI asking for farmers to help others in their area with either combining or drying corn. In this area we have not had it anything like as bad as many other areas. Some of the pictures posted on this page show just how the weather has impacted on harvest 2008.

Right now I know everyone would welcome a chance to draw breath and to know for certain that the weather was about to stay dry long enough to progress the work. Crystal ball anyone? Nevertheless wishful thinking must be better than being downhearted.

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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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