I could attack the following subject in one of two ways. The first would be to use the local ‘Yeovil Youth’ lingo which would incorporate an incoherent sentence of colourful language that would cause maximum offence to anyone reading or, I could take the ‘Evershot polite’ approach which would at least be publishable. The latter it is then. ‘Bother me, was it not a tad wet on the 9th?’ Of course on the morning of the 9th I was very much taking the colourful language approach as I muttered to myself driving through the Park, watching cascades of water run down the road and, pockets of water appear in fields that made the Lake District look like the Atacama Desert. You will therefore notice that there is a distinct lack of 'chit chat' about actual farming this month driven by the lack of actual farming.
We did manage to get cows out on schedule across all three dairy units albeit for 3-4hrs per day but this has gone on for far longer than planned due to the rain and cold. Usually we can have cows out all day within 10 days of going out but not this year. We still have another 130 to go out but this will be a pointless exercise until the grass starts to really get "a move on". Other than some umbilical and fertiliser spreading, we did manage to get our new grass silage leys and horse paddocks rolled but since then the weather has been quite a bother.
Something controversial popped into my little brain the other day; there will now undoubtedly be casualties this year as milk price sets to remain miserably low and people begin to quit milking. If I’m brutally honest, it has little to do with the retailer although maybe they could substitute a bit more imported cheese with UK produce! Despite repeated global warnings we (the EU) continued to pump out the litres that nobody wants but, I have found a silver lining which hopefully hasn’t already been thought of and, being UK agriculture it will probably never take off but hear me out anyway. Over the coming months, dairy farms will shut down leaving farmers, herd managers, herds' people and stock people, all looking for work. Now combine this issue with the current and (in my eyes) major issue of the lack of skilled dairy farm staff: surely an industry-wide programme can be put together to help people who have lost their jobs with dairy herds by getting them employed on dairy units struggling for skilled labour which, could be a major factor in keeping that business afloat. Yes there are job agencies but their major focus is their own business which means there is a bias. And how many people do you know quit milking and go into beef farming or contracting? The dairy industry must retain the majority of these people.
Soon to be wet cows
Think of it like organ donation; unfortunately on the one hand there is a huge amount of pain, yet on the other, a chance of success. Some people will be extremely set in their ways and have worked on the same farm or, their own farm for decades which is the major downfall in this plan but, they will to a man all be passionate about cows. An initiative that keeps these people engaged, offers training to develop any skills that may need to be sharpened and placing them on appropriate dairy farms, I think could work. It is essential we give the younger generation that are already in on-farm dairying our full support so that they remain. It is also essential we give our full support to the 'senior' generation. As tough as it may be to lose a dairy herd (my own Dad’s went in 2004), I don’t think that renting out your land and then getting a decent wage for milking someone else’s cows is a bad plan. Your employer gets all the stress, you get paid and can still take pride in a herd of dairy cows. End of.
It turns out that one of our herdsmen probably should have visited the local Crime Councillor this month after his 55hp scraper tractor was discreetly removed from its night time resting place, never to be seen again. This occurred not long before our entire fleet of tractors were due to be changed and so we took the decision to install trackers on the new ones coming on farm. Upon registering the trackers, the boss discovered that the aforementioned herdsman and his new tractor were, at that very moment, just off the coast of Somalia. Joining a pirate ship in tropical waters buoyed by the illusion of Keira Knightly being present must have appeared to be a safer option for our herdsman than working in a quiet rural English village with the present threat of theft.
Losing a scraper tractor meant that we had to bring one of the old boys in on loan which is always an experience - this time a Massey 135. And yes I had to get on it and have a play, and yes, it was epic! It provided an immediate blast from the past moment of being on my old family dairy farm routinely scraping up, in all weathers, on a 135 and of course, with no brakes. After all you didn’t need brakes - you had a scraper on the back!