November 2015 - Feeling refreshed?

There is only one way to handle a UK winter and the shear misery it tends to bring – avoid it!  Don’t get me wrong, winter can be amazing, with white frosty fields, Santa, consistent routine with all the cows being indoors, warm toasty fires and I am reliably informed the X-Factor.  But, let’s be true to ourselves and wake up to the fact that this is rare and winter in the UK is usually dull, wet, windy and surprisingly warm.  Not warm enough to enjoy but, ironically warm enough to wish it was a bit cooler (it makes sense in my head). 

I have been working on a solution to this for around 12 months now and I think I have cracked it - simply book a holiday somewhere nice!  In the middle of February (2015), when 'winter blues' really bite and impatience to turn cows out and go silaging starts to bubble to the surface, I thought it best to head "down under".  By the end of November, I opted for a week in Morocco which will hopefully carry me through the winter to the middle of February when once again, I shall depart somewhere hot for a few weeks to get over the winter blues and get revved up for the 2016 season.  Being in the UK dairy industry I of course acknowledge that this is absolute blasphemy and actually using your holiday allowance is a taboo however, 48 hours after retuning, I feel extremely guilt free!  On the off chance I do feel guilty, I will just think of all the arable farmers preparing for two weeks off over Christmas followed up by a cheeky skiing trip away in the New Year.


My first day back to work in November was on a Sunday which could have been perfect.  A trip around the farms and then off to the office to slowly get my brain back in gear, slowly is an understatement I admit.  Within an hour, as soon as one of the assistant herdsmen caught my eye, I was dutifully informed how the last few days had been 'terrible' for him and although he didn’t say it was my fault (It wasn’t!), he kind of appeared to forget that I had been thousands of miles away the entire time.  A call came later at 4.30pm informing me of downer cow, typically at the one unit without lifting gear available at the time.  As I write this, it is 6.08am on Monday morning after being woken at 3.37am to be informed about a difficult calving, I arrived 15 minutes later to see that the cow had calved herself.  After the usual Monday morning rush, we will have our quarterly meeting with our vets to discuss all the latest health crazes and trends bombarding our herd.  This - to be fair - is a meeting I very much enjoy.  Hopefully the gear changes in my brain will speed up over the coming hours!


Legislation anyone??

It is also the time of year to be doing a bit of training to broaden one’s mind.  Last winter was FACTs, the winter before was the Management Training Scheme, but this winter it is ‘soil and water management’.  Oh yes ladies, be impressed!  This is definitely a professional qualification worthy of being listed on the ‘achievements’ section of my dating profile.  This Course is essentially an ‘add-on’ to the FACTs qualification.  Moving away from fertiliser, it concentrates more on soil structures, how to maintain it and prevent damage and pollution arising from poor soils.  Although my primary interest is dairy cows and animal science, for some bizarre reason, I have developed quite an interest in soils which I suppose stems from grazing and forage management.  I see this as nothing but a good thing as one way or another, the dairy cow relies completely on food being produced from soil.  It also ticks another box, a box that is becoming ever increasingly important to the agricultural industry (probably most industry) which is the 'environmental protection' box.  No matter how much we believe we need to produce more food to meet the demands of a growing world population, right here, right now, the concern is firmly on the environment which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I know a lot would disagree but let’s be honest better soils, tighter management of fertilisers and pesticides, increased utilisation of protein in animal rations, to name but a few all benefit the environment notwithstanding an improvement in the efficiency of our businesses.


On a lighter note, a farm employee - who shall remain nameless - booked his truck into the garage for an alternator repair: he did this because, as you may have already worked out, his truck wouldn’t start without jump leads. As I drove into town to pick him up from the garage, I noted that the truck was parked outside the local Corner shop and as soon as the driver saw me, he was on his mobile: sure enough the 'wally' had decided to go to the shop to buy some lunch and had turned off his engine! We therefore had to go to the garage, a 90-second drive away, to get some jump leads to finish the journey. The nationality of the employee in question... have a wild guess!