Thursday, 17 March 2011

'British Dairying' & Small Dairy Herds, St. Patrick's Day, A Ghost in the Cottage, Lambing Time

I doubt that many readers of this blog ever see a publication called 'British Dairying'. Our copy of the March issue arrived this morning and the Farmer read it over breakfast with his usual interest. It is after all, the journal that keeps us up to date with what is happening in our industry.
 One of the regular columnists reflected on the withdrawal of the Nocton 'super' dairy planning application saying that the decision was 'bad news for the UK dairy industry'. He felt that the campaign against the huge dairy was misplaced and that animal welfare campaigners should turn their attention to the 3,000 small dairy producers, (those like us who milk fewer than 30 cows) who he claims have 'possibly the worst welfare standards in the country.'
This is an outrageous slur on the integrity of small farms and our attitude to the welfare of our animals.
 The Farmer & I are so angry at this comment. We invite anyone at any time to visit this farm and to see for themselves the standard of care that we give our hard -working dairy cows. If we did not look after them properly they would not give the is in our own interests to ensure that the welfare of our cows is of the highest standard. The size of herd has nothing to do with welfare standards.
As dairy farmers we have enough to cope with without journalists showing contempt for those of us at the smaller end of the scale who continue to milk cows. We all, whether we milk 30 or 300+ cows, have annual inspections by the County Council to check dairy hygiene, Farm Assurance & because we farm organically, the Soil Association, to make sure that the welfare standards are met...nothing should go unseen under this much scrutiny.

A few facts about UK dairy farming;
In 2002 there were 19,000 dairy farmers in Britain, by 2011 there are 11,000.
The UK is the 3rd largest milk producer in Europe & 9th in the world.
There are 1.9 million dairy cows in the UK & 17,000 dairy farms.
The average dairy farm in UK is bigger than the average dairy farm in Europe.

There was very good article in The Telegraph yesterday (16th March) entitled 'Why the life of the milk man has gone sour.'

It is St. Patrick's Day. My maternal grand-father was Irish and I can remember as a very small child, the post-man delivering small packages from  the great-uncles & aunts in Portadown to us in Wales, which contained bunches of shamrock tucked into boxes lines with damp cotton wool. The shamrock was pinned to our coat lapels as we went off proudly to school. One year there was even a large fruit cake covered in green marzipan with little pink flowers iced on it.
The word 'shamrock'  comes from the Irish 'seamrog' meaning 'clover' and it refers to a whole variety of clovers & trefoils.St. Patrick is said to have used the leaf to explain the three-in-one of the the Holy Trinity, but this saying was not heard before the 18th century.

I had a very interesting conversation with one of our guests in the cottage who have been staying with us for a couple of days in which she told me that we had a ghost. It seems that both nights she had seen the shadowy figure of a man with long curly hair in the bedroom. She said he seemed very pleased to see people in the building and looked more as though he was the owner of the farm than a farmworker. She asked him politely to go away as they needed their space back and he just disappeared. Apparently he was accompanied by a couple of other figures who were less clear.
This is the first time anyone has reported a sighting to me.
One would have expected the ghosts to be of a more porcine nature seeing as how the cottage was once a piggery! Maybe the mysterious man with long hair lived long before the piggery was built in the 19th century, more than likely I think.

Lambing is continuing albeit rather slowly...the Farmer says he's waiting for an explosion of lambs any time now. He says the ewes are huge and he's sure one of them might well produce 3 or 4 lambs. Multiple births of more than 3 make a lot of extra work and the lambs are usually so tiny that getting them to suck a teat on bottle is difficult. But we persevere with them and do all we can to give them a chance of life.

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