The snow has melted from the fields at Poolham and once again the field drains are pouring out water.
I have measured 38mm of rainfall during January which is about average, but I have pools of water lying on most of my fields. The structure of the soil has been severely damaged by last autumn’s cultivations and only a sustained dry spell during February and March will allow me to complete my Spring drilling on time.
Even though all of my fields are underdrained, most systems have been in the ground for 50 years. I am currently having plans drawn up to redrain 100 acres of the wettest land and hopefully the work will be completed next autumn This work is expensive, although I am certain the cost will be recovered by increased production over the next five to ten years.
On the livestock side of the business, calving is now well underway at the Heckington Farm. To date we have only required veterinary assistance with one cow, which unfortunately suffered a proplapsed uterus during calving. After antibiotics the cow is now thriving and once again running with the rest of the herd.
My first fat cattle have been sent to the Abattoir, weights and grades are similar to last year making carcasses ideal for the family butcher we supply.
As January and February are generally quieter months on the farm, I like to take the opportunity to catch up with some of the paperwork. There are numerous regulations that are currently imposed on British farmers. These vary from National Employment Regulations regarding health and safety, which all employers are required to update annually, to the numerous crop and livestock assurance schemes that farmers have to comply with to sell their produce to the supermarkets. I personally only require one farm inspection a year, but I have friends producing vegetables and livestock who need four or five to satisfy different customers needs. This is extremely expensive and time consuming for little extra reward.
Richard Macdonald the former Director General of the National Farmers Union was given the task of investigating all the different regulations affecting the farming industry with the hope that the burden could be simplified and eased. There is currently too much repetition of information and at the moment we have yet to see any real improvement from his work.
In view of everything I have said about the agricultural industry here in the UK, where all produce can be traced from field to the supermarket shelf, I as a beef producer am very angry that both horse meat and pork have been found in beefburgers in our supermarkets. While I am sure no senior management at any of the supermarkets were aware of this happening and have condemned the practice, the public, and the beef farmers, have been deceived and badly let down. Many questions need to be answered to regain the trust of the public.
The Food Standards Agency have been quick to act since the scandal has happened, but why did they need their Irish Food Standards Authority to notify them? If the housewife wishes to support the British farmer and truly values a fully traceable supply chain, she should look for the Red Tractor logo on the packaging in the supermarkets. If she then chose to purchase the product with the Red Tractor logo, I as a farmer will become more tolerant to the regulations my business has to comply with.