1. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Aug 27, 2015
    It’s been a bit of a ‘rite of passage’ for various youngsters hereabouts this week. The boy decided to put one of his show cows on a course of anti-botics when she was still under the weather. And so, he’s been made to learn the joys of keeping up the medicine record….and to spell ‘pneumonia’. I’d have put ‘lung problems’ if it was me. Eldest Agnes meanwhile, is flapping about, trying to ensure she has everything ready she needs next month, starting at the unsuspecting University which has foolishly admitted her. I’d say one less mouth to feed, but I suspect we might be remotely feeding her for a while yet.

    And then a couple of fresh faced carpenter lads turned up early one morning to collect some oak beams. Being new to the Coaker emporia, they foolishly left a truck door open as we loaded them. Bouncy banana brained collie Fly was soon found in the cab, munching her way through their breakfast. Oops..sorry boys.

    OK, onwards. I’m not altogether sure what I feel about the choice of a leader for the Labour party. Obviously I’m mightily amused by the whole debacle. Apparently, anyone has been able to join up for tuppence, and vote. Even if, as it seems, they’re only joining to sabotage the party. Multiple layers of allegations and issues are growing like mushrooms on this situation. And anyone trying to call a halt is seen as being afraid they’re preferred candidate won’t win. Never mind who wins…how on earth could you trust such an organisation to run the country....
  2. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Aug 20, 2015
    You may’ve read previously that narrow bridges play a significant part in my life. And here’s another tale. One of the main 2 arterial routes across Dartmoor – Ashburton to Tavistock- includes a couple of beautiful ancient stone bridges over the Dart. One of these, ‘New Bridge’, is in the news. Although it’s wide enough, it has a kink halfway across, and is struck regularly by longer trucks- and buses full of touring Beatles I believe. The problem has become exacerbated recently, as trucks grew a few inches 10-15 years ago, and farm machinery likewise. The coping stones must be old friends to the council mason…although retrieving them from the river bed must be a fag. ‘Highways’, or whoever it is, have decided that the solution is to fix locked barriers either side, set at 7’6”, to prevent ‘oversize’ vehicles gaining access. I’ve been out with a tape and checked. My Ifor Williams stockbox is oversize, as is my little 7.5 tonne truck, so are both my balers, and the bale trailer.

    When asked about this plan, ‘Highways’ stridently retort that there’s been a 7’6” limit on this bridge for some time, and anyone using it has been breaking the law. Well Sonny, seeing as we live and work here, and most of us have been using it much as ever….you’d better make some cells ready. And for those of you thinking we could take an alternative route, there are indeed options, and some satnavs will direct you to them. Ponsworthy bridge and Hexworthy bridge both feature, as does the tiny...
  3. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Arable
    Aug 19, 2015
    Scottish decision on GM could split UK into production regions with separate status.

    Am I right in thinking the UK could face internal restrictions on the movement of cereals and other agricultural products if the Scottish Government confirms its intention to ban the production of GM crops within Scotland's borders?

    The move contradicts the Westminster view which is that research into GM production and its eventual deployment in commercial agriculture should be encouraged.

    Scientists have said it is irrational and Scottish farmers are already angry because they fear they will no longer be able to take advantage of GM led biotechnology and do not want their businesses to become uncompetitive.

    Nevertheless the Scottish Government insists a GM ban will protect the clean green image of the £14 billion of food produced in Scotland each year and safeguard future sales.

    Does this mean the Scotland can expect to become a GM-free zone which will be protected by bans on the movement of any food item with GM connections across the Scottish border?

    If this turns out to be the case it would surely mean that GM crops eventually expected to be grown in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland could not be sold to Scottish businesses.

    Which in turn would mean that animal feed deliveries into Scotland would be limited to consignments that were certified GM free.

    Problems might also be created if food producing animals sold into Scotland for further feeding or...
  4. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Aug 16, 2015
    It’s been another week of intense pressure, and it’s gonna keep me healthy, or put me under the sod. That last flock of ewes is finally gathered and clipped, several groups of beasts are sold, and another ‘spot’ of grass cut. This all sounds easy enough, but trust me on this, nothing is simple.

    The bunch of ewes aren’t very far out over, but the terrain is, um, ‘testing’, with knee deep molinia grass, precipitous slopes, streams, bogs, and boulders the size of a Landrover. Not that I use one, but you can’t get a quad bike in amongst them, so it’s dog and stick work. And come the day, I spotted a ‘wool sheep’ and her lamb of a neighbours which had given him the slip, so I thought I’d grab her while I had the chance. And did they want to play ball? No they did not. He gathers on a quad, and they know to bolt down over where he can’t follow, along a narrow track through a treacherous bog on the side of the hill. I was wise to this, so Gyp and I legged it down through a clear patch of turf, to head them off. The problem? This grassy clear patch is a thin skin over a jumble of boulders, under which trickles the stream which feeds the bog. Hot footing it down across is running a serious risk of dropping into a hidden hole several feet deep, which would likely lead to the wet snapping sound of a middle aged ankle giving way, or knee being bent the wrong way. My neighbour is a pal, and he’s never shy to help me out, but wouldn’t it have been ironic to have come a cropper...
  5. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Aug 16, 2015
    With the season marching onward, we’re jumping at chances to get some grass cut. And the end of last week was such a chance. We started proceedings with the last 30 acres on the off land we started weeks ago and, with the forecast still good, nipped back here and knocked over another 24 acres at home. The off land got turned an extra go, and lies in a much drier parish, so by the weekend, Joe had that lot fit, and Steve and his chum were soon baling quite respectable hay for me. Back here, with puddles still in the gateways, and a heavy lank crop taking a lot of getting off the deck, things went slower. I was getting it moving between jobs, and by Saturday morning, had the first field of grass fit to go through my rubber band baler. We also had a farm visit planned for the afternoon, so I left John to bale a few headlands in the next field, as I dashed off to see if I could find the cows were that the visitors would expect to see. Some of them had travelled long distances, so it really wouldn’t do if the main group had slipped through an open newtake gate and vanished.

    Subsequently, as we enjoyed the scenic views across the valley, I could proudly point out that that the baler working yonder was my lad getting a bit more packed up before he joined us for a BBQ the girls were organising. And that was fine….until he was brought to a halt with a stopped pickup reel, and persistent drizzle. Ne’er mind son, I said, tomorrow is forecast better, and the pickup will be...
  6. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Business
    Aug 12, 2015
    With the government reviewing renewable energy support mechanisms we have recently been asked by a number of clients whether it is still viable to install solar panels.

    As it stands at the moment it is still a resounding yes.

    There are two options for farmers looking at solar, the first is self-funding the equipment which should provide a return of upwards of 15%. An example would be: investing £50,000 on a 50kW roof system which would fit on an average grain store would provide an annual income of between £7,500 and £9,000 per annum depending on how much on site usage you have. If you don’t have the cash to invest there are lots of opportunities for finance whether through high street bank, AMC or asset finance companies.

    The second option is Free Solar, this is where someone else puts the panels up (third party company) they take the FiT (Feed in Tariff which is one of the subsidy mechanisms for renewable energy) and you get the electricity produced by the system for free. There should be no upfront costs and so this might suit a businesses that uses a lot of electric but are strapped for cash. We have done this for farms that use a lot of elec such as dairy and poultry. This can reduce their bills by up to £3,000 per year. It’s really important that you choose the right third party company to install the panels. All will require a 20 year minimum lease of you roof space but the terms can vary wildly with some insisting that the site owner pays for...
  7. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Jul 30, 2015
    Well we called that one right, and chose to sneak off to the Mid Devon show early last (sunny) Saturday with John’s calved heifer and her fluffy little babe. I had to call a halt to taking the served heifer as well. She was bubbling and rattling Friday, and coughing when she was ‘walked up’. Although her ears were up, and she was bright of eye, clearly it wouldn’t do. And sure enough, as we separated them to load ‘Wanda’, the younger one had 4” of green snot dangling from a nostril. It would hardly impress a judge, if nothing else.

    So off we set. Despite the torrential rains on Friday, we managed to slither up onto the new show site, unload, and park up without incident. The sun was out from the off, and apart from the main thoroughfares, the site was soon drying nicely. I daresay a lot of punters got muddy shoes through the day, but it is an agricultural show after all. We did notice a wide variation in footwear, from sandals through to wellies. I’d opted to start the day in wellies, and change into leather boots later. Being a seasoned campaigner, I’d also remembered to pack my straw hat, and sure enough, I was soon needing it to prevent my extensive solar panel from overheating. My travelling companions hadn’t brought hats, and were nicely lobstered by tea time.

    John didn’t get anywhere with his lovely cow, his Dad being famously tight with the cake bag being his main problem. But he enjoyed it anyway, and acquitted himself well. An unexpected bonus came when he...
  8. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Agricultural Matters
    Jul 29, 2015
    Work on a £10m state-of-the-art venue began on Wednesday 29thJuly in Harrogate, which will give event organisers across the UK an exciting new venue. The Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) began demolition of exhibition Hall 1 to make way for the new building at the Great Yorkshire Showground. Completion is scheduled for late spring 2016, with bookings already being taken.

    The new Hall will offer a clear, versatile space of 4,320m2to suit a wide range of events from blue chip company conferences to large dinners and exhibitions or sporting events. It will also have a café, large foyer, offices and dedicated workshop/seminar space; all set in a stunning location on the edge of the spa town. The building adjoins an existing hall, giving a total area of 6,270m2.

    The Showground is well known as the venue for the UK’s premier annual rural showcase, the Great Yorkshire Show, which attracts around 132,000 visitors over three days in July. In the other months, it is also used for a wide variety of events from weddings and conferences through to the Harrogate Spring and Autumn Flower Shows.

    Heather Parry, Deputy Chief Executive of YAS said: “We are delighted to be starting work on such an exciting project, the largest in our organisation’s history. There’s so much potential in this development for us, our region and beyond. The economic impact that events on the Showground generate per annum is currently £47m and this new project will see this figure increase...
  9. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Jul 24, 2015
    With summer in full glory, I’ve been out and about to catch the odd show. And by this, I don’t mean Andrew Lloyd Webber type show, which doesn’t do anything for me at all. But rather the sort where thousands of us spend a third of our day queueing on the road to get in, then another third shuffling along endless rows of booths selling snake oil/ standing in line to pay £8.50 for either an ice lolly or a soggy burger…mmmmm. Salmonella-in-a-bap. The remaining couple of hours, we get to either loaf around chewing the fat with our chums, or admire the immaculately turned out show beasts. Ovine, or bovine, or equine…it’s all much of a muchness in its way.

    And this is where we’re going today. I’ve brushed up close enough to the livestock showing circuit to see what it’s about, and I’ve bred and raised a few animals to know one end of ‘em from the other myself. And while showing can be an enjoyable way to while away your summers, or even a useful shop window for your business, to a hill farming monkey like me, there is also a complete jarring nonsense to the whole baloney.

    It is perfectly acceptable, apparently, to buy in animals just to show, and not only pour money into their pampered lives to keep them in this mythical ‘show condition’, but to employ professionals to do so. And when you’re in a certain league, with the breeds of the moment, the numbers start to stack up astonishingly. Presumably, it’s then a monstrous out-of-hand game of poker. You’ve invested so...
  10. JP1
    Created by JP1 in category Farm Life
    Jul 23, 2015
    In the absence of settled weather, we’ve cracked on with the livestock work with a vengeance. All the Galloways are now gathered in, sorted into the right groups for each bull, and the 13 new calves tagged and dealt with. Curiously, despite the cows having been up in the clouds for about 8 weeks, none of these calves seems to have been born more than a week or two when we handled them. Which is just as well, or we mightn’t be allowed to register them, and they would become bovine pariahs, unable to enter the food chain or polite society. So that was lucky wasn’t it boys and girls! The cattle are mostly in lovely condition, and there are plenty of calves about this year. The frontline bulls are very happy to be in with their girls, while the ‘B team’ are held in reserve, and are somewhat disgruntled about this state of affairs. And even as I tell you this, I realise that this begs the question…what does a gruntled bull look like? I suppose that’d be one that’s happy with his cows. Anyway, the valley echoes with the various fellas grumbling and trumpeting. Oh, and speaking of bulls, I’ve a very nice South Devon bull surplus, if you need such a thing. He’s very easy calving, solidly put together, and lives out up here easily. His replacement is already at work and stopping cows, so he’s currently unemployed.

    Gathering sheep for shearing goes on apace, moving on up through the bracken and out onto the open peat, with only one lot of Scotch ewes left to hunt down. With...