Anton Coaker: Ho Ho Ho

Discussion in 'Agricultural Matters' started by JP1, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. JP1

    JP1 Moderator

    I suppose you might reasonably expect some kind of festive jollity from me, and I’m genuinely sorry to be found lacking. But it’s going to be hard to be especially jolly.

    We’ve been spending time pulling together cattle in relentless gales and driving rain, shoving hundreds of them through the race on a blasted December hillside for a TB test- and it takes a certain mindset. I made sure we had staff aplenty, knowing the logistics were an issue, with shortening daylight and everything wanting to be fed as well. Despite starting with a clean set up, the lashing downpours soon resulted in splattering porridge. Every time the latch on the crush gate was released, and a beast freed, it would leap forward. The equal and opposite reaction is a couple of cloven hooves worth of gloop would be flung back at the lucky operative. Often as not, this was me. As a patient and competent vet jabbed and measured, Alison was keeping the paperwork ensconced in her newly rejuvenated hut….1/2 a 1000 gallon diesel-tank stood on end. With 3-4 breeze blocks to perch on, and a table made of a stack of lorry tyres and a slab of oak, I thought I’d made things as homely as I could….goodness but she’s a lucky girl. Apparently though, an entire handling system under cover would be better. Ha! We all know that isn’t going to happen, the cattle lose enough money without giving them a luxury palace from which to do it.
    Anyway, the team fed everything through in short order, and the atrocious conditions only served to foster a stronger camaraderie- that’s what I’m telling them. Sadly we found a reactor, so I’m back in the club no-one wants to be a member of. She’s a 2 year old served heifer, who spent 2014 at summer grass in a moderately hot parish. It seems to be the 2nd time we’ve brought such a case home, but who knows.

    It may be coincidental, but she was one of the very few who got really agitated in the race on jabbing day, and roared and bellowed at the vet, rolling her eyes like something demented. She’s normally a dopey docile creature, but like all of us, they sometimes have off days. Whether her emotional outburst on Tuesday affected her reading on Friday we know not. Her head is still going to come off shortly.

    We’re left with another 60 odd to test in the New Year, before the clock starts ticking to the first re-test. There are a number of difficulties facing me, with the Forest cows away at their winter lodgings – we’re no longer permitted to keep them out on top for the winter, and myriad rules are slowly strangling their movements to and fro with the seasons.

    As ever, despite carefully pre-movement testing & selling batches of stores all through the year, in case of such events, it now feels like I’ve got far too many beasts to hand. Ho-hum.

    Not knowing when BPS or HLS payments will turn up, and now being locked down from selling cattle, I’m not in an especially good place financially. I’m not whingeing about it, instead remaining on a high floaty plane of placid serenity, all calm and awash with benevolence. I only mention this so you don’t clap me on the shoulder and say how lucky hill farmers are.

    In fact, moving on, the parlous state of farming fortunes brings me to another matter. Once you’ve got your BPS payment, beware of fraudsters, checking websites to see who to phone, to wheedle your bank details so they can empty your account. Meanwhile, for those still waiting, getting desperate, I’m half following an ongoing saga relating to unscrupulous agricultural lenders.

    There has been a firm –or possibly several, with similar names and the same boss- preying on hard-up and naïve farmers who own property. If they haven’t been shut down yet, current late payments will be manna from heaven for them. They’ll get you on a crippling interest rate –‘Just initially, until we can get you sorted out’, promising salvation, then hit you with masses of fees, and very quickly call in the loan, forcing a sale. Many up and down the country have been caught.

    If you’re out to ends, don’t go to such crooks. They’re not going to help you….far from it. If you’re thinking of borrowing from someone new, get a youngster to check the internet…the trail of broken farm businesses will give the game away. Meanwhile, go to your man of letters, and talk it over. Better a bit of an embarrassing retreat than losing everything.

    Chin up, evenings are pulling out!

    About the author

    Originally published in The Western Morning News, these articles are reproduced for the enjoyment of TFF members World-wide by kind permission of the author Anton Coaker and the WMN

    Anton Coaker is a fifth generation farmer keeping suckler cows and flocks of hill sheep high on the Forest of Dartmoor and running a hardwood and mobile sawmill.

    A prodigious writer and regular correspondent for The Western Morning News, NFU and The Farming Forum, Anton’s second book “The Complete Bullocks” is available from
  2. matthew

    matthew Member

    Sorry to hear that Anton. These verminous beasties have a nasty habit of derailing the best of plans. This is our Christmas blog cartoon, btw.:whistle:.

    Christmas Santa scan0001.jpg
    le bon paysan, Cranman and JP1 like this.

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