Tuesday 30 June 2009

Dead meat - dead money

That last posting has got me up on my high horse. All the fault of sighting my first Red Kite and then getting on thinking, must have far too much time on my hands, trouble is when you're clipping it may well exhaust the body but it doesn't really tax the mind and if like me your radio has bust then it gives you far too much time to think, followed by a damp morning when sheep are wet and you can't get on ........... a dangerous cocktail....

Pre 2001 life in the sheep world was bearable, cattle farming was clawing itself back from the BSE crisis but sheep were hanging on in, trade was bearable and life was trundling along pretty much as it always had. Bang! The bubble burst, every livestock farmers worst nightmare - foot and mouth - we wont cover it here except to say life was shite.

In those days farming was governed by MAFF (ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food), at least the title gave one the feeling they were involved with agriculture, however, they were deemed naff by the government and so in 2001 was scrapped and taken over by DEFRA (department for environment, food and rural affairs), still the government, just a different title and one which does not instill a great deal of empathy for agriculture itself.

The fallen stock scheme came into being, livestock no longer being allowed to be buried on the farm in case of pollution to waterways and to prevent the spread of disease to other animals, instead the farmers were to have the pleasure of a double whammy, not only had something died - an expense in itself, but they now had to pay to dispose of it, an average of about £17 per head per sheep. Quite literally dead money!!

No sympathy for the farmer?? Thinking he ought not to have animals dying on his farm?? People die every day, thousands of them I would imagine, unless they are in your immediate family or close friends it has little impact on you. And pets? how many people have spent a fortune on their pets at the vets surgery, but eventually, whether old age or through illness that pet will die. The only thing we are guaranteed from the day we are born is that we will die, under what circumstances and when, we do not know, but it is inevitable, it will happen.

So back to the farmer and his dead animals - it happens, and believe you me it isn't profitable.

The fallen stock scheme? intended to prevent the spread of disease, tell me, a wagon comes around on a Tuesday and Friday in this area, it pulls up next to you deadstock and drops the ramp, carcases are inside from god knows where and died of god knows what - is that really a sensible way of preventing the spread of disease?

A prime example is abortion. Abortion in sheep can be highly contagious, even spreading to women. Farmers and shepherds wives have lost unborn children just from handling dirty clothes at lambing time, not even from direct contact with sheep. What's to stop this wagon from carrying the same from farm to farm as lambing time will undoubtedly be one of the busiest times of year for the dead cart. We are lucky in Tarset and abortion isn't a major problem but could it be in the future?

DEFRA like many organisations seem to forget that farming and the countryside go hand in hand, in areas like our own here in Tarset with traditional methods of farming the farmers are actually the guardians of the countryside, if it gets overgrown and dishevelled it is of little use to them, if it's overgrazed again it is of little use to them. The countryside is their living and where their hearts are, they don't like losing stock, they really don't like paying for the privilege of losing stock - especially for a relatively pointless scheme, wagons burning fuel trundling around the countryside daily collecting something which could so easily be helping the balance of nature. We hear about global warming all the time, the effect of the motor car on the environment, we're all asked to do more to cut down on greenhouse gasses and yet our own government introduced a needless scheme - a hypocritical scheme. Oh boy - I am on my high horse!!!! Time to go to bed!