Increased world dairy demand

It has warmed up again, leaving the colder weather for the Scandinavians; returning us to the usual unpredictable (predominately wet!) British weather; it is time to move on as we have again seen how the merest hint of winter brings the country to a standstill.

The water companies say that all reservoirs and underground water reserves are at an all-time high, so how about a dry spell? Only a year ago we were languishing in the driest 18months ever, and unbeknown to us we had a couple of months to go before it would rain forever!

In Australia they now have a country of two halves, very hot weather and fires still burning in the south, whilst up north the rainy season has started and there are quite serious floods. We have it easy in this country by comparison. By the time you read this I will be in Sydney swapping the British winter for Southern Hemisphere summer and frankly I can’t wait! I have never seen the land so wet, water running off the fields at Crouchlands and even the light land at Tillington is wet. The sheep have all gone now thank goodness, it made me feel bad just looking at how miserable the conditions were for them; they are well insulated, but it can’t be much fun eating green gazpacho every day!

We had a cow down with milk fever (hypocalcaemia) last week a few days before she was due to calve, but would not respond to treatment. After a couple of days trying to sort her out, we had to take drastic action and the decision was made to carry out a caesarean section on Friday so that the burden of a full term calf on her system would be removed. A very strong calf was removed by the vet, and as he found his feet, the cow was sutured and given appropriate anti-biotic treatment. We now have a cow which needs nursing to get her over the operation, and hopefully she will get up soon and make a full recovery. This is not without risk, but in this case doing nothing was not an option.

Quite a lot of good news around last week if one could tease it out amongst the huge fuss over the Prime Minister’s long awaited, much delayed speech on Europe. The newly appointed ‘Groceries Code Adjudicator’ Christine Tacon is an important step to ensure fairness in the supply chain. Christine Tacon ran the Co-op farms for many years, turning a £6m loss into a £6m profit in the time that she was there. Her experience in both farming and in the retail sector will mean that no one will pull the wool over her eyes, and I can tell you that she is one tough lady! She has the power to launch enquiries into suspected breaches of the code by large retailers, requiring any guilty party to publish details of their breach; imposing fines if she feels that the breach is serious. Let’s hope that she has very little to do due to good and responsible behaviour by all.

The European commission has stated that prospects for dairy look good, due to increase world demand. In the next ten years it is expected that production in the EU as a whole will increase, this being made possible due to milk quotas coming to an end, although there were some attempts to prolong the quota regime in the European Parliament, but they were firmly quashed. Quotas have not affected us in the UK for many years due to falling production, which shows very clearly that market conditions over ride artificial measures. We should be mindful of the fact that other countries will produce more, but looking at the giant European Co-op Arla’s planned £225m global investment programme for example, it is clear that much of that extra production will be exported.

The Secretary of State’s announcement last Friday that the badger cull will go ahead this summer was also good news, as Defra released figures last Wednesday showing a sharp rise in bTB in the past year. Since the beginning of 2010 98,455 cattle have now been culled at a huge cost, with new herd incidents up 4% and a total of 6,861 cattle herds under restriction. There will be no quick or easy answer to this problem, but with scientists in Northern Ireland working on advanced sequencing genetic technology, the proof of transmission between badgers and cows which the Badger Trust have been calling for, is in the process of being established.

Then we had the big speech. I was sad enough to arrange my lunch early last Wednesday in order to watch Prime Minister Question time, and it was revealing. I think David Cameron has pulled a rabbit out of the hat here, he is seen as master of his party for once, and although Ed Milliband was good, he is in a difficult position now; will he give the people their say over Europe? I felt very nervous for the Prime Minister when Bill Cash and his mates were full of congratulations and support, but many business leaders have come out in favour of Cameron’s approach, and we all know that Europe will need to change dramatically over the next few years, he (Cameron) is the first to say that it must, and that we want something different.

Who are the losers? Boris Johnson will find it more difficult to needle Cameron now, but has switched to attacking Osborne over the economy, calling for a change of tact; no more hair-shirt austerity, let’s invest in infrastructure and big projects (hear hear). That will be Cameron’s ultimate test if things do not improve; will he be tough and rough enough to sack his friend Osborne? But the real loser, and he looked as if Cameron had eaten his breakfast at PM Question Time, is Nick Clegg. Cameron has taken control of the agenda, looks like the leader of his party, but disastrously for Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrats now are only part of the coalition by name only. Nick Clegg had to show his opposition to the referendum, and as they were the party offering a referendum on Europe not that long ago, he is in a difficult spot.

With Menzies Campbell disowning the last Liberal Democrat’s election’s manifesto, Nick’s days are numbered. They are deeply split as a party, and they are staring oblivion in the face after breaking their promise over tuition fees (losing the student vote), and annoying most of their supporters by going into government with the Tories, wrecking much that they have stood for in the past as they support Osborne’s austerity measures which are not working and will need to be re-vamped. That will finish them off I’m afraid, and it will take them a long time to recover. When politicians do something ‘for the good of the country’; be that forming a government, or re-negotiating a new European package, you can be sure that it is not the case; a more personal motive is more likely.

Gwyn Jones