We have started maize drilling, making the most of the conditions and the soil moisture available.
The seed beds are as good as I have ever seen, and the seed is certainly getting the best start possible in warm soil; warmer soil than we would very often experience later in the month.
What we do not need this year after such an early start is a change of weather in late spring with frosts, which damage young maize seedlings enormously. With all the fertilizer applied, seed in the ground, we only have weeds to worry about, which we will tackle with a chemical spray at the appropriate time.
The warm winter has brought on some very impressive thistles at Crouchlands in our grass fields. These are serious plants, and I don’t think a sprayer will do much to hurt these, so I have started attacking them with a spade! There only seemed to be a few, but as I walk along, there are many more than I thought and it is beginning to look a bit of an uphill struggle. I am therefore tackling the biggest ones first, digging them up, and I will take the others as they begin to stand out as time goes on and they grow taller. No doubt there will be re-growth despite my best efforts and I will have missed out the smaller ones. These will be tackled by the mower later in the month, and if necessary a spray on the regrowth, once we have weakened them sufficiently.
I am a little nervous as we calve our cows this month and next, as the danger of the ‘Schmallenberg’ virus is now switching away from sheep to cattle. Given that it affects the foetus at a certain stage of development, we are seeing sheep lambing with less of a problem now that we are into April, as they were not in lamb when the midges were active in late autumn, but of course cows calving in April and May were pregnant at the time. I see the figures in Europe have climbed to 3,000 farms affected in eight countries; over a 1,000 each in France and Germany, the worst affected, and Germany has made it a notifyable disease. The problems are now in cattle, and no one knows how much worse it is likely to get.
There has been some work done in the Robert Koch Institute (National Public Health Institute in Germany), where they have developed a laboratory test to determine whether the Schmallenberg virus could infect humans; the concern being for farmers in contact with large amounts of the virus. The Robert Koch Institute plays a central role in the sense of an early warning system with regard to the identification of new health risks, and they have no indication that humans who are in contact with the virus could come to any harm or contract any infection, as the closely related viruses of the Simbu serogroup don’t infect humans. It was felt that some tests should be undertaken as a precautionary measure, with blood samples from farmers and PCR tests all giving negative results.
Morrisons who have been at the forefront of processing its own food over the years are moving into the dairy sector. Cheese, desserts and yoghurts are products being looked at, but liquid milk is unlikely as it entails ‘enormous capital cost for very low returns’, said Martyn Fletcher, group managing director.
Morrisons have also extended their rare breed meat which includes beef and pork to include lamb for the first time.
In a move that is brave, but sensible, Morrisons is also authorising GM feed for its poultry producers in order to alleviate soaring feed costs.
Poultry farmers will be allowed to supply both meat and eggs fed on GM, following a hike of 25 per cent in non GM feed, which can only increase further as the area of GM crops continues to grow in the world. Cattle and sheep have always had access to GM food in their diets, and with the recession biting, supermarkets detect a softening of attitudes amongst consumers to GM, despite ‘the end is nigh’ statements from the Soil Association.
The political rumblings surrounding the government goes on, and as usual, once the media get stuck in, it seems that one problem after another seems to engulf the political parties. In this media friendly age, it is so difficult for politicians to tread the fine line between being ‘relevant’ and an ‘acceptable face’ in the media, and going too far, where the media turns it all into a farce. If one thinks back, Tony Blair was the media darling in his early years, with William Hague getting it so wrong with the beer drinking, baseball cap, ordinary Yorkshire ‘bloke’ image. Blair of course suffered hugely at the hands of the media in the latter years, as Cameron and Clegg triumphed where Gordon Brown bombed.
Am I the only one who does not want our politicians to be just like everyone else? Back benchers can to a degree, but once a Minister, the world of world politics, security, ministerial cars, grace and favour homes and so on, changes the world one lives in to such a degree that any pretence of being just a normal bloke is not just silly; it’s insulting.
I don’t want to see the Prime Minister eating a pasty on the street, waiting with his wife to catch an easyjet flight, or running and cycling in the media. I want him sorting out the mess we are in; running the country, not making silly errors by giving us advice on how much fuel to buy. I want him to be sorting out the tanker driver issue so that we are not being inconvenienced as we pay enormous amounts for petrol and diesel as it is.
He needs to demonstrate that he is in control, especially of the coalition and the Ministers who are in charge of issues that affect our daily lives.
If he does not, Ed Milliband could be right that this is a one term government, as we the electorate punish weakness unmercifully at the polling booth. Given the lack of opposition and dearth of talent, I don’t exactly see where that ‘other’ government would come from, but as we all know, elections are not won; they are lost by the Government in power.
It is time therefore to tidy up and move on. The cuts in Departments affects us all, and I have seen first hand the low morale of civil servants as they face huge change, budget cuts, change of working practices, early retirement and redundancy.
It is the Civil Service which really affects our daily lives, and it is worrying that we are seemingly obsessed with trivia, trivia in which Ministers willingly participate, when there is a long, hard road to tread.