Rampant growth needs plenty of cutting work

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ANOTHER superb dry week last week which allowed us to get our third cut of grass silage made under very good conditions on Saturday (just before the rain on Sunday).

Five tonnes an acre of third cut is good for us and it was all leaf, nicely wilted over 24 hours; I look forward to the analysis in due course. It has all been grown with no bag fertilizer, just slurry injected into the field, adding much needed moisture as well as easily available nutrients.

We are cutting the hedges before the weather turns, and there is a fair trim to take place following the rampant growth of a wet summer.

It’s the same story in the garden and a chainsaw will be needed to chop some sense into various trees, hedges, bushes and so on. Only marrows, courgettes and some leeks, parsnips, and onions now as the season comes to an end. Disappointing in general, but the plants that were unaffected by the weather did very well.

Our maize for the dairy cows is nearly ready at Tillington and Milford, all we need is another week or so before we harvest. I am not getting too excited (although Tillington looks good), as the average yield is going to be down this year.

It will be good to get it in as we ran out of maize a couple of months ago and I expect two litres of milk a day increase on average once we start feeding maize silage, a nicer mix of feed for the cows once maize is added; full of all sorts of different ingredients and much nicer, stiffer muck as a result which is easier to manage!

Our maize for the bio-gas plant was planted three weeks later and is still a few weeks away from harvest up at Ripley, but on the whole looking good with one or two very good fields of maize indeed (and one or two poor ones it has to be said!).

Last week, the Farmers Weekly interviewed Brian May CBE, guitarist and one of the biggest critics of badger culling.

It was a timely interview given that at long last, after all the delays of legal challenge and appeal, making sure all the details are in place; licences have been issued and badger culling is now set to take place in two pilot areas.

Last year more than 26,000 cows were slaughtered at great cost, both emotionally and financially to farmers and the taxpayer (£90 million in England alone). I am greatly relieved that at long last we are going to do something to arrest this terrible disease, and give farmers some hope of a future without being subjected to the agony of their stock being destroyed.

I am also pleased for my clean badgers and my own cows; it will mean that we no longer wait as the disease gets nearer with infection a certainty.

I read Brian May’s interview with interest, but really one only had to start reading at the end in order to see that here is a man who could never be persuaded. He believes that all farmers should grow vegetables (his words not mine) and that we should not eat meat.

He thinks that farmers in infected areas should pack up and go and farm in clean areas of the country, which is an extraordinary statement to make.

He also believes that Defra staff have been told to find evidence to support the cull, which is not only insulting to the civil servants leading the research, but as someone who has spent years dealing with Defra, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth; why do you think this has taken so long? Not because Defra officials were mad keen to go out and cull badgers that’s for sure.

I certainly doubted at one time whether Defra would ever have the nerve to do the right thing, even if a government Minister wanted it carried out. It is well known that tackling the wildlife reservoir is a vital part of the solution in tackling this huge problem.

There could be one day a vaccine for both cows and badgers that works and more importantly is legal. We are not, under European law allowed to legally vaccinate cows against bTB as there is no test to differentiate between the vaccinated cow and the infected cow. Interestingly, the same people who shout about having the most stringent tests and regulation over crop prays and GM crops, are now wanting vaccination; shouting ‘preposterous’, and want the process speed up.

I’m afraid that it will take many, many years before we have vaccines which work and are allowed, and even then they will most likely only be part of the solution. 50,000 badgers are killed on the road each year that should tell us all something?

There are too many of them, and they need to be managed in the same way as deer, foxes, and rabbits and so on?

The badger death toll in the cull areas over 4 years will be a fraction of that number, but we will face all sorts of opposition, and it is turning quite nasty already, with personal details of farmers in the cull area being posted on the internet.

There are some who claim that they will disrupt the process, and no doubt some will try. Given that they wreaked such havoc at the Kreb’s trials, which was much easier for them in those smaller areas where badgers were being trapped; it is even more surprising that the science showed a marked reduction in the disease following the cull. I am confident that when a proper programme of shooting goes ahead, the results will be more impressive than anyone realises.

Why do I say this? Firstly there are many more badgers than anyone would have you believe, and therefore their contribution is even greater.

A proper operation will be massively more effective than a government run trapping exercise where their ability to trap was not great, and the activists were able to interfere with cages and set badgers free. I believe that this is the crux of all this angst; we are about to find out how effective and necessary wildlife control is to disease control, and that is why Brian May and his followers are so angry.

They fear the answer will prove them to be absolutely wrong on all counts.

I have no doubt that we will see improvements from re-infection following the wildlife control programme; after all this is how we almost got rid of the disease 30 years ago, by managing wildlife and testing cattle. It did no long term harm to wildlife then, and it will certainly not affect the viability of the badger this time either.

We head to the Party Conferences this week, starting with the Liberal Democrats just down the road in Brighton.

Nick Clegg needs to do something rather more impressive than his much mocked apology of last week, and many in the party have their knives out for the deputy Prime Minster.

They are angry about the apology too, because Clegg was not apologising over breaking the election pledge on university fees, he was apologising for making such a promise in the first place! It was an easy promise to make in opposition, but one that was going nowhere once he found himself with the responsibility of being in government.

There will be a big cheer for Vince Cable, who is not ruling himself out of the leader role, and given his age, if it is to happen, it must be sooner rather than later?

Question – how many Liberal Democrats enjoy being in power?

Gwyn Jones