Vets would have had to be called out to adminster mastitis tubes

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ANOTHER year flown past and here we are in 2011; what have we in store this year? Can it be any more surprising than the Coalition Government?

Can it be any more brutal than the government spending cuts and the general economic mess we found ourselves in?

We certainly have been comprehensively softened up for great hardship by the government - do we dare hope that it will not be as bad as they say (after all it was never as good as they all said it was).

Could there be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? I believe we should always start the year as optimistic as possible, and amazingly Lorayne agrees, but as a five star cynic adds, ‘You might as well, as it will not take that long for it to be knocked out of you’!

We start the New Year with an anaerobic digester that has been up and running most of last year, with the engine having clocked 7500 hours, which is well on target.

We are still having plenty of difficulty running it at full power all the time, due to problems with various systems, and of late, heavy frost.

The Chinese hairdryers are still operational (much to everyone’s surprise), having clocked up a fair number of hours themselves keeping various sensors warm over the cold spell, and we have learnt a few more tricks, which will be useful for the future.

Such as not putting rotten bales of straw through the feeders without breaking them up thoroughly first.

We can be happy with our first ten months, and we look forward to an improvement in the second year, both on performance and undisturbed nights.

The dairy herd is now greatly reduced, and our last Philippino workers have now left. We have been employing immigrant workers for about ten years and the Philippinos for five years, who have been excellent workers and very nice people. We certainly had our moments with some of the Eastern European workers, once we moved from Bulgaria, through Moldavia, Estonia, and into the Ukraine.

My car insurance company will be relieved, given that the very small accidents have always involved very expensive cars, such as the incident when a brand new Jaguar XJL with cellophane still wrapped around its rear bumper (until our boys ran into it) was being delivered to a main dealership in Surrey, or the large Mercedes which was too close to our lads on a steep hill, when a failed hill start ended with the rear corner of our old Peugeot farm pickup inspecting his radiator, having penetrated the big smart grill as if it was made of paper.

There were other incidents, and I can only apologise to all those involved,

We are now going to run the smaller herd with Adrian and another British herdsman, who we are in the process of appointing. We have kept the very best of our cows, and with plenty of room, and the ability to rear all our replacement heifers at home, we can concentrate on running the smaller herd to a very high standard, managing cows rather than managing people as Adrian nicely puts it.

With two highly skilled herdsmen, we can now take some of the work carried out by others back in house as it were, and look to cut veterinary costs as well as repair bills.

n One bit of very good news indeed, is that Defra has decided against a controversial plan to ban advertising of antibiotic products to farmers, which would have made it difficult for us to keep our animals in good health.

Proposals from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate would have seen commercial companies banned from marketing antimicrobial medicines directly to farmers, including antibiotics used to treat common problems such as mastitis and pneumonia.

This is already in place across Europe, the difference being that farmers in the UK are classed as professional animal keepers, where as in Europe farmers are simply classed as members of the public.

The proposal is meant to assist in the fight against anti-microbial resistance, citing that it would cut down farmer pressure on vets to prescribe new products.

I simply do not recognise this problem, as in the real world the vet, backed by a company is much more likely to offer a new product more cheaply, subsidised as it is introduced to a mature market.

Some of the vets themselves are close to certain companies, and it is no bad thing that farmers have as much information as possible to counter that. Frankly, given the cost of drugs, I for one would certainly not be using any more than prescribed by my own vet who has intimate knowledge of the herd.

Where is the evidence? Has microbial resistance diminished in Europe? My belief is that there is more routine antibiotic use on mainland Europe in intensive systems which are not up to British ‘Red Tractor’ standards.

Furthermore, I remember discussing this with local farmers who had just returned from a study trip to Sweden, where farmers are not allowed to administer drugs and must call the vet.

That sounds very good until one takes a look and realises that very often that phone call is delayed just to see if the animal will recover, or to see if the problem can be dealt with in a different way due to the cost. Calling a vet to administer a mastitis tube is nonsense, and could compromise animal welfare.

Luckily at times like these a Minister who understands the industry is a very good thing, and Jim Paice said ‘Farmers know their animals, and don’t want to do anything to harm them or the public. They should therefore be treated as the experts they are’.

n One AD plant manager and his partner moved house just before Christmas, and as this was their first proper home, there was great excitement.

Imagine the disappointment when he rang the fuel company to put his first order for central heating delivery, only to be told that he would need to wait until the end of January - unless he was willing to pay a pound a litre, in which case it would be there the next day.

Given that his partner was so excited at the move and that they had been looking forward so much to Christmas in their new home, I advised him to put in an order for the earliest possible delivery and buy the smallest possible quantity of fuel at the ‘extortion’ price, which is what he did.

Little alternative really, but who then went without fuel whilst they pushed him (and any one else willing to pay) to the front of the queue?

Can this be right? How much extra profit do fuel companies make in winter, especially in bad weather and the run up to the Christmas period?

Who is keeping an eye on this; I can’t help feeling that there is serious abuse of power here.