We’re all under pressure from the spread of disease

A very cold week last week, culminating in minus 12 degrees on Friday night, which gave us plenty of problems with freezing pipes both at Crouchlands and over at Tillington. Once it gets more than six or seven degrees below, we do begin to suffer, and each year I vow to get it all sorted for next year. The trouble is we like things flexible and easy to change, and have been reluctant to put in properly protected rigid structures. We pay the price for that on days like these.

No ploughing either at those temperatures, the plough simply would not dig into the frozen ground. Plenty of work thawing pipes, sorting out the calf robot, fixing water troughs, burst pipes and so on. The lads were commenting that when the temperatures are low all day with a biting wind; they feel very tired as soon as they go home and into the warm; presumably because one uses more energy to keep warm.

The local authority has been exemplary this year in salting the roads, and I must thank and congratulate them. We are very quick to criticize, but this winter they have had quite a challenge, due to so many nights of low temperatures, and have measured up very well.

I have not seen many accidents around the country lanes and I can only think that it is down to the regularly salting of the roads. I was also pleased to see that government have once again cleared the way for farmers to play their part in clearing roads; allowing us to do so whilst our tractors run on the red diesel we use on our farms.

Smallenberg has shown itself to be more widely spread in the South East than we all feared. With many sheep cases and now a case in a herd of cattle in West Sussex, we are all under pressure from the unknown. So far, we have not seen any signs of it in our cattle, but no doubt the number of sheep and cattle cases will increase, given that they were infected back in the autumn of last year. With no vaccine available, we can only sit and watch, and wait.

The dairy industry is in trouble again as a number of farmers supplying a milk buyer up north have not been paid for their milk. I had a farmer ring me up last week, with £100,000 owing to him for last months milk, and at over £3,000 a day, he had taken the decision that enough was enough, switching the supply after signing up with another buyer.

These sums of money are crippling, at the very least seriously damaging and can often ruin a business. Farmers need better protection, but trying to get better contracts agreed with the processing industry is very difficult. We must remain resilient in driving through professional contracts for dairy farmers.

There are many animals in this country, farm animals and pets. In fact there are 840 million broiler chickens for example, 15 million ewes which have 16 million lambs, 450,000 sows giving birth to 9 million pigs, 23 billion pints of milk from 1.9 million dairy cows, and 9 billion eggs from 30 million laying hens. There are though, 20 million cats and dogs.

I wonder how the owners of those cats and dogs would react if there was a disease which killed them, spreading out of control and the government had done nothing about it for years as it entailed tackling the wildlife reservoir of the disease which kept re-infecting pets; and just as it embarked on trials to see how effective such a measure to tackle wildlife could work, a single-issue group took the government to court before the trials had even had a chance to demonstrate if they would make a difference.

That is exactly what is happening to farmers up and down the country as we had dared hope that an end to the spread to bovine TB was at hand. My clean cattle, clean deer, clean badgers; the future, is now once again at risk. The Badger Trust are taking the government to a judicial review, as it believes that the trials are unnecessary.

Although no other country has defeated bTB without tackling the wildlife reservoir, the Badger Trust believes it knows best. I can only hope the government has got its legal details tied up and correct, and that we can get on with the process of eradicating this terrible disease this autumn.

Whilst commenting earlier on road conditions and traffic, I would like to comment on the publicity given to the fatal accident which killed a cyclist in London. Cyclists have been livid about the number of accident which take place in cities, and many have been making the case for ‘running red lights’; citing safety as the main reason to do so. I was pretty unimpressed with this argument, although I could understand their fear of being wiped out as traffic moved off at junctions without being aware of their presence.

Now we should bear in mind that one death is too many, but the latest figures show that London’s roads are far safer than in any time over the past forty years (when records began). Deaths have almost halved since the late nineties, and are amongst the lowest in Europe; roughly half the rate for Germany and France. However, cycling on traffic-filled streets is inherently risky, and demands great care from drivers and cyclists themselves.

Now Paris is set to become the first major capital to allow cyclists to ride through red lights; the radical measure, intended to cut accidents, will be studied carefully by town planners here and in other countries no doubt.

Tests will start on 15 crossroads in the coming weeks, before the scheme is extended to 1700. As a frequent pedestrian in London, I find cyclists less considerate to me, although wanting full consideration from motorists and the authorities. The number of times I have walked across the road when the ‘green man’ is telling me that it is safe to do so, only to have a near miss with a cyclist running the red light.

I think we need cyclist to give some consideration to others, and I will name three things which I find annoying. Cyclists riding on the pavement, aggressive cyclists who think that just because they are on a bike they can do anything they want and are on a higher moral plane than the rest of us. Cyclists who run a red when approaching a pedestrian crossing, and the gangs of cyclists who ride around West Sussex on country rods, three or four abreast, keeping traffic behind when they could so easily form a single file and allow everyone to progress.

That’s more than three, but then it is annoying!

Gwyn Jones