Young stock enjoying the sun on their backs

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What a glorious week, with a refreshing shower on Friday which was perfect. The combination of sunshine and wind last week dried up the land very fast indeed, and the rain this week will be welcome by many.

We are already three weeks on from first cut and three weeks away from cutting again. It is looking good and regrowth has been strong which fills me with hope that this next cut will be of very good quality and a reasonable tonnage.

The maize is looking good now and will benefit from the rain showers, we have sprayed the weeds and hopefully we will see them disappear. The young stock at Tillington are benefiting from the fresh grass growth and sunshine on their backs, and we have just wormed the young heifer calves before moving them to a fresh field.

One of the less pleasant jobs which I seem to end up with is knapsack spraying weeds under the electric fences at Tillington. What happens is that despite the cattle grazing the grass under the fence, along the hedgerows tall grasses and weeds grow (especially when it rains) and earth the electric fence which greatly weakens the current and cattle soon find out if it loses its kick.

Carrying a heavy knapsack strapped on you back, pumping and spraying as you go, and climbing over electric fences is quite tiring. This year as I relished spraying the nettles, thistles, docks and ragwort, I found great runs of wild flowers (weeds) which were very pretty indeed, and I must confess to not being able to bring myself to spray them. There will therefore be large runs of unsprayed areas which I know will be a real problem late on as other horrible weeds will take full advantage of my weakness!

We have had two really difficult calving’s in the last week or so, in both cases the cow had twins. There is nothing more depressing than an assisted calving , when you put your hand in the cow only to find many legs all mixed up, and very difficult to tell which is a front or hind leg, never mind which legs belong to which calf. In both cases the calves were dead, but the cows have made a swift and full recovery.

In one case, not only were the calves attempting to come out together, but one was upside-down with its head back, and the other was a head with both front legs back; hence further confusion as to which calf was which and which head belonged to which calf.

We needed veterinary assistance in both cases which is rare for us, but they have the advantage of epidural and also all the drugs needed for after care following such difficult births.

The may is particularly good this year, with both white and pink all around the farm. It looks as if the blossom weighs heavily on the branches, such is the volume. The roe deer have dropped their young and are hiding them in any tall grass now and thank goodness we have cut our silage some time ago, as the risk of running them over with the mower is high.

We did spot one in the silage field during cutting and moved it to the edge of the wood. Some of the foxes I see around don’t look to healthy I must say and I expect that is maybe linked to the fact that there are not so many rabbits around after the terribly wet weather. I have not heard the cuckoo once since I first heard it in May which is very unusual, and given that we are now in mid-June, that is possibly it for this year.

The vegetable garden is very poor this year, and just to make it worse the pigeons have found the broccoli. I might have to have a fair exchange here, where the lack of my favourite vegetable is replaced with a bit of tasty wood pigeon.

Just like farming, the effort that goes in to the garden is the same regardless of results, and this year is beginning to look very poor reward indeed.

The grass is still growing and the lawn has been cut umpteen times already, and reflects what is happening on the farm. We have one and a half leaves on the silage grass which was cut three weeks ago, which is slow as I would normally expect two full leaves, but I look forward to strong growth now in the next three weeks as these little solar panels power the plant to produce much bigger leaves and really start firing on all cylinders as it were.

I see the government are going to clamp down on tail-gater’s and middle lane hogger’s on the motorways. About time too I say, and whilst it will take time for many to understand the rules of the motorway, at least we can start making progress.

This will not only make progress much faster as everyone keeps to the left, but the tail-gate king who these days (more often than not) drives an Audi, is less likely to get frustrated. You have to admire the way his car turns into a Christmas tree as he drives right up to another driver’s bumper, right indicator going, lights flashing, and you can see his lips moving as he talks on his hands- free – or is he?

Another very sensible move which is long overdue is to rid all checkouts in the supermarkets of confectionery.

The Scottish government is outlining measures to tackle obesity; going beyond what the UK government is doing, looking to tackle a problem which is getting worse in Scotland. The proposals include the removal of all confectionary from till-points, an invitation to retailers to set a proportion of price promotions on healthy foods, and a ‘meals deals’ to encourage children to make healthier choices.

They are also setting targets to reduce sugar content by 4% in soft drinks and a 10% drop in saturated fats in chocolate, biscuits, plain cakes and confectionary by 2015. There is still work to do on the detail, but it looks as if retailers are supportive.

I find it quite extraordinary that after the horsemeat scandal a few weeks ago, that sales of fresh burgers have already returned to growth, which considering that volumes fell by 23% in the aftermath of the problem, it is incredible to see that year on year sales are up by 37%. It is a very different story when it comes to frozen burgers though, as sales continue to struggle, falling 9% year on year and getting worse. Frozen ready meals have taken a hit a well, although other frozen food categories have benefited with consumers buying more chicken and fish based products.

Aldi has been caught selling a range of cooked meats under its ‘Murrays’ brand accompanied by a thistle and ‘Produced in Scotland’ and ‘made in the borders of Scotland’ on the label, when in fact the meat is described in the fine print at the back of packs as specially produced in Scotland from South American Beef, or Brazilian Turkey! Needless to say the labelling is now being changed.

Gwyn Jones