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23 JANUARY 2018

I had a slightly surreal moment out on my bike a couple of days ago. Belted Galloways are not a terribly common breed here and suddenly to see a snow covered field full of young calves was slightly bizarre. It’s very unusual to have cattle outdoors at this time of year and with their winter coats making them look particularly woolly, at first I thought they were some exotic breed of sheep. (It was getting dark at the time – the photo makes it look a lot brighter than it was.)

We posted an item on our facebook page a week ago describing our efforts to get away from plastic packaging. It’s a process which we may never finish, as the benefits of plastic to any food business are inestimable. I suspect the government needs to legislate so as the plastics manufacturers are forced only to produce bio-degradable or efficiently recyclable plastics.  On the farm, our greatest use of plastic is the black wrap that goes round the silage bales. Legally farmers are required to collect this wrap and send it to the recyclers. As you might imagine its quite an expensive pastime and no doubt energy intensive. It’s one of the many factors that are in the equation when considering the cost to the environment of livestock production.

Consider slurry spreading. Theoretically there is a ban from the middle of October until the early Spring, a ban designed to prevent slurry leaching into our rivers and killing all the wildlife therein. However because last Autumn was so wet, many farmers were forced to house their livestock early, as a result of which their slurry tanks are filled to overflowing. As I understand it a derogation has now been issued to permit farmers to spread slurry in what seems totally unsuitable conditions. A lot of it will simply leach into the rivers. Essentially the economics of farming today force many farmers to keep more livestock than their infrastructure can cope with except in idealised weather conditions.

I was speaking to a friend who has an organic farm roughly twice the size of ours. He has put almost 10% of his land into timber – essentially the areas where he has given up the battle with nature and returned the land to a more natural flora and hopefully fauna as well. He’s calculated he’ll make more money doing this rather than trying to farm land that increasingly doesn’t want to be farmed. He expects to put more land into trees each year until he dies. You may have seen the Countryfile programme a  few weeks ago when they visited a big English farm that had given up the battle and were now re-wilding their land. It’s an interesting concept.

Next week: Feed the World or Save the Planet.

See you soon.