Grass is always late here, and so this year it’s not surprising that there is nothing out there for the cows yet. We’ll have to bite the bullet and get some more silage in to keep them going for another fortnight.
The heavy rain and snow melt this week had every ditch and culvert running at capacity, and the fields will need at least a week of dry weather before we can do any cultivation. But as the daffodils are telling us, we are three or four weeks behind and we just have to wait a bit longer for spring.
The piglet count should be up over 30 by the weekend, but the lambs and calves have yet to post a score. We reunited the last two Cheviots with their companions yesterday, bringing to an end the cross-border traffic which began when the snow flattened the march fence.
This bulletin has been interrupted by piglet problems. The latest Tamworth sow to farrow has had nine bonny piglets but refuses to let them anywhere near her. Last night ‘s heat lamp and four-hourly bottle job was a gentle introduction to the joys of lambing, but this morning she is just as determined to go out clubbing and let someone else mind the weans. We’ve tried being nice and we’ve tried being stern but she just gives us the ‘am I bothered’ treatment.
Talking of which, the announcement of the general election prompts a quick review of the parties’ policies on food and farming. Whoever wins, we’ll be seeing a lot more anaerobic digestion to reduce pollution and generate gas and electricity. Muck and brass reunited. Like Goldilocks, all the parties want just the right amount of regulation - not too stiff but not too sloppy – but there are some specific pledges to be found in the small print.
The Lib Dems promise a minimum and maximum level for single farm payments and extra support for hill farmers. The Conservatives say they will support local food networks so farmers can work together to supply schools and hospitals. Labour say they will introduce a ‘Supermarket Ombudsman’ to protect farmers from abuses of power by the multiple retailers. The Green Party is the most upfront about actively supporting local and organic production. The SNP is clearly anti-GM, and argues for a higher spend on rural development in Scotland, which apparently gets the lowest share of rural development funding of any country in the EU.
We’d happily vote for all of these, but the reality is that food and farming policy is still mostly made behind the scenes with powerful lobbies from agribusiness and multiple retailers able to defend their short-term interests. There is yet no powerful citizen voice at Scottish, UK or EU level arguing for a food and farming policy which is truly fair and sustainable. But that voice is growing – see www.europeanfooddeclaration.org
or our own home-grown Nourish Scotland – and the debate will go on long after May 6th.