We’ve got the white stuff

I’m sitting on top of the fire in what really has begun to feel like winter, thank goodness my ’emergency weekend milking’ for a local farm estate was conducted in slightly higher temperatures!

At the moment I’m busy preparing the cookery demonstration schedule for various events we’ll be at this year with www.wotscooking.co.uk we’re very lucky that we’ve found some super chefs and demonstrators to work with, and some of them are as mad as we are!

As I’m typing this, Libby the Retriever is having a ‘moment’ with her stuffed duck, Tess the Collie has retreated upstairs due to ‘popping’ logs and thought I’d let you see this of Gracie, taken last week at 6 months old.

January 2012

Can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of January already and how warm has this winter been?! Christmas came and went with both me and Glyn working on the radio, he in Bristol for the Beeb and me on Sunshine in Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. We managed to have our ‘works doo’ though which is just me and him, but never quite sure which one of us gets to sleep with boss!

Been a bit hectic on the animal front, we said goodbye to Rocky the Ram who visited for a couple of months, I managed to escape with only one experience of a sore left buttock when I turned my back on him for just a moment (thankfully he didn’t have horns). Here’s hoping the colour green on the ewes will turn into lambs end of April, especially for Shirl who had to have the vet out for a rather nasty abscess in her foot.

It appears I’ve still ‘got it’ when it comes to milking cows. It has been well over 10 years since I last milked one and 14 since I used to do it for a living, but I’ve been helping out on a local estate whilst they’re a person down and have to admit it was like riding a bike, yes the job all came back to me but I’d forgotten just how physical it is, so for 2 days I did walk like I’d ridden a bike for the first time in 10 years! One thing that was lovely to remember though, was just how friendly, helpful and genuine people are who work with livestock, they made me feel very welcome, were very complimentary and infact I’m doing a couple more weekends for them until their new chap starts. Great for me as it’s our quiet time with no shows going on although I’d forgotten also just how much the smell of cows linger! 

I’ve just finished writing my March column for Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Wye Valley Life Magazines which will mention our situation with TB as that is when our cows are tested. It’s very difficult to put down in words your emotions and thoughts, especially because of the way others may interpret it, especially with the recent announcement of 2 pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire, with the latter including parts of Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Forest of Dean.  All I know is if my ‘girls’ reacted to the test and I had to lose them: a) It would break my heart b) just by taking them off the land doesn’t address the problem and c) there’s no way I’d have cattle again. TB has been allowed to spiral out of control and to not do anything about this disease which reared its ugly head in the mid 90’s is beyond me. I love my wildlife, and I love to see badgers and if you have them and you don’t have TB on the farm, then you leave well alone but something is dreadfully wrong in the countryside and we have to look at all causes. It’s no good just declaring that cattle spread it to each other, especially when many ‘closed’ herds have been lost so where has it come from when they rear their own breeding stock, have no close neighbours with cattle and don’t buy anything in? TB is already spilling out into other species including wild deer, goats, alpacas and yes cats and dogs. I like many would vaccinate tomorrow, but sadly we’re several years away from that. Until then, we will see many more Dairy and Beef Farms forced to give up, not just because of saying goodbye to animals which can be traced back to the family farm from a 100 years or more but because of the stress and heartache it causes and then there’s the cost – once a farm has TB they are in effect, unable to trade. On a personal front, I no longer want to feel physically sick each March when the Vet feels the necks of Blossom, Ruby and now Gracie to see if they have reacted to the test. It’s more like a lottery and believe me when I say that if you hear the words ‘clear’ you feel as if you’ve won a million pounds.