Some years ago I remember chatting to a man who worked for the now long disbanded Milk Marketing Board. One of his jobs was working as a trouble shooter for the board, helping solve those little problems that crop up.
One problem was caused by wild garlic. A dairy herd on his patch escaped out of their field one night and wandered into the local wood where they picnicked enthusiastically on wild garlic. Being dairy cows who had merely extended their grazing range slightly, next morning, at the normal time they all made their way home for milking as usual, so when the farmer went out go collect them, they were waiting at the gate as they always did.
So he milked them and the milk went into his bulk tank. As he finished milking he got a jug of milk out of the tank for the house (because cold unpasturised milk is the finest thing in the world to drink or pour over breakfast cereals.)
The tanker driver came to collect the milk, sampled it and then sucked it into his tanker. At this point two unfortunate facts ought to be mentioned. The farmer has no sense of smell and the tanker driver had a severe cold, and therefore no sense of smell.
The farmer went in with the jug of milk, had his breakfast and was just going out again when his wife arrived home from the school run. Her first comment was along the lines of, ‘Have you been eating garlic for breakfast?”
Of course he hadn’t, but his breath smelled of it. As did the milk! Lactating mothers everywhere have to be careful what they eat because it can taint or flavour the milk.
Muttering something that might have been ‘oh dear’ he phoned the company that collected his milk. The transport manager, when things were explained to him said, ‘Oops’ (or something with a similar number of letters.) He then checked to see which dairy the tanker was delivering to and phoned them. He went on to discover that the one tanker had been used to top up three storage silos at the dairy. At this point both he and the dairy manager said ‘Lawks amercy’ and the dairy manager phoned the chap who was telling me all this.
He went to the farm and got the farmer to put a claim in on his policy. The MMB used to insist we all had that sort of cover, I think it might even have been arranged through them.
Then he went to the dairy and stood next to the manager and stared hard at the three silos.
Now in theory they could have just had it carted away and disposed off as waste because the insurance company would pay for it. But the rep from the insurance company came and joined them in the yard to survey the damage, and he suggested that perhaps something could be done to save a total loss.
So my contact remembered a small butter making plant he’d worked with in the past. He’d got them a contract to make kosher butter. They didn’t do it all the time, but when asked they’d stop the plant. Then they’d clean everything absolutely spotlessly, and with a rabbi in attendance they’d make the kosher butter. Then they’d get on with making ordinary butter. They quite liked the contract. Not only did they get to do a few extra really good deep cleans each year; they got paid to do them.
Anyway they took this wild garlic tainted milk and made garlic butter. Which is fair enough, so far so good. But who is going to buy a considerable quantity of butter which includes a purely arbitrary amount of garlic. My contact did try, but there were no takers, so it was sold to the Intervention Board. They paid a base price for it, thus saving the insurance company and other policy holders a reasonable amount of money. Indeed you, dear reader, might even be one of the people who benefited indirectly from it.
Several years later the Intervention Board, despairing of ever selling any of this butter, sold it to the East Germans who burned it in power stations.
At least there’s always the consolation of a good book,
As a reviewer commentated “I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one. There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book.”