Well they say travel broadens the mind. But don’t worry; I didn’t go far, just across into Scotland. We had a brisk look round Edinburgh and then down to Newton Stewart because we’ve always liked Galloway.
But we finished off in the Lake District and there I met these, huddling under a tree out of the rain.
I was talking to people the other day. Apparently they felt that we should give up keeping hill sheep, because it wasn’t economically viable. Hill sheep farming only exists because of the support through various environmental schemes.
Yet I’d seen some figures some days before. Defra produced a nice chart; it shows the various sectors and their ability to survive without subsidy.
Specialist pig and poultry farms can survive, they have to, they don’t get subsidies. Admittedly they’re also the most intensive, efficient and productive sectors of agriculture. But do people want the rest of livestock agriculture to follow down that route? Actually it’s up to you, you’ll get what you pay for. No more, no less.
Horticulture is also able to survive without subsidy, but whilst we might think of market gardens, a lot of horticultural businesses are large, intensive, efficient, and produce really large amounts of food. Which is lucky, because we need large amounts of food, we’ve got a steadily increasing population to feed.
Dairy farmers also can survive without subsidy. Not easily, but it can be done.
But the real surprise for me was that cereal production isn’t economic in this country. Bread, the staff of life, cannot be produced in the UK without subsidies.
Why? Simple, our farms are too small, too cluttered with hedgerows, woods, roads, houses, and what-have-you. This picture shows how arable agriculture really works on proper farms. In the UK we’re just crofters.
The cynic might ask why the UK population is so keen on titivating the countryside around where it lives, but eats by raping the land in distant continents.
But anyway I’m back, so I took Sal this morning and went to look sheep. Now Sal and I have to walk through the ewes on our way to take a handful of feed to some dairy heifers. Sal bounced into the field and of course the ewes moved away. Sal was happy with this; sheep were doing what sheep should. They then stopped at a respectable distance and watched.
Now I’m carrying a bucket with the feed in. I’m making a point of carrying the bucket in my right hand with the ewes being on my left land side. The ewes are watching Sal, but they started watching me. Suddenly one of them let out a bleat and ran towards me. I can only assume she said ‘cake’ because the rest poured after her like a flood. Sal tried to move them away but they just ignored her and I made my way across the field rather more than knee deep in sheep. Not only that but the heifers spotted this and cantered across the gate to provide me with moral support. After all it was their feed I was carrying.
Farming makes far more sense than agricultural politics.
Sheep make more sense than politicians.
But between ourselves, if we just left it all to Border Collies at least we’d have a system that worked.
Perhaps I should leave this sort of stuff to Sal?