Not even a dairy heifer is that daft.

But anyway, Friday was a busy day, we sorted a lot of heifers out, moved them about, and had the vet check that those who’d been running with the bull were in calf.

So far so normal.

Then next morning I went round checking and feeding them, and put one back who had decided that a fence so low obviously wasn’t meant as a barrier. Again, so far, so normal.

Then on Sunday morning I found two different groups had tested the limits of their current boundaries and found them significantly more permeable than I had previously thought. Certainly the previous occupants of the fields hadn’t seen any opportunities.

Luckily we have domesticated cattle. One lot followed me back to their mates. The other lot (fourteen little ones of whom five had escaped) watched me feed those who hadn’t got out (the feed was placed in sight of the escapees but some distance away) and once I’d left the field they all came back through the gap to join their mates at the feed.

So Sunday morning was spent fixing fences. Where the fourteen were, I went further along the hedge and looked at another spot. I weighed it up and decided that not even a dairy heifer was going to be daft enough to try that. Climbing up a sheer slippery muddy bank with a decent fence of barbed wire and sheep netting at the top.  
Well I’ve been wrong before, and will doubtless be wrong again in the future, and I was wrong this time. Seven out of fourteen obviously decided this one was a challenge and went for it. When I fed their mates, again within visibility but a little way away, the bawling of the escapees was pathetic. Apparently they could jump the fence from below but when looked at from above it was some sort of terrifying obstacle.

So I had to flatten it down for them, and when they thought my back was turned (I’d gone home for more posts and wire) they all clambered down and joined their mates eating. So when I got back to fix it in the rain, they all innocently watched me, from the correct side of the fence.

But to be fair to dairy heifers, their understanding of the world is limited, and you have to expect them to cross the boundaries of common sense. On the other hand, I came across this.

What people in the UK may not realise is that there are teams of contractors who start the American harvest in the south, almost on the Mexican border, and as the year progresses they move steadily north, combining as they go. After all, the further north, the later the harvest. They finish somewhere in Canada playing chicken with winter.

Now some of these chaps work closely with the major machinery manufacturers. After all they might have several big combines and tractors and they will change them in every three years. Not surprisingly, because their machinery works hard. They can be combining, 24 hours a day, for days on end when harvest is ready. So some of these contractors will effectively have new machinery on standing order. It’s metaphorically got their name on it even as it proceeds along the production line.

One of these chaps was approached by a representative of the company he deals with. The company wanted him to go electric.

His response was simple. “How do I charge these combines when they are many miles from an electrical mains supply, in the middle of a cornfield, in the middle of nowhere?” “How do I run them 24 hours a day for 10 or 12 days straight when the harvest is ready, and the bad weather is coming in?” “How do I get a 50,000+ lb. combine that takes up the width of an entire road back to mains electricity 20 miles away when the battery goes dead?”

Apparently the answer is ‘we’re working on it’.

I’ve worked with silage contractors in this country where we filled the big self-propelled forage harvester direct from the fuel company’s tanker. We stopped for a full five minutes to achieve this and were back to work.

But back to the machinery company. How can somebody who is supposed to be working with farmers be so ignorant?
Of course there is a fetish that all vehicles have to go electric. Note that I use the term fetish in its traditional meaning. “An inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.”

So why ban diesel vehicles?  Well apparently, and to quote the BBC, “A number of studies have shown that diesel cars, unlike petrol cars, spew out high levels of what are known as nitrogen oxides and dioxides, together called NOx. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is particularly nasty – recent studies have shown it can cause or exacerbate a number of health conditions, such as inflammation of the lungs, which can trigger asthma and bronchitis, and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.”

Indeed, “In many European cities, NO2 levels are well above European Union legal limits – twice the limit in parts of London, Paris and Munich, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).”
I tell you want, we’ll stop using combines and tractors in parts of London, Paris, and Munich.

Why are people wanting to stop the use of diesel in combines and tractors in the countryside? I’ve seen the figures for a local town near here, and it is already well below the level we are supposed to be trying to get down to.
So I would humbly venture to suggest that, in reality, the NO2 produced by agricultural machinery in rural areas is not a problem.
Indeed, great steps had been made in producing biodiesel from agricultural crops. Farms could produce their own diesel which would contain no fossil fuel, and might in point of fact have a lower carbon footprint than the electricity they want us to change to.
Now it may not seem a big deal but in reality all you’re doing is putting food prices up in an attempt to give prosperous middle class activists the feeling that they’re achieving something.
They are, they’re increasing the pain felt by the poor. Not even a dairy heifer is that daft.


There again, what do I know, speak to the expert!

As a reviewer commented, “A collection of anecdotes and observations about farming in England in the 21st century. Written by an actual farmer, this book is based on real experience and touches on a variety of subjects in a witty and engaging style. Cats, cattle, bureaucrats, workers, and the working dog all make an appearance, as do reminiscences about the old days and speculation on a possible future. This book is both entertaining and informative, a perfect diversion for the busy reader.”

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32 thoughts on “Not even a dairy heifer is that daft.

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt September 13, 2022 at 4:07 am Reply

    Logic is so uncomfortable for them to deal with.

    • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 4:47 am Reply

      very true 😦

    • Doug September 13, 2022 at 7:11 am Reply

      ‘Them’? Who is ‘Them’? From observations of the curious mix of magical realism and historical fiction that appears to dominate UK thinking, ‘Them’ is ‘Us’.

      And electrical harvesters are coming, but at the moment the logic doesn’t work. By the time swappable fuel cells/batteries are sufficiently advanced; which hopefully isn’t too far away, the bulk of machines will be AI driven with only occasional interventions from a human operator. It’s been happening in mining operations for years.

      • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 7:52 am

        Have you seen the margins on mining operations and the value of the end product as compared to farming 🙂
        But yes, we’re going through another change similar to after the war when labour left the land because everywhere else paid better money and machinery came in, eventually, to replace them. Veg picking automation is starting to become real and ‘on farm’. With regards driverless tractors, I nearly managed to pick up a tractor that had been used for trials back at Reading university in 1975 so its about time they got commercial 🙂
        The advantage of tractor drivers is that they not merely drive tractors but can do so many other jobs as well. Certainly on livestock farms. We already see a gap opening up between ‘arable tractors’ and ‘livestock tractors’, the gap may grow larger.

      • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 7:57 am
  2. rootsandroutes2012 September 13, 2022 at 4:40 am Reply

    I presume there’s a new face at DeFRA. Who knows whether it might not be someone with better rural understanding than a dairy heifer?

    • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 4:50 am Reply

      One of them, Mark Spencer, but he’s number 2 or 3

      • rootsandroutes2012 September 13, 2022 at 5:01 am

        Thank you. We’ll see what lasting insights he’s derived from his training.

      • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 5:05 am

        Only time will tell

    • Doug September 13, 2022 at 6:59 am Reply

      Pretty sure Jim won’t like him, took the old dairy farm to producing organic eggs etc.

      • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 7:47 am

        A lot of people took the decision to stop milking cows, it got so that it was a more expensive hobby than ocean yachting. It certainly wasn’t a viable business 😦

      • Doug September 13, 2022 at 8:49 am

        Yep. The same thing happened in Oz unless it was large scale, and anything could really damage smaller farms, a bout of mastitis etc.

      • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 9:02 am

        Yes, we got out when the price of milk at the farm gate fell from 30p per litre to 14ppl, and strangely enough the price in the shops never altered.

  3. September 13, 2022 at 6:20 am Reply

    Somehow The Wurzels have popped into my head ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’ ….

  4. Ian Hutson September 13, 2022 at 6:54 am Reply

    Similar thing with boats. I live on my narrowboat on the canals of Ingerlund. The Canal Company Ltd uses its “powers” and legislation to ensure that I – and the six thousand or so others whose boats are their (only) homes – keep moving widely, never staying in one “neighbourhood” for more than fourteen days on pain of licence restriction, financial penalty and eventual seizing of boat. They wobble on endlessly about how we ought to be electrically motivated (literally) and heated in Winter – presumably – by fairy farts, or some such.

    There are a handful of charging points in London, none other on the rest of the system (2,000 miles of it). Local council after local council is introducing “green areas” and “eco restrictions” over canals that pass through their jurisdiction. We are berated and fined if our multi-fuel stoves show any sign of smoke. Indeed in the depths of London running a diesel engine or lighting a stove is totally banned unless moving through like some refugee. Councils I could, just, forgive for their awe-inspiring ignorance, but the Canal Company Ltd just doesn’t comprehend that a. we don’t all live in London b., most of the system is nicely still rural (and that’s why I live on a narrowboat) c., B&Q don’t sell mains extension leads that are 2,000 miles in length and d., that you don’t heat a boat in winter by using an “App” on your phobile moan to flick on the thermostat on the wall… you heat it by supporting the last canal industry; the roving fuel boats selling coal products.

    There is definitely something in the water. Essence of Stupid, or something.

    • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 7:46 am Reply

      Yes, it looks as if we share the same world, alas that most of our lords and masters don’t 😦

    • Dan H. September 13, 2022 at 3:05 pm Reply

      There is actually one single solitary canal, the Monmouthshire & Brecon, which has pure electric boats. This is because one company pretty much has the hire boat market sewn up on that canal and can afford to put in the infrastructure for the lead-acid battery boats.

      Everywhere else, the infrastructure isn’t there and won’t be there because there is a simpler solution to the problem of powering a boat: diesel. I don’t think this is going to change, other than perhaps for LPG to replace diesel as a fuel. There really isn’t any need for it to change save in the tiny minds of the Great Green Blob activists.

      • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 3:22 pm

        The more I read the more I come to think that actually we’re not supposed to travel, and that tractors are collateral damage to this policy they never considered

  5. Pat September 13, 2022 at 8:52 am Reply

    As our lords and masters head down the road of electric and more electric, have they ever considered where it all comes from?

    Over the last couple of decades and particularly after the Climate Change Act, we (that’s this country, and others) have blown up the coal fired power stations, fuelling the National Grid with gas as its main fuel. We burn Wood pellets shipped in from N. America, subsidise unreliables (wind and solar) and instead of food crops, Bio something, encourage farmers to grow crops to feed into the maw of an anaerobic digester plant.

    In the mid 1980s, Ed Davey blocked the creation of UK gas storage facilities, leaving us as a country with a mere two days of spare capacity. That was as smart as your escaping dairy heifers, Jim. No pantry.

    Gas was cheap at the time, but those same lords and masters decided it was just fine and dandy to leave the bulk of the country’s gas supply to fuel their electric dreams, in the hands of a single country. Russia, via Nordstream 1, and the new (unused) Nordstream 2 pipelines.
    That wasn’t smart – it was downright negligent.

    And the race to be carbon neutral continues with a count down to Net Zero, despite the warnings of rolling blackouts, and eye watering price hikes.

    Global corporations are buying up thousands of acres across the world, to plant trees and thus ‘offset’ there own dirty habits. Greenwashing is replacing food production. That can be outsourced from the cheapest available source, too.

    Meanwhile a new ponzi scheme is born. Companies, some based in Pall Mall are encouraging farmers to ‘harvest’ the carbon, stored beneath their land as a crop. This commodity based on variable and very shakey calculations.

    So as well as being cold, we may also be hungry. Well done.

    (Rant over! – and if you want hooligans to test your fencing, try beef cattle)

    • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 9:03 am Reply

      I’ve farmed beef cattle Pat, I know the issues 🙂
      But yes, there has been an awful lot of short term thinking and greenwashing 😦

  6. Dan H. September 13, 2022 at 8:55 am Reply

    To be honest this sort of thing was almost inevitable, and the longer I live, the more apparent it becomes that there is a huge, yawning gulf between my thinking and what passes for rational thought in the average politician. Partly this is down to career (I was trained as a scientist before taking a sharp left to work in computing) and part of it may be a different brain structure due to Asperger’s Syndrome.

    However if you set a series of limits for pretty much any product, any idiot can see that the manufacturers will build products that pass the test. If the test is significantly different from what is wanted in the real world, then products will be designed to the test, not to the real world. This makes complete sense for diesel cars where such beasts as the Nissan Qashqai vehicles I used for many years as commuting machines were designed to the letter of the test, not the spirit in the real world. Margins are tight for economy vehicle makers; luxury brands like Mercedes can be more forgiving but in the mass market, no.

    It turns out that if you apply all of the various methods for making a diesel engine as economical and non-polluting as possible you end up with an engine which far out-performs a petrol engine in efficiency and reduction of pollution. Adding in simple hybrid electrical tweaks (only run the alternator when the car is braking, charge a rather larger battery then also, spin up the turbo with electricity and assist the main engine with electricity when accelerating and at low main engine revs) and the pollution reduces still further. Redesign the engine to use a “two pistons per cylinder” knocker two-stroke and further reductions occur.

    But these engines are diesel engines. Diesel is naughty, therefore should be banned in favour of more polluting petrol engines. Thus goes political thought…

    • jwebster2 September 13, 2022 at 9:05 am Reply

      As the poem says, “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! ”
      I think you’ve summed it up

  7. Jack Eason September 16, 2022 at 6:53 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from our Jim 😉

  8. M T McGuire September 18, 2022 at 1:42 pm Reply

    Yep. One size fits all apparently. Except it really, really doesn’t. I run a small car with a 1.6 engine. When they can make an electric car that will get me to Sussex and back on one charge then maybe I’ll look at them. Until then, I’ll keep my engine well tuned so it causes as few emissions as possible and wait for them to invent hydrodgen fuelled cars that have a range of more than about three miles.

    • jwebster2 September 18, 2022 at 2:56 pm Reply

      it’s a problem, what happens if a fire engine arrives back at the station and gets called out again before it can recharge. Obviously another crew could take it out, but with a flat battery you’re going to need a lot more emergency vehicles

      • M T McGuire September 18, 2022 at 4:38 pm

        And then there’s the fact we don’t know how to dispose of the batteries safely yet, and the slave labour used to get the metals used, and that they can’t be safely put out if they catch fire without the entire vehicle being submerged in a container of water to stop it reigniting. Not great, me thinks.

      • jwebster2 September 18, 2022 at 6:05 pm

        There’s a lot of double think going on over the whole issue to be honest 😦

      • M T McGuire September 18, 2022 at 7:15 pm

        Yeh. I can believe it.

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