Tag Archives: chocolate

What sort of rubbish are we supposed to feed livestock now?

There is a lot of discussion about food waste. I came across an article with the snappy title, “The UK wastes millions of tonnes of food every year: here’s how we can change that.” If you’re interested it’s at https://theconversation.com/the-uk-wastes-millions-of-tonnes-of-food-every-year-heres-how-we-can-change-that-162783

The article makes some useful points, “In the case of pig farmers in the UK, this system is causing an industry-wide crisis. UK pig farms are governed by the highest regulatory standards in the world, to ensure the best health and welfare for the animals.

But if consumers keep demanding cheaper and cheaper meat, it could make UK pig production economically unsustainable, driving farmers out of business. If that happens, the UK would inevitably see an increase in imported pig meat which doesn’t comply with national standards – actively promoting poorer farming practices. For example, when reared in environments with a greater number of pigs per pen than UK standards, animals have lower access to food and water and lack stimulation, causing a much lower quality of life.”

The authors are absolutely right, we’ve watched the process happen when we introduced sow stalls and the EU didn’t. We merely exported our pig industry and consumers who could care less about pig welfare (but only by making an effort) just bought the stuff produced in the sow stalls they were supposed to be horrified about.

The answer to the problem is an old one. The authors recommend feeding food waste to pigs?
This is something that has been done for centuries but there is a major problem. Disease. In the UK and EU swill feeding Swill was banned in 2002 after the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) epidemic. There was a ‘strong suspicion’ that it was caused by illegally feeding untreated swill to pigs. The problem with swill is that the largest suppliers were the NHS and the armed forces. Both organisations were notorious at the time for the amount of cheap, poor quality food they bought from all round the world. If the swill had been cooked to a high enough temperature it would probably be safe. But by 2001 margins were so thin that it was impossible to economically survive if you were doing the job properly.

There again, countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand are promoting swill feeding, whilst the EU is moving back to feeding processed animal protein to pigs and poultry. We’ve walked that road before.

These ideas seem to move in cycles. The feeding of meat and bone meal to cattle started about the time of the American Civil war. During the First World War, it was actually compulsory for livestock feed companies to include it in livestock rations. During the Second World War it was again compulsory. I had nutritional advice leaflets issued by the Ministry of Agriculture which recommended it as an excellent feed for lactating dairy cows. Indeed I remember one feed rep coming onto the farm trying to interest my Father and me in a new calf milk powder. They were calling it chocolac. (Or something very similar.) Just out of interest I queried the ‘chocolate’ aspect.

“Oh no,” said the rep, “there’s no chocolate in it. It’s got added pigs blood. That’s what gives it the colour.”
Father and I just looked at each other and without a word spoken decided to give it a miss. Those who followed the science, used it.

Then not all that long after that, BSE and nvCJD exploded on the scene.

The problem is that Farming is fought over by so many different organisations, lobby groups and political factions, none of whom see anything like a big picture. So we’ll have environmental groups who want large chunks rewilding. I saw one bunch lobbying to have the Crown Estate rewilded. Some of the finest farmland in England but hey, obviously they’re not intending to eat. Or perhaps they don’t intend other people to eat.
Then we get the genuine pressure of people who want food to be cheap. We have people in the UK whose sole cooking facility is a kettle. I talked in a foodbank to a young man who had been ‘rehoused’. He’d been sleeping on the street because of circumstances and the council got him a flat. He went from sleeping on the pavement to sleeping on the floor of his flat. A couple of charities helped him furnish it, but there wasn’t the money for a cooker. Anyway he’d been in care and hadn’t a clue about cooking or food preparation. He couldn’t have used a cooker if he’d been given one. He was hoping for a microwave soon, but as his life savings amounted to about thirty seven pence, it wasn’t going to be a flash one.

Then we get those who are big into recycling and worry about getting to carbon zero. They have an agenda which doesn’t fit in too well with any of the others. So back in the 1970s our A level biology master got us all a cheap subscription to New Scientist and effectively taught us biology from that. But one short article has stuck with me. Researchers had noticed something the rest of us forget. Ruminants cannot digest cellulose. Ruminants aren’t really herbivores. In real terms they feed grass to bacteria and bacteria can digest cellulose. Ruminants then live on the bacteria.

So these researchers pointed out, in reality, it’s a waste of time giving ruminants too much decent quality protein. Yes, some of it gets past the rumen (there’s a lot of work done on ‘rumen bypass protein’) and the cow then digests it herself, rather than leaving it to be gobbled up by the bacteria. But feeding high quality protein to bacteria is just a waste. They can take urea and turn it into protein. They’re not fussy. They’re just amazingly efficient.
Obviously the researchers pointed out that ruminants are a good source of urea as well. But funnily enough they’re not keen on taking it direct. A lot of work was done. I remember reading an article in one of the farming magazines back then. A chap had mixed hen muck, (which is very rich in nitrogen and therefore a brilliant source of protein for bacteria) with (from memory) pressed sugar beet pulp. This is the stuff left when you get the sugar out of sugar beet, it’s pressed to squeeze out the extra water. He mixed equal parts of the two ingredients with a little rolled barley as a starter. He mixed it by shovelling it into a muckspreader which he emptied into an empty silage clamp. When the clamp was full, he covered it with a plastic sheet to keep the air out. It produced an excellent feed that fattened bullocks over winter.

This is excellent news, environmentally. Actually using human waste is theoretically safer, less chance of listeria. Alas humans massively contaminate their wastes with all sorts of disgusting chemicals, so it’s barely fit to spread on farmland as fertiliser. Perhaps if they spent less time pontificating about how green they were and spent more time making sure the muck they produce was properly looked after, we’d all have a smaller environmental footprint.



There again, what do I know?
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As a reviewer commented, “Jim Webster’s recollections, reflections and comments, about life as a Farmer, are always worth reading, not only for information, but also for entertainment and shrewd comments about UK government agencies (and politicians).
One of the many observations that demonstrate his wryness, is as follows:
There was a comment in the paper the other day. Here in the UK, clowns are starting to complain that politicians are being called clowns. The clowns point out that being a clown is damned hard work, demands considerable fitness, great timing and the ability to work closely with others as part of a well drilled team!”

Let a hundred flowers bloom

Last year somebody obviously had a bit of a clear-out in their garden. They dumped a lot of bulbs onto the dike cop and left them there. So I went down with a spade and just sort of dug them in. Now I’m not a gardener. If anybody asks, I’m a cowman and can get nervous when a field is brown side up. But the advantage is that whilst I didn’t know what I was planting, I wasn’t going to be disappointed at what came up. All you need is the right attitude and suddenly everything is an adventure. Perhaps more so than it need be.
But whilst we’re on about adventure, I was talking to one of the next generation and schools and discipline came up. I mentioned that I’d been asked to edit gently an Old Boys’ magazine for the school I used to attend. And no, I’ve no idea why I was asked either. But there was a hut at the bottom of the school field.

This hut, which in its time was an ARP hut, a Home Guard hut, a scout hut, and a dance studio (note the Oxford comma) had a long history. When the Home Guard had it, rumours circulated among the lads at the school that there were army rations stored there. Indeed there was even rumoured to be chocolate.
That did it, some lads quietly broke in by the simple expedient of loosening some planks at the back.
Much to their chagrin, there was no chocolate. But there was a fresh delivery of Sten guns, ammunition, and hand grenades. You know what they say, waste not, want not.

Apparently one lad was caught rabbiting with his Sten gun. The grenades were another issue. A hand grenade can consist of three parts. The detonator, the explosive bit, and the fragmentation sleeve which fits over the explosive bit. The lads took grenades which didn’t have the fragmentation sleeves. Effectively this made them ‘stun’ grenades.

They discovered that if you were on the upper floor you could open your window and if the classroom below also had a window open, you could drop your grenade out of your window and it would hit the window below, bounce into the classroom and explode. Obviously at that point you vacated the classroom above, probably with some alacrity.

Now you might think this was dangerous, but nobody appears to have been hurt. Also remember the generation of the teachers. Most would have served in the First World War. Whilst I suppose modern writers would insist on them having flashbacks, it seems that they were more likely to comment, “It’s just a Mills Bomb without a sleeve, nothing to worry about, Johnson. Get on with your essay please.”

I was the next generation in. My teachers could well have been the lads who dropped grenades into the classroom below. (Quite literally, as some had been at the school at the time.) One used to maintain order by throwing a board rubber at somebody he thought was talking or not paying attention. He was an excellent shot and there was no nonsense about wondering why you’d been singled out. If it hit you, you hadn’t been paying attention.

At the same time I was selling ammonium nitrate to fellow scholars who were using it to make explosives which they were playing with on waste ground. When the Headmaster found out, he phoned my parents. Fortunately he got my Dad whose response was, “As long as he was getting paid more for it that I paid for it.” At that point the school introduced a rule forbidding the selling ammonium nitrate on school premises.

The younger generation then commented that they had a friend who in a moment of teenage exuberance, suggested blowing up the school. But they did this on social media, and were promptly grassed up by the school bully. All hell broke out and years later the girl was still being asked by total strangers in the street if she was the girl who was going to blow the school up.

The problem now is everybody is desperately trying to cover their backs. I saw this suggested Safeguarding Policy which for me summed the position those at the bottom of the management pyramid find themselves in.

New Safeguarding Policy

This is the new safeguarding policy to be rolled out across the organisation. It is entirely different from the previous safeguarding policy. The previous safeguarding policy was mainly designed to prevent reputational damage. Hint, it wasn’t your reputation they were worried about. The current policy is to protect you and, incidentally, the person who needs to be safeguarded.

Please start here.

Work your way through the policy line by line until you come to the end.

You are presented with a safeguarding issue. (It doesn’t matter what sort of issue, whether it involves members of staff, volunteers or innocent bystanders.)

Have you read the organisation’s safeguarding policy?

  • No?  Then bring the incident to the attention of the police immediately.
  • Yes? Consider raising the incident with the organisation’s safeguarding officer.

Do you know the safeguarding officer?
Have you worked with the safeguarding officer?
Have you been impressed by their competence?

  • If the answer to any of these questions is no, bring the incident to the attention of the police immediately.
  • If the answer is yes, what sort of report should you send?

Are you a trained investigator, paid by your organisation to investigate?

  • Yes. Then send a formal report to the safeguarding officer, and finish by pointing out that your resources are limited and you recommend the incident be reported to the police immediately.
  • No. Then send an informal report merely recommending that the incident be reported to the police immediately.

When sending a report, send it in two ways. One as an email attachment, and one as a printed document, sent by registered post.

If within three days of sending the email you are not given written instructions to the contrary, bring the incident to the attention of the police.

Stay safe out there everybody, and let’s just keep an eye out for each other.



On the other hand you might prefer to listen to somebody who knows what they are talking about.

The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.

This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.

Chick lit Special

A heart tugging, tear jerking romance. Grab a box of tissues; open the chocolates and white wine. Except of course I’m male so you know it’ll end badly.
If it’s any consolation, it isn’t my story as such. It was told me by a lady of my acquaintance, rather more years ago than I care to remember. To prevent embarrassment I shall merely say it took place in a south coast town with port facilities and occasional US Navy presence.
My friend had just enrolled at a local higher educational establishment. (I told you I was being discrete here.) She, along with a bunch of other female students rented a house. It was an OK sort of house, the area wasn’t that salubrious but there again, more and more students were moving into it so it wasn’t about to improve much, whatever you did.
Anyway they got themselves settled in and started their courses. Life was a sharp learning curve. They soon learned that a lone female sitting along in the front room with the curtains opened was presumed to be advertising certain services of a ‘personal’ nature. This problem was easily solved, merely drawing the curtains seemed enough to change the signal sent out.
Still, they weren’t prepared for the next incident. At about 2am in the morning there is a hammering on the door, and before any of the girls occupying the house have time to do anything about it there is a crash as the front door in smashed down. This is followed by a male voice, bellowing (with authentic American accent) “US Shore patrol.”
Hastily this group of young ladies gathered at the top of the stairs and peered down at the group of US servicemen gathered at the bottom. Now here we have to have a technical digression. Had I been a witness to the scene or indeed had I invented the story; at this point a definitive statement would have been made. I would have made it my business to tell you whether these were US Marines, US Navy personnel or whatever. But alas the lady of my acquaintance was totally ‘lost at sea’ as we might say over these details. Purely for narrative ease I am going to assume the shore patrol was composed of marines. Anyway back to the story.
The Marine Sergeant in charge was looking for defaulters whose ship was sailing later that day and he was following the time honoured procedure of working his way through the brothels and similar dens of iniquity. The house whose door he had smashed down was on the list and the fact that the door hadn’t been thrown open immediately he knocked was a suspicious sign.
The fact that the only occupants appeared to be a group of young ‘ladies’ wearing night attire probably did nothing to convince him he was mistaken.
Eventually he allowed himself to be convinced. Whether it was the realisation that the night attire consisted predominantly of pyjamas and fluffy bunny slippers rather than baby doll nighties that swayed him I don’t know. Whether it was the vigour of the argument, or the simple fact that there were no young men present; but once proved wrong the Sergeant was not too proud to admit his mistake. He apologised and he and his shore patrol left. But he did leave a particularly burly marine standing in the doorway so that the girls weren’t bothered and could sleep secure until the door was replaced later that day.
Late that morning a young (and apparently charming) US Marine Lieutenant arrived bringing with him appropriate tradesmen. He apologised sincerely, drank coffee with them and the door was fixed to everybody’s satisfaction. A good job done and life reverted to its old tranquil routine.
Until three weeks later when there was a crash, the front door was smashed down and the bellow of “US Shore patrol” was once more heard.
Again there was the discussion with the initially sceptical sergeant; again there were the honest apologies, the leaving of a marine, and the arrival next morning of the charming Lieutenant with yet more apologies and suitable tradesmen to fix the damage.
Apparently the US navy had a list of brothels, bordellos and similar, and their house was still on it. As each ship sent out its own shore patrol with its own copy of the list, the problem was that the mistake kept getting made. But, as he drank coffee and soothed ruffled feathers he promised them that he was on their case and would do his best.
It has to be admitted that try he did, indeed it got to the stage where the Sergeant leading the shore patrol would be met by one bored female whose sole response was “Phone Lieutenant Rivera.”
It was only later that year, when the Lieutenant had been going out with one of the girls for over six months that he admitted he could have got the list changed after the first incident. But he hadn’t because he couldn’t think of any other way to keep on meeting her.
Isn’t young love beautiful?



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As a reviewer commented, “Having read many of Jim Webster’s Historical Fantasy books, I looked forward to seeing what he would do with a Science Fiction story.
I was not disappointed.
Webster’s trademark style of weaving the main storyline with several, seemingly unrelated sub-plots was in evidence throughout, all of which are neatly brought together in an unexpected, but satisfactory, finale.”