Idiots

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Budget blues

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/03/20/budget-blues/

I’ve seen a few budgets in my working years and I don’t expect too much from them.

I can’t conceive that anyone of a similar age can genuinely watch the chancellor of the exchequer and believe that they are going to be better off after the budget. It just doesn’t work like that because the chancellors job is to balance the books which these days is a tough feat indeed.

Since the banking crash of 2008 the country has been borrowing a lot of money. Despite some fairly severe public service budget cuts over the last few years the country is still £50 billion/year from balancing its budget. the combined borrowing from the UK’s budget overshoot is £1.7 trillion. Yes that is £1,700,000,000,000 which is around £56,000 per working person. The interest to service that debt is around £50 billion a year too which is more than the Defence budget itself. That’s a lot of money to be pay in interest every year. Which ever you choose to look at it, as a nation, we are in a whole heap of shit.

It all seems quite remarkable really, how its been so easy to borrow so much with so little hope of paying it back. None of this of course is the problem of the current working generation. We can extend the credit and borrowing for a good while yet. As long as the creditors believe they will get their interest and investors believe in government bonds then there is little to worry about – the money will keep rolling in. When they don’t and the money dries up, that’s when the trouble begins, not that the government or opposition for that matter even pay lip service to the prospect.

None of this information means much to those deluded individuals who believe the chancellor should be offering handouts and concessions in the budget or that he should be spending more on public services. How they could be so simple as to not understand how precarious our finances are – is beyond me?

The current annual overspend is £50 billion. We already owe £1.7 trillion. It certainly won’t be my generation who will be able to pay these debts off which means are children will be footing the bill.

Really?

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Too good to be true

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/03/11/too-good-to-be-true/

Don’t say it. I told myself. Just don’t say it or you know what will happen.

Well – I didn’t say it – I didn’t dare – but then I went and thought it. What a dumbass – why did I do that?

 
This must have been one of the driest winters I can remember with seasonal rainfall way below normal. The days have been dry and a pleasure to work in. Rain has been limited to the odd spell of drizzle from time to time but rarely enough to stop us fencing or mending drains in the fields.

The rainfall above is low for this time of year here, especially after a dry Autumn too. December may be perceived as the month where it snows but it rarely does and it is usually warm and wet. December 2015 for instance delivered 163mm over the course of 28 days of rain. That was unusually wet but not untypical weather for the time of year.

Most winters are not cold these days and this was been similar. The cows didn’t come in until the 7th of December but it’s hard to tell, as the grass hasn’t stopped growing and the covers are high enough now, to start grazing once more.

As far as Winters go, it couldn’t have been much better. Up until the third week in February that is.

And thats when I thought it.

Yep, I thought

“Hmm, lovely dry winter. Get the cows out soon. Ground conditions are perfect. Its almost too good too be true”

I couldn’t have been more than 12 hours later that it started raining – and I mean raining. The sort of wild heavy rain that comes alongside a thunderstorm storm at the end of a Summer dry spell. Big heavy stinging drops of wintery water. Not the normal farty, half arsed winter drizzle, wrapped up in depressing gray cloud that dominates much of the weather calendar here.  This was proper rain.

And before I could say “Oh dear look whats happened, what a blessed shame that is” (or something similar), the fields were an inch deep in water and any plans of early grazing were heftily booted into touch for a week at best.

But that’s the weather for you. There isn’t anything I can do about it. It is what it is.

Still, it was bloody frustrating to say the least although it was naive of me to think that anything less would happen. My worry is now that the long dry spell of weather will be replaced with an equally long spell of wet weather and make Spring grazing a nightmare.

Time will tell.

 

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Too much info makes me pee on the floor

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/02/24/too-much-information/

Is it just me that is suffering from data overload?

These days I’m finding it increasingly difficult to steer a farming path without being blown off course by some expert or other. What do I mean by that? Well, let me explain.

Twenty years ago I chose to run a relatively low cost herd that spends as much time as possible outside at grass. There were many reasons for it but it boiled down to a personal preference of mine and profit. Yes profit – I had to make one of those.

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Once I’ve decided my destination then its a case of making it happen. Installing tracks to fields, fast flow troughs, breeding a cow suited to grazing, focusing on cow fertility and above all…. deciding what is bullshit and what is not. Basically ejecting, chucking out and ridding the business of any cost that is not fundamental to my goal. It may be people, machinery or just methodology. Many business have add ons or extra expenditures that are not required. In dairy farming there is no room or money for those unnecessary extras and they have to go or the business will not work.

Which can be difficult – because deciding what is needed and what is not, isn’t easy. Make no mistake, farming has salesmen like every other industry. Trawling through the farming magazines I can see an army of bullshitters out there trying to flog me something I don’t need or can ill afford.

Take feeding the cows for instance. There is a hundred different ways of doing it and every machinery manufacturer or feed sales man thinks they have the best answer for your business. Dry cows rations, transitional rations, lead feed, early late and mid lactation rations all come with different opinions. They can’t all be right can they? Someone must be telling porkies surely?

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The debate over how to feed cows is a constant one that dominates a lot of farming media but it is one of many debates that does the rounds in farming, none of which arrive at any particular conclusion. As a farmer I have to decide what is beneficial to the farm and what is not: which is very difficult in the absence of any real good information that isn’t being shelled out by a company with a vested interest.

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I do find it quite a distraction as I’m always interested in improving the way the farm is run. But there comes a point when too much information makes me buffer. You know the thing that your laptop does with the whirly circle when there are too many programs open?

Well that thing.  And it doesn’t take much either. A few problems on the farm, someone talking and my phone ringing – is enough to knock my brain into neutral. Let’s face it, I’m no multi-tasker.

To be blunt, I couldn’t pee in the toilet and whistle a tune at the same time. Either the tune would be wrong or I’d miss the bog. If you’ve ever seen my bathroom floor, then you’ll know when I’ve been whistling.

For my limited brain capacity and an orderly existence I need simplicity. Which brings me to Tescos.

There is no doubt my business has benefited from their milk pricing, particularly over the last two years with most milk prices being woefully low. Their cost of production model has spared my business the severities of crippling market prices. Their determination to make Tesco producers ultra efficient is admirable but ironically in danger of becoming counter productive.

Over the last 8 years Tesco’s has implemented some tough welfare standards for farmers to adhere too. No qualms there – its what we should all be aiming for but the last two years has brought with it a lot of extra add ons. The Promar farm business accounts is now compulsory. I already have a good accounts package of my own which I see as being more relevant to my business, so we are currently running both. One for me to understand the costs in my business and one to keep Tescos happy.

Then there is the carbon footprint assessment which demands another tranche of data. Then there is a continual flood of meetings which members are expected to attend in order to further husbandry and management skills – followed by an annual compulsory consultant visit to advice on improvements to the business. And now in the last month, another compulsory service – Promar’s milk minder service which monitors purchased feed margins and must be updated monthly. This last insult is particularly frustrating to me as I jettisoned this twenty years ago when I realised it didn’t accurately reflect the running costs of my herd and was a time consuming distraction.

Some of the above may sound helpful to running the farm but combined with solutions we already have in place are just duplication.

What the corporate side of Tesco’s fails to understand is that the bulk of farmers are already involved in their owns relationships with various suppliers, buying coops, business groups and consultants that suit their needs.

I frequently have in depth conversations with my vets about the dairy herd. I do from time to time use the advice of a consultant, of my choice, whom I trust, to discuss issues that I am uncertain about. I am a member of a grazing group who’s advice I take above any others because they are good focused farmers who have sensible pragmatic solutions to some of the problems that occasionally come about.

I understand Tesco’s need and desire for their suppliers to be efficient but I must stress that more sources of information and advice is not necessarily helpful. Too much information is confusing and often contradictory.

I get the feeling that the powers that be believe that all the dairy farmers in their supply chain need reeducating. That may be true in some cases but I have found my own sources of information for improving my business and continue to make progress. I’m not saying there isn’t more I could do but being bombarded with so many sources of data is unlikely to do anything other than make me pee all over the floor.

 

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In three minds.

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/02/07/not-great-at-getting-things-done/

Spring may seem a long way off yet but its at this time of year when I start planning for turnout. As the law stands I am not allowed to spread muck yet but that has to be the first thing on the agenda.

Three hundred odd cows and over two hundred young cattle create a lot of muck alongside their used bedding and the best time of year to use it is about to arrive. Soil temperatures over 5 C will allow the grass to start growing and although this winter has been chilly at times it certainly hasn’t been particularly cold. The soil temperature is actually 5 degrees today, not that it will necessarily keep climbing from here on in. There is still a fair chance of hard frosts and snow but it gets less likely as every day passes.

Of course, I can’t guarantee what the weather will do – I just have to rely on the law of averages or what the greatest probability is – and that is for the soil to be requiring nutrients in the next fortnight or so. As soil temperatures climb and rye grass begins to grow, it will need nutrients and the cheapest and best form of that is manure.

The problem of applying thousands of tonnes of muck this time of year are many. For starters the weather may turn wet and ground conditions could be horrible. The option of spreading early during the current dry spell has been outlawed by the Governments short sighted nitrate vulnerable zones. As the law stands we can not spread muck yet and must wait until the statutory period arrives and hope that the weather plays ball. That in itself is an irritation to me. If the ground is sound and dry then it makes sense to make a start. The worst possible scenario is for half the countries dairy farmers trying to spread shit in the open period if the weather turns wet. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out what the results will be.

But rules are rules and that’s what we have to deal with. The other consideration this year in particular, is how much silage we have left? I don’t say this easily (because there is still a long way to go until the spring emerges fully) but we do seem to have a lot of silage left. The maize pit is three quarters full and there is still one whole silage pit remaining. We still have two thirds of our winter fodder left. Bearing in mind that I like to have two months worth spare for the summer in case of drought, I still think we are going to have an additional 500 tonnes spare. So – do I really need to be renting as much ground this year for Summer grazing? Perhaps not.

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On the other hand a dry summer will soon help empty the pits with 330 cows being supplemented but another reasonable year will leave me scratching my head with more silage being grown than a place to put it. Another note of caution for me is giving up ground is easy – but finding it once again is not – and that probably rules that option out.

Of course, should the growing season be a reasonable one, I could cut back on the nitrogen and lower the stocking rate but that is easier said than done. A drought only takes a fortnight to arrive and can last for months. Using low rates of fertiliser may just bring sparse crops of grass over a large area in a dry spell. My attempts at saving money may well back fire. I’m in three minds.

 

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Flat out. Three hours in 55 seconds

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/02/02/flat-out/

It doesn’t pay to rush, so I’m told. But if you wanted further proof just watch the time lapse video below. This was my attempt at feeding the cows in record time which seriously backfired when I burst the rear tyre of the tractor on the feed barrier. (21 seconds)

I unhocked and went to fetch another tractor which failed to lift the nine tonne of feed wagon and silage. (27 seconds) – Then had to make a hasty retreat to fetch the big Massey  which did lift the trailer but was impossible to use. It was rather like watering the plants with a firehose.

The extra horse power and oil flow proved near impossible to control and the side belt flung the silage yards rather than the required inches. Nevertheless it did the job and the animals were fed by nine.

I don’t normally try and record my incidents on video as U tube wouldn’t have the room for so much data. It was actually attempting to catch the sunrise which had been fab all week up to the point when I installed the camera in. Such is life.

 

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Up, up and away

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/01/23/up-up-and-away/

Farmers are notorious for moaning about the price of what they sell, be it milk, meat, cereal or vedge and I’m no different. The disappointment when the milk price comes crashing through the floor is hard to contain. The current two year cycle has thankfully come to an end as milk supplies have passed below the point of demand and milk buyers have realised that without more money, their factories will be running dry.

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It is an enormous relief for many farmers who will no doubt now try and repay the cash borrowed in the bad times, to keep their businesses going for the good ones.

Whether it has come soon enough for many is doubtful. Up to this point the banks have stuck by their clients but I’m not convinced it was for anything other than selfish reasons. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on those institutions but my strong suspicion is that now that saleable assets such as cows and machinery will be going up in value, the borrowed money will be called in.

Logic dictates that there is little point in sending in the debt collector around when assets are worth half their original cost. The value of milking cows, for instance, is rising quickly as Dairy farmers try to restock their herds. Ironically that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – if the Banks demand their cash back too quickly.

On the other hand it may well work in reverse. Some dairy farmers are so heavily borrowed with such a small asset value that the banks can ill afford to pull the plug. Sending the men in black suits around would leave them heavily out of pocket. The best solution may be stretch the loan out over a longer period to allow a reasonable chance of  repayments. Under those circumstances it may be the farmer who says he’s had enough, when faced with heavy debt repayments until the end of their career.

In reality it is impossible to say how many farms will fall victim to the latest recession. I do not have that sort of information to hand and I don’t know anyone that really does. There are a ton of stories about those that are struggling but they are just that; stories. The situation will inevitably play itself out over the next 12 months and whereupon it will be easier to view the damage more accurately.

But for the time being things are improving, the bank balance is benefitting – and I’ll say cheers to that.

 

 

 

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2017/01/12/5748/

For starters, let me wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas and happy New year. I know it’s a bit late but its business as usual at the farm over Christmas with cows to milk and feed and the workload remains the same but with less people to achieve it. Despite that I still thought it was a bright idea to book a family ski holiday in the week before Christmas.

Bad timing?  Well maybe, as present buying and decorating had to be done sooner, as did preparations for the big feed on Christmas day – but I had my reasons.

For starters, there aren’t too many weeks that a skiing holiday can be taken with kids preparing for Gcse’s and A levels and going in term time is out of the question. Going during the Christmas week is difficult for many reasons and so is the New year. The biggest issue is fitting in with the work rota at the farm but money comes into it too. The flights, accommodation and ski passes are all cheaper before Christmas and the slopes are also less busy.

Of course there is always the danger of not getting any snow in December which means targeting the higher resorts in the alps is crucial and there is the mad panic that comes with preparing for a holiday whilst simultaneously stressing madly about Festive preparations.

As it tuned out we were blessed with good snow which lasted the whole week with one murky day and five others bathed in alpine sunshine.

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(I’m the one on the far end)

(joke)

As ever things are slightly manic on the farm around Xmas with everyone taking some time off. Its never easy running a dairy farm at this time of year as the balance between work and family is a difficult one to find. I often wonder what it would be like to have the whole of the festive period off but I’ve never known any different. For as long as I can remember we have worked through this period and it would feel odd to do do it any differently.

The only time I wish I could leave the farm is when things break down and go wrong. It’s not uncommon to have mechanical problems with the milking parlour or machinery but Christmas is the time that I don’t want it. Parts and people are hard to get hold of and a small problem can cause chaos. That said this year went very smoothly with only the odd minor hiccup.

I certainly appreciated the time I did have off but too much sitting around and eating makes me grumpy (or more grumpy as some people will tell you), so getting out and about is quite a relief, especially after the annual gluttony of festive food.

As a rule, it takes two people to get through the daily milking and feeding and ideally three for the days we bed the cattle down. With three full time and one relief milker who comes fortnightly, that takes some doing, especially if the weather becomes challenging, delivering heavy frosts and frozen pipes.

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Talking of which, I was half expecting a very cold winter but it doesn’t look likely now. There were several cold days and nights with hard frosts during December but they were strangely interspersed with the warm days too.

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A long cold period at this time of year would indicate the start of a long cold spell but the frosty mornings have been interrupted with days of 10 degrees plus, making the chance of snow, frost and all that goes with it unlikely.

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December can also be very wet but this year has proven otherwise with a below average rainfall of 29 mm, most of which fell on the 8th.

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The forecast for the next few days is now cold with a strong chance of heavy snow causing major disruption across the country. That, of course ,virtually guarantees that it will never snow in Shropshire again. I’m sitting by the fire in anticipation.

 

 

 

 

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Cursing the post

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Opening the post as an adult is rarely enjoyable. When I say as an adult, that’s because I can remember it as a child. In those days my post was infrequent but it was nearly always good news. Mostly limited to Christmas and birthdays, envelopes would arrive with a card in, wishing me well and sometimes a fiver or even a tenner might slip out as I eagerly tore it open.

Then there were premium bonds. Had I won anything? No of course not – but there was always a chance. Outside of that I would get quarterly bank statements with interest added to my account another bonus (which we don’t get today) but the most important thing was that letters were good. Receiving one would either make me wealthier or happier.

Fast forward thirty years and I’m feeling a tad different about the mail. The postman arrives a little later but the bundle he carries is a good deal more plentiful than in my childhood but not in a way that I like.

My post is limited to dreary brown and white envelopes with windows in them containing my billing address written in forbidding font, effectively warning me of the disappointment inside. Gone are the occasional colourful envelopes with happy messages or building society interest rate updates. I no longer feel the delight I used to when a letter arrives with my name on it but a sense of foreboding.

To such a degree, I prefer to open the mail in private where my various gasps, grunts and profanities are out of earshot. Sat in the office with my pile of random envelopes I can then choose which order I can reveal their contents in order to somehow lessen the blow on my morale. I like to choose the least offensive ones first, such as monthly direct debits – the amounts of which I already know. Having worked my way through the best of a bad lot, I may well wonder off around the cows, leaving any suspicious looking letters on the desk. It’s often said, that its better to know sooner rather than later if there is an horrendous bill on the way but I’m not convinced. Big bills can sour the day. Leaving them until another day, at least delays the pain.

By that logic I reckon surely the best time to deal with big invoices in on a bad day. You know the sort of day when you reverse the Landrover into a pond and Steve comes to pull me out and knocks the door off the Merlo when he’s driving past. Then the toe chain breaks and smashes the front window. And as I try to get out to survey the damage, I rip my jeans on the door catch, bang my head on the door frame and lose my penknife in the mud. The Landrover gets pulled out and the front bumper gets pulled off in the process; then as I drive back to the yard cursing like hell, I go through the fence wire across the lane, break the straining post off and 100 meters of fence wire gets wrapped around the front axle.

That sort of day.

Now that’s the day to open the big bills. Why spoil the whole week when the misery can be crammed into one single day?

Anyway, I’m getting off the point. Sooner or later the bad mail has to be tackled and yes preferably on a bad day. So I eventually get back to the office, sit down apprehensively in front of the computer and prod my unopened mail with a biro. The tiny pile looks so benign and innocent, sat there on the desk but I know better. The little paper parcels are packed full of disappointment and before I know it, I’m on E bay searching for gear that I don’t need.

I curse my woeful attention span and get back to my envelopes. I open it up. Two hundred and thirty two quid with the VAT. Not too bad for starters and I move onto the second, recognising the blue font in the address pane.

‘O0h Jesus, seven hundred and sixty quid’. I mutter to myself. Glancing down the list I can see dozens of odds and sods but cattle wormer takes up the bulk of the total.

The next is the window cleaner with a very reasonable twenty quid. I nod my head approvingly. A positive pleasure. If they were all like that I’d be basking on a beach in the Bahamas barbecuing beef steak by firing fifty quid notes.

I move on – choosing the next one carefully as again I recognise the font, thinking it’s going to be small.

“Jesus Christ, four hundred and twenty quid for a bloody valve.” Bloody Hell, I didn’t realise it was made from gold.

Shaking my head in disappointment I tackle the next, again recognising the writing. It’s in a larger more distinctive style than the others so it must be from the Vets. Now I know this isn’t going to be small but its unlikely to be over 1500 quid.

But I was wrong.

“Bloody Jesus Christ. Three thousand eight hundred and seventy four quid.”

I jump forward in my chair as if I’d sat on the electric fence. I scan the pages looking for the most offensive items. There are dozens but ‘vaccines’ scoops up first prize and most of the total. I roughly tot up the amounts to check the total again, searching for a titanic error but sadly there isn’t one. I’d forgotten about the small matter of 900 doses of vaccine. Damn, blast and bugger it.

As you can see a pattern is emerging. My blasphemous language is closely correlated to the size of the invoice and its shock value. So the larger the surprise and invoice the more offensive my language becomes. In fact, offensive doesn’t come close to it or didn’t when I opened the last envelope in the pile. The language that followed would have offended Bernard Manning’s dog.

Unlike all the rest, I didn’t  recognise the black ink in the window pane or the type of envelope it arrived in. This wasn’t a monthly invoice. This was a one off, a stranger – an imposter which made it an unknown quantity. What did the brown envelope hold. Was it an insignificant invoice for a tiddling amount or an eye watering wopper that would leave me destitute?

I nervously fumbled with the envelope in anticipation and dread, desperate to get finished and get on with something more enjoyable -like shoveling cow shit or emptying the septic tank with a tea spoon.

I gently released the folded invoice from its sleeve. My heart sank. It was on posh paper. Posh, off white paper with an expensive feeling grain to it. Probably made from recycled goat and dead heather from some distant land – flown twice around the world and embost in the juice of an organic lemon by some poor bugger in a some South American backwater – all in the name of sustainability.

I gently unfolded the luxurious document, frantically scanning for the grand total and the £ sign. It wasn’t hard to spot. There was no breakdown or lines of complex figures with hourly work rates or itemisation. Just a total.

I didn’t panic when I saw the figure. I calmly picked the invoice up and brought it to within an inch of my eyes. There was a decimal point somewhere. There had to be. There were four numbers, so there had to be a dot in there somewhere. I looked again, scanning the paper intensely to seek out a faded decimal point – but there was nothing to see.

I calmly considered my position for a moment. I could feel my face warming up as my blood pressure and heart went into overdrive – and then the dam burst.

“Fxxxing four grand’ For fxxxx sakes. How the hell did you come up with that amount? You bloody greedy fxxxing, fxxxers. Jesus Christ, who the hell do you think I am? Bloody Bill Gates? £4000. Fxxxs sakes.

I must have sat there for ten minute, cursing like a drunken sailor. I went through every profanity and every combination of profanities ever spoken until the red mist died off as my energy faded.

After such an outburst there normally follows a period of  quiet whilst I sum up my thoughts – which are unprintable. This is followed by denial, frustration and then dismay. The cycle then repeats itself several times until the point I believe I can hold a conversation with the invoicer without wanting to commit a murder.

Such invoices end up being logged in my  ‘Don’t go holding your breath tray’, where they remain until the creditor manages to convince me that the amount is justified.

For the purposes of confidentiality and possible litigation the sender shall remain nameless. I didn’t pay invoice with much speed as such large amounts that work out to the nearest thousand are rarely itemised or accurate for that matter. To my mind, they are a better work of fiction than a John Grisham thriller and more an optimistic guess than a carefully itemised summary of work done.

Is there a moral to this story. No not really, other than stay well clear of me when the post arrives.

 

 

As a footnote to that I, have to admit I have a language problem or more accurately a bad language problem. It only occurred to me the other day how bad it had become when I bumped into a neighbour. We were having a bit of  natter about holidays and short breaks when he told me he was visiting Bethlehem the following week. What was my reaction?

“Jesus Christ, Bethlehem? What takes you there?”

“I’m going on a pilgrimage”

There then followed a long silence whilst I waited for the earth to open and swallow me up. There was no coming back from that.

“Oh” I replied weakly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TB testing

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2016/12/13/tb-testing/

Well, its that time of year again. I’d actually forgotten about TB testing until I spotted a note from the ministry pinned to the notice board. Its a real pain to do, with over 650 animals to inject and check over a two day period  its a big job but I’ve got a lot to be grateful for.

Firstly, unlike many farmers in the area we currently don’t have this dreadful disease. If we did, we would be testing every 60 days until we had two clear tests. This is incredibly disruptive and stressful for the animals and staff.

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And secondly I’m grateful for the time of year that we test. As luck happens this falls after the cows have finished calving and when the animals are either housed or close by to the farm. If we were testing in the Summer we would be bringing in animals off the fields back to the farm. The heifers are grazing away and rounding them up and running through the mobile race is more time consuming and difficult. They don’t like being run around the fields and neither do I.

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The first day of testing on Monday went fairly smoothly, bearing in mind there was over 650 animals to inject. By any measure, it’s a full days work, particularly as there are several groups of animals to test which involves a lot of down time, fetching and returning.

The crunch, of course, comes three days later when the results are read. That was Thursday and I have to admit I haven’t been involved on that day in the last few years. It is an uncomfortable process, watching the vets examine the animals necks searching for the telltale lumps that denote Bovine TB. Occasionally the Vets will stop and measure a lump using their callipers to decide whether there is a potential failure. Its a heart stopping moment in a long winded and unpleasant process, particularly if an animal fails.

This year, however, I felt a lot more optimistic on testing day, probably because we have been clear on the last few tests and its a good place to start from. I hadn’t been wandering through the herd looking for suspicious lumps on the cows’ neck as some farmers do – it only makes the process harder still. Having been through it all before with the last failure it’s a little less less foreboding and a failure wouldn’t be quite so bad as it would be before calving started. Losing cows from TB is bad enough but having to manage dozens of beef calves that we don’t have food or room for is far more stressful.

Testing morning was greeted with suitably miserable weather. I started off gray and overcast then descended into heavy drizzle, followed by torrential downpours.

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The cows were tested after they left the parlour before breakfast. Being the oldest animals they are more likely to show signs of TB if the disease is around. Thankfully they went through without any problems and we were left to test the heifers thereafter.

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Having said that, the only suspicious lumps we found were on the oldest heifers although they were not large enough to fail and may have been caused by avian TB which is not a problem for dairy cattle.

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As you can see the miserable weather didnt give in and it rained hard all day, making the whole process a pretty miserable and damp experience. My so called ‘waterproofs’ held out for about an hour before the seams on my jacket started leaking and the cold dampness crept in under my arms and down my back. By the end of the morning I had chucked my coat in the back of the Landrover as it was just acting as a giant wet sponge. I was warmer with it off, despite being wet through.

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So the weather was bad but the result was good, as we passed our annual TB test without any failures.

The two days it took to carry out the task was a difficult and wasteful period and I curse the job every year. But I am grateful for being TB free, otherwise we would be doing this job every 60 days and no doubt seeing animals sent off the farm too.

 

 

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http://www.thebigcowblack.co.uk/blog/2016/12/13/tb-testing/
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