Posted on 19 February, 2017Comments (0)

Farm Notes

Farm Notes

My last article started with some details of the ewes grazing the turnip crop in the fields down Tinkers Lane. The 42 ewes will be leaving for their maternity quarters in Medstead later this week where they will spend the days grazing grass but move indoors at night.

This is so that any lambs being born in the hours of darkness have a good chance of survival away from the sometimes biting night winds or rain and also more importantly it makes the job of the night shepherd (me) easier.

Looking forward to the brave new world post Brexit the future for lowland UK sheep may be difficult. New trade deals with countries such as New Zealand may result in unlimited access to the British market with cheap meat for consumers but no market for British lamb. Currently NZ has a quota system minimising the amount that can be sent to the UK and the EU. UK farmers have much higher fixed costs of land, regulation etc which the Kiwis do not have and the cost of shipping to the UK is low hence their competitiveness. Additionally about 30% of UK sheep meat is sold in the EU and especially France so if import levies are imposed the British lamb producers lose a huge market and as production is already only marginally profitable then I for one will be out of sheep production.

Similarly any trade deals with the US will hit British beef farmers very hard. Most US beef is very cheap because it is produced in huge feedlots where the animals live on concrete or dirt and are fed diets that contain a lot of maize (which will be genetically modified). The days of traditionally produced grass reared British beef may become a luxury for a few – in the supermarkets many consumers seem to care about only the price.

The days of British beef maybe numbered for many but remember that you are what you eat (and we know the result of the US election!). Currently the UK is 55% self sufficient in the food we consume – this may diminish and my worry is that production standards elsewhere do not meet UK standards of welfare, traceability and provenance. The sad thing is that many people are hungry in the world but good land is increasingly lying idle in the UK whilst we import evermore often inferior food from foreign shores – something is wrong somewhere.

In the next 6 weeks we will be busy planting spring crops of oats (porridge and cereal bar type products), beans for human consumption and animal feed, dried peas for human consumption and barley for beers (which will be exported) or animal feed. The spring is a great time for all and we will be busy on the farm. If you see tractors around please be patient – they maybe big and noisy but certainly are not fast – and remember they do slow speeding cars and vans.

I sometimes receive accusations of tractors breaking speed limits but that is impossible – all tractors (apart from a very few yellow JCB Fastracs) are produced to UK Government standards that have a legally governed maximum speed which means they cannot exceed 30 mph – FACT.

Julian Lewis

[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]

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