Posted on 24 January, 2020

Farm Diary

Farm Diary

My articles begin with the rainfall figures which some find boring but others find of interest – especially those who are keen gardeners. Apologies to those who don’t want to know – but the total rainfall for 2019 we recorded was 1435 mm (58ins) but the more normal figure is around 1000 mm or 40 ins – it certainly has been wet.

The rainfall for the 4 months Sept to Dec 2019 was 671 mm (27 ins) and remember that most of September was dry. The nearly 4 months 23 Sept to 12 Jan has seen an impressive 690 mm (28 ins) fall into our rain gauge so almost 75% of our annual rainfall in less than 1/3 of the year – more rain is forecast as I write so it is highly likely that by the 23 rd of January we will be over the 75% of our rainfall – it must stop soon (I hope).

Little has happened on the farm since my last article. Jenny and I did travel to Lake Vrynwy in mid Wales for a short break to get away from the frustrations of too much water here. The Lake is ideally situated as it is actually a reservoir that was built in the late 1800s to supply fresh clean water to the city of Liverpool. The hotel we used offers free champagne if guests stay for 3 nights and it does not rain or snow – there is lots of water about but a fantastic area which I would recommend to visit – it only rained a little during our visit. The surrounding hills are grazed by sheep that are used mostly for habitat management rather than meat production. The importance of grazed grass in the uplands to manage the landscape and plant species has been recognised so the sheep are the preferred employees.

There has been much talk and hype in the media about high rise farms that will be built in cities to provide food for future generations – it makes a good news story especially now that the B issue is not so dominant. The reality is that such high rise buildings will be only of use for niche crops – the costs of buying the land, building the structures and then providing water, nutrients, ventilation, artificial light, waste removal etc. will be huge both financially and environmentally. The scale that would be required in the UK to produce the cereals that are currently grown – about 22 million tonnes each year makes this a nonstarter.

Secondly when we have the land that receives sunlight and rain for free why would man want to increase the complexity of farming at huge cost to the environment?

I would state at the outset of this paragraph that I have flown to North America x 3, Australia and Africa x 2 plus many flights within Europe so am guilty of adding to the pollution caused by air travel. Some figures produced by Which? magazine highlight the CO2 pollution caused by air travel. The motorist is criticised for the pollution caused by driving but when compared to air travel the CO2 produced is a small amount per person. A single passenger on a commercial aircraft in Economy flying to New York and back will produce about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 (depends upon the efficiency of the aircraft) which is the same as the CO2 produced from 100 full car tanks of diesel which at 45 miles per gallon would be enough to travel 54,000 miles by road. The CO2 “cost” is 3 or 4 times worse if flying in Business or First Class. These figures certainly made me think about the relative pollution caused by cars and aircraft and certainly makes UK agriculture low cost in terms of CO2 emissions.

Jacques’s exploits in attempting to reach his harem of ewes were detailed last month – but he has been in trouble again. His companion Forecast is becoming a little slow and can be bullied by Jacques, the Charollais ram, so I decided to remove Forecast from Jacques’s field and put him with the ewes. Forecast, who is now ancient in sheep years and was castrated as a lamb, was duly caught, lifted over the stile and deposited into the Landrover. A holiday for him beckoned. But Jacques was having none of this – he wanted to be with his mate.

Whilst Forecast was being bundled into the Landrover Jacques leapt the stile uphill with great style and danger to himself. Just imagine – weighing 100 kg, having short legs and a substantial amount of manhood swinging between his back legs going over a high and wide cross country jump – a miscalculation on take-off and landing on the top rail could have been horribly painful! I relented and these two sheep are still living in the same field.

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