Farm Life April 2015 - Showing Off!!
Beep! Beep! The alarm clock sounds and my hand shoots out to give it a smack, but I can’t find it. I stir and notice that it is plugged into a socket on the other side of the room; this is a technique I use to make sure I actually get up rather than hitting the snooze button. I try to ignore it but very soon an elbow comes out of the grey darkness and digs in my side followed by a mumbled request for a cup of tea from Mrs H. Why am I getting up at a time that is so early it is nearly yesterday; well today is the first show of the season!
Judging starts at 9am so I better get a move on. First of all I scoot round to check the last 2 cows still to calf are ok, feed the bulls and ponies. While driving round I see some red deer in one of the silage fields. They started coming in when the first shoots of new spring grass started appearing. Originally, there were around 40 of them. To discourage them I sourced some bangers on a timed fuse. These had a great effect and they stopped coming in. I stopped using the bangers when I thought there would be enough grazing on the hill for them. However, I noticed that about a dozen soon re-appeared. That’s ok I can live with that. However this morning I was amazed by the site I came across; there was more than 100 of them grazing and resting in the same field. Now this is just unacceptable. So I thought I would nip over and encourage them to head back up the hill with the dogs and quad bike. They at first seemed interested in me approaching and I really should have stopped and taken a picture but still being sleepy I didn’t think about it. They started heading up towards the hill and as I turned the bike round it spluttered and stopped; lack of fuel and how very irritated I was to find that it had been left on reserve. I had to abandon it and walk the mile or so back to the steading to halter, load the animals and the associated paraphernalia for the show. Still in plenty of time to make the show; so no panic. An hour or so later I arrived at the show ground at half 7 to find I am the last Highland cattle exhibitor to arrive, everyone else has their gazebos up, their cattle brushed and show ready, I think to myself, Really!!! what time did they get up!
I am sure many of you are aware that showing involves periods of frantic activity and hours of hanging around, so after arriving a period of hectic activity takes place; Get the pen ready for the cattle, clean them up, brush every hair into correct position, oil their horns and feet, then finally apply show shine. I change my jacket for a white show coat and giving my own hair a good comb with the cattle comb and we are good to go with 10 minutes spare, so far so good.
The Highland cattle judging was delayed while we waited for the Charolais judging to take place so a period of a couple of hours of hanging around starts, the time was used to catch-up with some folk I had not seen for a while. All in all I would say the day went fairly well for the farm. We were in the first class and came 1st with our stock bull Silas. A couple of classes later I was back in the ring with our 2 year old heifer Mhari and again was fortunate to be placed 1st. At the end of the day Mhari was placed as breed Champion and Silas was awarded best male animal. Both of them were awarded a nice trophy each.
My daughter didn’t do so well this time out on her Highland Pony Seamus, she was placed 3rd and 4th in the 2 classes she entered. It seems the pony was crabbit and didn’t perform to the best of his ability; perhaps he got up too early!
Farm Life April 15 - Not always a bed of Rose's
I am fortunate that I do enjoy my job; I would still do it even if I didn’t need the money. I have a friend who earns more than 4 times what I do working in the oil service industry and he hates his job. He has 2 houses and lots of processions but a significant part of his life is dreary and not enjoyable.
Of course my life is not always a bed of roses either, sometimes it goes wrong and we have had our fair share recently and I will recite some of it below
It started at scanning time, the morning of the scanning day I found my best dog lame with a infected foot. The tractor had 3 flat tyres in close succession, each time in a muddy hole which required wrestling heavy wheels through mud and gutters; always at a really inconvenient time along with rain, sleet or snow. Young Tom has caused his fair share of issues too, he threw the drawbar for the tractor into the cab and it bounced and went through the window! He was late for his Valentines date and managed to crash the Land Rover over a wall and roll it twice down a bank; writing it off in the process and what hassle that has caused. To be fair not all machinery problems and troubles have been completely Tom’s fault. I managed to tip the tractor over in a fairly flat field in the snow, it was so slow in going over and with the softness of the snow the only damage was to the screws that hold the number plate on, they were sheared off. I am still blaming Tom for this though; if he hadn’t left the radio tuned to the racket on Radio 1 then I would have been watching where I was going instead of trying to find Radio 2. And the problems continued; I arrived 30 seconds too late to save a calf that had fallen into a burn , it was completely submerged and thrashing about, I dragged her out of the icy water still alive but despite my best CPR efforts it only lived for a few moments more, 30 seconds earlier and it would have been fine. I have been feeding a group of ewe’s homemade haylage all winter, recently it ran out and i replaced it with another batch from a different field. A few days later I was checking them and I saw a blind sheep, then another over there and that one over there is blind also. Out of 217 ewes we treated 105 for what I thought was “silage eye” It developed and spread so quickly. The vet gave us some long acting antibiotics and Tom and I spent the afternoon sneaking up on these poor blind ewes and injecting them, those blind in 1 eye or only slightly affect needed to be brought in and treated. The following morning I found one of the ewes we treated and scanned for twins dead in a bog, aggahh!!
As I write I am still waiting for more advice from the vet, it is not silage eye as ewes on the other farm which have not had any silage all winter are coming down with the blindness. We are less than 10days from the official start of lambing and I am really not looking forward to lambing blind sheep.
However the particular run of problems is only just a bunch of problems that we are dealing with and these sort of things do go hand in hand with everyday farming. We will learn and make changes and tomorrow will be different. I am just about to head out to the hill and help with heather burning on this glorious day. I will have the sun on my back, stunning views across Highland Perthshire and it will all seem much better. My friend will be stuck in his office in Aberdeen dealing with the same stuff he did yesterday and will do tomorrow. Keep your money I am happy with my lot – most of the time anyway!
October 14 - Health & Safety - Nonsense!!!
Recently my boss handed me a article from a magazine. The article related to the need for a written risk assessment for a farm business. This reminded me of a run-in I had with a Council jobs worth at the Countryside Festival a few years ago. We were asked to put together an agricultural display to help visitors attending the festival gain more understanding of the activities that take place rurally.
Our display included Hebridean sheep, Highland cattle, and our Belted Galloway bull, Tavish. We erected 2 gazebos with various display boards, banners, breed society merchandise and marketing material. All in all I thought it looked great! The event ran for 3 days with the first day being solely for school children, and there were thousands of them.
On the morning of the day we had an inspection from the Council. The woman from the council first said we needed to put up signs asking the public not to touch the animals. We also had to provided hand washing facilities with sign-age stating “now wash your hands” really? She then disappeared only to return a few minutes later telling us to put up an another outer barrier to keep the public back from touching the stock. So a hastily we erected a 2 rail wooden fence round the cattle and a rope barrier round the sheep.
All day we were rushed off our feet fielding questions from quizzical and enthusiastic children. That evening the event was to host an open air concert with Run-rig being the headlining act. During the afternoon the band started having a sound check. The base player of the band starting tuning his equipment. Our bull Tavish took this low thumping sound as that of another bull and started making his own low sound drone, he began to get agitated and started pushing at the fence. As bulls do, he put his head on the floor rubbing back and forward, digging holes with his feet throwing straw and soil over his back. Trying not to look to worried I climbed on the hurdle to discourage him from moving his pen towards the sound. He became more vocal about his intentions to fight with what he believed to be another bull across the road. He decided he would not lift his tail and then smear what is expelled from that end of his body round his bum and tail. Still trying to keep calm and from my position of height I had the best view as to what was about to unfold. Each time he increased his volume and raise his head the children took a step back. Then like a scene from a sniper movie everything slipped into slow motion. Opposite from where I was perched I noticed a well dressed school teacher standing on his own a little bit away from two little boys. Tavish continued increasing his roaring till he reached a deafening climax with his head raised high he then powerfully flicked his very clarty tail and in slow motion I saw an arc of slurry fan out over the hurdles, past the wooden fence and begin to impact those closest; my eye caught site of a large marshmallow sized projectile at the outer reaches of the arc. This was also spotted by one of the little boys and we both followed it as it headed towards the well dressed teacher. I couldn't hear what he was saying but I suspect it was “step bac...” the marshmallow never touched his lips, as it shot into his open mouth! Again, a scene from the sniper film; the little laddie who watched this dropped to his knees like he had been shot and then burst out laughing as tears began to roll down his cheeks. The teacher instantly began to gag, spit and fish out pieces of slurry with his fingers. By this time both lads where rendered incapable as they rolled around in hysterics. Things settled down, I caught the eye of the teacher and as I held back, as best as I could, my own laughter and tears, I could not resist pointing towards the sign, “now wash your hands”
Three beef products, Highland Beef Ribeye Steak, Minced Beef Steak & Highland Diced Beef produced by Perth-based Highland Drovers will be proudly displaying a coveted Great Taste logo after being judged by a panel of 350 of the nation’s most discerning food experts over 45 days.
Highland Drovers supplies quality 21 day matured beef produced by Scotland’s sturdy Highland cattle. They are a small business started up by a small group of like minded farmers in the late 90’s aiming to get more people to eat Highland beef as well as develop a recognisable brand for Highland beef. Their beef can be bought at farmers’ markets in the Angus, Edinburgh and Perth areas. Highland Drovers also supply beef to various farmshops as well as a delis in and around their local area. These include: Brig Farmshop near Perth, Knowes Farmshop by East Linton, Loch Leven’s Larder in Kinross, Blairgowrie Farmshop, The Perthshire Visitor Centre at Bankfoot and Great Glen Trading in Fort Augustus.
Their beef can also be tasted from the menus of the Michelin recommended Strathardle Inn, Kirkmichael, Perthshire as well as the Taste of The Trossachs, Callander.
All Highland Drovers products and offers can be viewed and purchased from their website: www.highlanddrovers.co.uk
To achieve Gold in Great Taste is a significant achievement for any food or drink producer and results are eagerly awaited. The scheme, run by the Guild of Fine Food, has been described as the epicurean equivalent of the Booker Prize and in 2012 a total of 8,807 different food and drink products were entered.
Kenneth Headspeath, managing director of Highland Drovers said, “We are thrilled and almost bowled over by our 3 awards. Our main aim when launching Highland Drovers was to supply a top quality meat and make as many possible aware that Highland beef is fantastic, local and full of flavour. It is the first time we’ve entered the awards and are very pleased with the results. Many thanks to Great Taste for recognising this as well as my team at Highland Drovers for their dedication, time and pure hard work.”
Judges this year included Masterchef winner and restaurateur Mat Follas, restaurant critic and Masterchef judge Charles Campion, food writers Lucas Hollweg and Xanthe Clay and over 300 food buyers from leading food halls, delicatessens and farm shops, including Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason.
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