Repairing the scars left over from winter works

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A much colder week has delayed growth and the wind had a winter’s edge to it, but it’s drying things up with only wet areas delaying fertilizer being applied on to some of our grazing fields at Crouchlands.

However British Summertime brought with it a wonderful warm Mothering Sunday, which hopefully is a sign of things to come. There are wild flowers everywhere now and leaves are appearing in the woodland; the smaller plants and bushes on the woodland floor grabbing as much light as they can before the canopy develops.

We have now almost finished ploughing all our maize ground, and we need to get fertilizer on before sub-soiling and then waiting for the right time to drill. We turned out more young-stock last week, letting loose the in-calf heifers.

We don’t have much grass but we need to be on top of it in April in order to keep control and quality re-growth through May and June. They were very pleased to go out but the novelty soon wears off and I know that if the shed was available to them they would be back in most of the time tucking into some food in the trough.

I hope to get some of the bare patches in the grass fields re-drilled this week or next, as the ground is now just about dry enough to get on. I have the grass seed in stock and areas of leather-jacket damage and winter areas which have been under water need refurbishing.

I also need to start repairing some of the scars left by the builders, large trenches, vehicle tracks, small trenches and car park areas last autumn, including where caravans were put whilst various things were being built. Not all these areas are dry enough and I expect it to take two or three attempts with the drill to sort it all out, once we have lifted the ground and worked it down.

The builders are now within sight of completion, maybe a month or so if things go well. We should start the new engine this week, a much bigger one this time and the other two will be moved on the site so that they are all in a tidy row.

Gas production continues to improve but we are still not putting any maize in the mix, just grass silage, straw yard muck, cow slurry, and processed food waste. We shall start feeding maize this month if all goes to plan.

We have fitted grooming brushes for the cows in some of our sheds. This is not a new concept, many farmers have had them for years, from simple 90 degree brushes up on the wall as we now have, to very sophisticated and expensive motorised rotary brushes which switch on and rotate automatically as the cow puts pressure on them.

We have put up two types of the 90 degree brush, one which has the top brush on a spring which gives as the cow pushes up against it and another type which is stronger but solid, and has a mechanism which allows us to fold the top brush against the wall if we need to scrape under it or when mucking out.

These brushes are a big hit with the cows; they were using the first one whilst the chap was welding the next in the shed. There was huge excitement as this brush became something to attack full on with the head and it seems that every effort was made to break it!

Whilst one cow was scratching itself and giving the brush as much stick as possible, another two were queuing up to go next. This will hopefully replace the other objects the cows like to scratch up against such as the water troughs or gates, and will give them a similar if not better scratching than a tree trunk or branch, or my fence posts.

I expect the brushes themselves which are bolted into the steel frame will need replacing every 12 months or so, depending on use and abuse.

An extraordinary suggestion from Chef Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies last week, that sick animals should be slaughtered rather than treated to prevent misuse of antibiotics, led to a flurry of correspondence from Vets and other questioning her statement.

Whilst I fear she was misquoted, it is not the first time that the CMO has referred quite wrongly and without evidence to resistance in humans being threatened by animal treatment. Many were asking if her comments included pets, which if true would do so in my view.

Whilst it is imperative we use antibiotics responsibly on farms and in veterinary practice, in order to minimise resistance and preserve the use of these valuable tools, there is little or no evidence of animal treatments affecting human resistance.

Dame Sally Davies does acknowledge that the problem in human resistance is serious, and apart from a sentence or two the whole of her address was about this problem.

Looking at the statistics, it is interesting how most resistance is in hospitals as you would expect, and the position is improving rapidly. Huge gains were made once the focus on cleanliness was addressed, and levels fell rapidly following the ‘deep-clean’ programme. There is a long way to go, but as usual the media are behind the curve if it suits, preferring headline grabbing stories.

One such story surfaced last week where it was claimed that cats can give owners tuberculosis, after a case was found in Berkshire. Scientists believe that cats may have been bitten by badgers or rats, and whilst the risk is very low Chief Medical Officer Nigel Gibbens has written to vets recommending that any cat found infected by ‘M.bovis’ be destroyed.

This is due to the lack of effective drug licenced in the UK for treatment of TB in animals and also to minimise the risk of infection to humans. Transmission is normally either by air (inhalation/digestion) or through any open cuts or sores on the skin.

As we all wait for Own Patterson to announce his plans for control of bTB in England, there are other areas which are causing concern. Many small-holders and people with land have animals and pets which are susceptible to bTB be they goats, llamas, alpacas, guanacos and so on.

None of these are tested and are outside the government programme of dealing with bTB, and whilst they have no idea how many there are never mind where they might be, it is a nonsense to further ratchet up the red tape and restrictions on farmers whilst there could very well be pockets of bTB hosted in these animals.

Due to a production problem, last week’s Farm Diary was repeated from March 19. You can read Gwyn’s column from last week on page 22.