Deer and badgers create quite a noise at night-time

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Goodness me, here we are in October already, with the nights rapidly drawing in and temperature dropping at night.

September was pretty good; we had a dry run with some nice warm sunshine, but enough rain to keep things growing. We seem to have badgers in the garden chirping away in the dead of night, scrabbling away on the decking, and then the dog starts barking which they ignore and all in all it’s quite a racket. The rutting season has started and deer are making their mating calls nearer the house than in the past; the countryside is certainly busy 24 hours a day.

There is grass absolutely everywhere following the rain, but it is full of sap and very wet, fine for our heifers though, as they tuck in and devour enormous quantities of it.

Maize at Northchapel is ready and will be harvested this week, as will the third cut grass silage. Maize for the AD plant is further away, although some of it is almost there and pressure from those who need to get cereals drilled is building. Crops are looking good and we should get some decent tonnages from these later varieties, although it is a risk to grow them on clay.

Having been away for a week it is surprising how much has changed at Crouchlands in my absence. The cubicle removal operation is going well, with cows in two of the sheds now converted to straw yards and half the big shed has been stripped of its divisions and concrete removed.

When this shed is completed, only one more remains before we are fully on straw yards. The last shed will involve more work as there are different levels within it, and we will need to dig down in order to achieve a proper floor suitable for a straw yard.

The large slurry tank roof trusses have arrived, German timber which is straight and huge; each beam weighing one and a half tonnes. We should see some action once the obligatory leak test has been carried out by putting about a meter of water in the tank; just to make sure! Otherwise all the various projects are going well and drawing to an end, which is just as well given that we spend more and more time with the sweeping bucket cleaning up the yards and the drive.

Sunny days such as Sunday are wonderful and very welcome, but I see that although dry this week, the temperatures are about to drop sharply.

Elin and Jake flew out of the country on Sunday night, on their way to Australia with spring and summer to look forward to. Elin is returning home to Sydney and Jake is off to work on Max Jelbart’s farm which will be a great experience for him, and is just the sort of thing an 18 year old should be doing. I look forward to hearing all about the ‘much better ways of doing things over there’ which is inevitable. Mind you, they are impressively resourceful and cope with weather and conditions at times which we don’t see. I gather that whilst this spring has generally been good for grass growth and their milk price is very high, it is still quite cold in Victoria and it has been wet.

It was wet in France too, and we had some heavy thunderstorms with torrential rain on our arrival with many local houses flooded. October is often stormy and it all seems to come up from the Mediterranean with spectacular sheet and forked lightning lasting for hours at night.

No maize or sunflowers have been combined as yet, which is unusual. They are certainly ready and it’s the weather which is holding things back. The sunflower fields which were so dazzlingly yellow in July are now a blackened mess on the landscape; no other crop seems to be so spectacular one month and so drab the next. Maize crops are not as good as they usually are due to the coldest spring in 25 years, which held planting back and subsequent plant growth.

The grape harvest is underway, and we saw many machines working in the Bordeaux area, but this is the worst harvest for 40 years following storms, cold and wet weather. Hail and heavy rain has destroyed many crops, and they are struggling.

Our Levy Board Dairy Co is suggesting that geneticists will make it possible for dairy farmers to choose bTB resistant cows in the future. It has been known for some time that there are cows within infected herd which seem to have resistance to the disease.

How successful this will be is not known, and whether these cows are good enough to attract farmers to use the genetics when they are available. It is certainly another step in the right direction, and following the very strong statement from Owen Patterson at the Conservative Party Conference where he again showed determination in tackling the disease and his determination to expand badger culling in up to 40 areas in England over the next 4 years.

At the NFU Fringe meeting, Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King gave firm backing to farmers who are involved in the pilot trials. Major retailers have come under pressure to boycott milk from the cull trial areas or at least introduce ‘badger friendly’ milk from areas not involved. Mr King said that it would be ‘fundamentally dishonest’ to label milk in this way. He said that he believed it was our elected government’s right, using scientific evidence, to take these decisions and that Sainsbury’s would just like all the other retailers, continue to support every dairy farmer in their supply group regardless of geography.

Owen Patterson has also got himself in trouble for daring to suggest that climate change could have some beneficial effect for society, and that it could extend the growing season and allow crops to be grown further north.

He expressed relief that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, showed modest increase in temperatures, half of which had already happened. Climate change scientists branded such comments as irresponsible and immoral!

Goodness me that sounds a bit harsh? Are we not allowed to discuss climate change in any way other than a man-made disaster? It really does seem that the mere mention of anything positive or not actually apocalyptic is blasphemous to those who have taken climate change as their new ‘cause’ or indeed profit from it.

Such attitudes actually work against the move to mitigate climate change, and as most of the measures needed are in fact at the same time efficiency savings, there are other ways to encourage people. We don’t much like being preached at, and there are so many other prejudices wrapped up in the climate change issue that it is a bit of a turn off for many people.

One wrong word and you are a climate change ‘sceptic’ or worse a climate change ‘denier’. Given the economic problems of late, people’s attitudes have hardened, and not all measures proposed are affordable.