The cattle were restless last week and demanded to be moved every time they caught sight of me. I think the colder nights and wet days combined with declining energy levels available in the grass, made them hungry and dissatisfied with their lot. Now the weather has improved once again they have settled down and seem content.
There is still plenty of grass about which should hopefully keep them happy but in due course we will start feeding barley in the field so the transition to winter rations when they eventually come into the barn, will be less of a shock to their systems.
Fortunately beef prices are on the rise once again. Not much but every little helps. Hopefully things will be looking up by November when some will be ready to go. I am told by a well-known buyer for the retail industry that the high beef prices of last winter were unsustainable and unlikely to return. The only bright spot in this is that store prices this autumn should be lower than last year.
There are increasing accounts of livestock rustling. Incredibly there are apparently tens of thousands of sheep and cattle stolen off farms. Up to 90,000 sheep are being taken each year, the worst areas being Lancashire, the North east and Northern Ireland.
Very few of the stolen animals are ever found alive, they are being slaughtered illegally and end up in dining rooms across the country. This unlicensed and illegal movement of livestock is devastating to farmers and raises the risk of diseases such as Foot and Mouth. So much for the effectiveness of DEFRA’s movement restrictions and cattle passports.
Rural crime is certainly on the increase. NFU Mutual conclude that criminals are increasingly turning to rural areas because security in urban communities with the prevalence of CCTV cameras is making it more difficult to get away with crimes in towns and cities.
We have had our own problems here at Ote Hall with vandalism and theft at Southern Water’s site on the boundary of the farm. This site has been targeted three times in the past three weeks. On each occasion access was gained through our woods or fields by smashing gates or bolt cutting padlocks. On the first two occasions on consecutive nights they syphoned diesel from the site’s fuel tanks.
On the third occasion which occurred last week, despite Southern Water installing security cameras, flood lights, loud speakers and alarms directed to their security firm, they went off with not just the diesel but the tanker too. This had been anchored to the ground with chains and wires which were torn out and dragged across the fields and down our drive. The trailer was found the following day completely wrecked in a field near Hurstpierpoint, and the images picked up by the CCTV show men wearing balaclavas and moving like greased lightning.
Not only did these criminals cause damage and steal thousands of litres of fuel, they also left gates open where livestock were grazing. These could have escaped onto the roads and caused a nasty accident.
I hear that the police know who they are, so hopefully very soon they will be rounded up and with any luck will be locked up and the keys thrown away.
There has also been an escalation of farm fires; some were deliberate acts of arson, and others accidents which could have been prevented. The farming press is constantly reminding farmers that time spent clearing the build-up of dust from combines and balers, particularly in very hot weather, will prevent machinery overheating and setting off sparks which readily ignite.
The devastation caused to farm businesses which are being destroyed by mindless vandals is a major concern. Will Lawrence who farms in Kent received a telephone call in the early hours last week, telling him his barns were alight. Mr Lawrence has built up his business over the past ten years and now supplies over 200 farmers with hay and straw during the winter months. His entire stock of hay and straw went up in flames, the value of which was over £300,000.
The police believe the fire was started deliberately as the fires began in multiple places. The family is devastated and now must pick up the pieces and start again from scratch. Not only has their livelihood been reduced to a pile of charred rubble, now 200 farmers who have come to rely upon this farming business to supply hay and straw for their livestock, must now try and source their supplies elsewhere.
No doubt the police will track down the culprits, let’s hope that political correctness does not stand in the way of prosecuting them and locking them up – for a very long time.
Carola Godman Irvine