2001: February/March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December | 2002: January


15 Dec 2001

This week has shown distinctly positive activity, after a few weeks when although DEFRA's designation of Cumbria changed from High Risk to At Risk, little really altered on the ground, at least around here.

Wednesday found the telephone red-hot with calls from local farmers wanting to know when their wool could be collected. Someone somewhere must have said it was likely the wool clip could be collected shortly! We can't collect until the areas we pick up from are all blood-tested and clear of disease, but at least it's possible we can do so soon; such clips as are still available, and not wet through from being stored somewhere unusual. The clip will now go to Carlisle (Cumbria) rather than the usual Bradford (Yorkshire) mill destination. At one time it looked as though the clip would go to Galashiels (SW Scotland), so this is a very welcome and convenient change.

Two Christmas cards came today, both from carriage driving friends; one saying that driving competitions were only a distant memory this year, and another saying that her neighbours had begun the restocking process with sentinel cattle "in spite of DEFRA!"

WK has been told he can restock with sentinel sheep in the fields that were culled when BB's farm went out; but he says putting 10 sheep in each field is more trouble than it is worth and he will simply wait out the necessary 7 weeks until the area would be clean by default, and will restock then.

WK's family are having a hard time because their son C is off work, sick. This leaves W on his own to run the farm, and he's no spring chicken. Apparently C had been having a conversation on the phone with a DEFRA official about moving some sheep - probably no more difficult than other conversations have been all year - and was getting nowhere, and he lost his temper and slammed the phone down. Trouble is, he didn't calm down after that - he got more and more agitated, "went mad" in fact, and is now at home on medication. What worries his family is that another local farmer's son committed suicide last year under less stress than this.

Mrs K says she blames DEFRA for all the frustration; one day the rules are interpreted one way, another, quite differently. The great majority of officials just don't seem to grasp how a family fell farm works. Assessors come to look at proposed routes and disinfection procedures to permit stock to move, but all the stock has to be moved on the one day, which is sometimes impossible, especially if the inspectors don't come at the time they are expected, wasting working time. If another day has to be chosen, the assessors have to come again.

The problem is that they are in the most difficult position of all - lots of stock left, nothing outstanding in quality, small payments taken for stock going "on the welfare" compared with what could have been obtained if the markets had been working normally; and lots of debts with little money to pay them off.

Even without the problems of F&M, farming has been very poor this year - the December Business section of the NFU journal quotes the UK's Total Income from Farming as £8,267 per farmer. Ben Gill the NFU president said: "Farmers are still working far longer than the average working week and taking home less than even the minimum wage."

28 December

VW from DEFRA rang for G about the collection of wool now that the Infected Area has "gone". What a sensible woman - must be from a farming family. We can collect wool from the majority of our producers, unless they are Form A or Modified Form D premises (slaughtered out or slaughtered out and disinfected), when DEFRA have to be informed and it must be the last pickup of the day. G has the opportunity to phone her to have any farm's status checked so he won't be inadvertently put in an illegal position.

How much wool will still be acceptable for pickup is questionable; it can't be kept in buildings where livestock are being housed, so there won't be much indoors I imagine. If it's outside it will very likely be wet through or dirty, and certainly dirty wool can't be shifted legally. Wet wool may not be worth much either although if G likes to shift it it will certainly weigh plenty!

ST phoned to ask about hay, so we put the world to rights while we dealt with that. She'd heard that a satirical magazine had investigated the "rumours" that were current early on in the FMD crisis, about Government departments enquiring for supplies of fuel for pyres etc, and the magazine had found them to be true - can't check what was written as I haven't a copy - said to be the November edition? Rumours are still going that FMD is coming back in February 2002..... if the above rumours were true, maybe these might be, but you just have to hope not. What is the motive, if they are?

See http://www.warmwell.com/footmoutheye.html for comments about the probability of F&M being in Britain well before the "official" recognition of its existence in February.

2001: February/March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December | 2002: January