Maple Field Milk: this is modern dairy farming and it’s wonderful!

18th August 2012

The flea beetle has swept in on my rocket.  Oceans of oil seed rape grown in every Parish in Britain as a ‘break-crop’ between wheat/wheat/wheat means that the flea beetle has experienced a population explosion like the locust.  My friend John who never buys veg has ceased to grow garden peas (after 61 years). The flea beetle gets them first. I must look more closely at the life cycle of the  local flea beetle – even our comfrey crop has been attacked……probably not diminished that much but damaged none the less.

Richard our fantastic local ‘Genus’ AI man did us an extreme favour on Wednesday.  Thia the cow came into violent season during the night with much exasperated lowing and butting and mooing enough to wake the neighbourhood of expectant Parishioners. At 7.10 am I phoned Rich on my wonderful mobile phone from the damp dew-stricken milking bail and told him the news. Thia was supposed to be in-calf from the last time 21 days ago but has obviously ‘missed’. I had to be elsewhere that day – Wednesday. Rich offered to catch her up into the ‘bail’ which he so approves of, and inseminate her with top quality ‘sexed’ Jersey semen from a nitrogen-chilled pedigree Jersey Bull tethered in some remote Irish paddock. Isn’t the whole modern scene just wonderful?  And we…….the neo-rustic small-holders in a damp field somewhere in Hampshire, England can benefit from all this ‘selection’; processing and delivery. This is modern dairy farming which must at no point be taken-for-granted. This is where we have arrived.  After all those years since Jethro Tull and Coke and Hozier  and Newman Turner (1951) and all the tempestuous years of drought, famine and development:  this is where we’ve  got to.  This is a wonderful era of farming and we must find ways of getting more and more people on the land not off it; more and more small self-employed farming businesses crowding into local markets with their fresh, unadulterated wares.

We are thinking of raising capital to buy cows for Maple Field Milk by means of issuing ‘debentures’. Participants would get their return on capital in the form of fresh milk to their door plus the ‘interest’ in the business of dairy farming; visits to the farm; helping on the farm; social afternoons and evenings….etc. I spoke to Pam Rodway from Ayreshire who with her Herdsman husband,  Nick,  did this form of co-op farming for 16 years without a hitch. They made cheese and made the interest payments in cheese not money. What a system. Has anyone else had experience of this kind of business. We’d be pleased to hear from you.

The circus of combines is full-tilt today. The temperature creeps near 30 degrees centigrade with a clear blue sky and a slight breeze from the west driving the wheat to an ecstasy of dryness. I can hear the rumble and thrash of the giant ‘round balers’ turning the harvest fields into Swiss rolls with their forceful engineering wizardry.

I am re-reading ‘The Farming Ladder’ by George Henderson (Faber and Faber 1944). It takes some beating. The things he achieved in those times – a new recruit to farming; what a wonder. On the ‘bail’ sound system – Allo Darlin…singing….Atlantic City.

I had a long talk to my mentor Ian Crouch in his office over a strong roll-up with the swivel chair jammed in a vacant knot-hole in the pine boards. We are talking milk, of course, and processing it……….more next time.

Nick  Snelgar

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