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Farming Matters: Abi Reader - 'The last couple of months have been mind boggling'

I am now an expert (almost) in all manner of virtual meetings. I’ve also been made very aware of how poor my connectivity is on the farm.

Dairy farmer from Cardiff and NFY Cymru Dairy Board Chairwoman
Dairy farmer from Cardiff and NFY Cymru Dairy Board Chairwoman

Despite being less than 5 miles as the as the crow flies from the centre of Cardiff, my broadband speed of 0.49mb is eye watering; especially when you’re trying to chair a meeting.


From a dairy industry perspective the months of March, April and May have not been pretty.

 

In my fairly recently elected post as NFU Cymru Dairy Board chairwoman I hit the ground running, working as part of the NFU team to find solutions, hope even, for those dairy farms who had a tremendous hit from Covid-19 effects.


A few things have amazed me about this whole experience. Firstly, the willingness out there by the industry to help, share information, work through problems and explain things.

 

I’ve been cold calling people and businesses to get information and no-one has once turned me down. My thanks to all who have taken time to speak to me.

 

Then there has been the frustration at trying to get those outside the industry to listen and help. I can honestly say it’s kept me awake at night going over and over in my head what more can be done.

 

Advice right at the start of this was ‘you must shout louder, what makes farming so important?’. And so conversation after conversation has been had. I’m not generally one to lose my cool, but I have come pretty close a few times.


Dairy has found some relief in the hardship schemes announced in both Wales and England, although the eligibility criteria doesn’t, in my view, fit in with the actual events that happened during the months of April and May.


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Appalled

 

Covid-19 has been devastating for many businesses, but the dairy impact is what I have lived and breathed since the beginning of March and the impact for some has been incredibly harsh. I must also add how appalled I have been by the way certain processors have acted towards their producers during this period. I sincerely hope the upcoming contracts consultation will bring this type of behaviour to an end once and for all.


We continue to hold our breath for the other agricultural sectors, particularly horticulture, and lamb. I never imagined I would find myself longing for the return of fast food restaurants and cafes and yet here I am with a new obsession asking anyone I can how big the queue is outside the local Burger King. I take immense satisfaction if the answer is ‘30 cars or more’.


As if Covid-19 wasn’t enough it now appears we are in drought 2020. Grass silage crops at home have been diabolical.

 

I am relieved we’ve got spring barley planted because whole crop will be needed to offset some forage worries this winter.


On a happier note my farm passed our most recent bTB test. I’ve been so wound up with Covid-19 dairy matters it took a while to absorb the full weight of this milestone.

 

One more test in July to go and fingers crossed we can go clear; 18 months on and my first true experience of TB. The challenge then will be to stop it coming back.


I’ll finish on a request. There are a number of campaigns being run right now including #MakeItSteak #MilkYourMoments #MoreThanABitOnTheSide #PickForBritian If you use social media please support, it’s so great seeing a collective effort to promote our Great British Produce. And don’t forget #LOFS20 - Open Farm Sunday - live today.

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