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In your field: Rachel Coates - 'I turned into Miss Marple to catch a non-paying customer in the milk hut'

Over the past few months that I have been writing in this section, I have mentioned several times what lovely regular customers we have and I am sure most farms which sell direct to consumers will say the same.

However, there are those who are not as great and in that category come those who think they can ignore honesty boxes. We only have flavoured milk syrups on an honesty box, so we do not lose a great deal but, increasingly, I have been hearing about farmers losing a lot more.

 

My predecessor on this column, Christine Ryder, has now ceased her egg sales via an honesty system as it was being constantly abused. It is terribly sad that a system which offered a very useful service to many is now no longer viable.

 

Other thefts and damage to vending machines have been reported, resulting in not only loss of money or goods but being unable to trade and left with a bill for repair.

 

Unfortunately this is the flipside of letting the general public onto your farm. There is no doubt a lot of people are struggling with money at the moment and lamentably farm retail is seen as an easy target.

 

Security was a big concern when we started out and cameras and alarms were high on our shopping list. In fact, it was because of the CCTV in the milk hut I managed to catch a non-payer recently. It is too long a story to tell here, but if I see you in person I will no doubt regale you with my Miss Marple moment.


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Away from this we have been making the most of the remarkably fine weather and managed to bale haylage on a day you would be forgiven for thinking was the middle of July, not September.

 

We have also had a revamp of our calf rearing set up, preparing in case we have another wet winter. The hutches were located in what we call our calf garden, but unfortunately this involves a lot of trailing milk, food and water about.

 

So, by moving the larger hutches and veranda to another part of the farm, all the individual hutches fit in a yard close to facilities, predictably coming full circle back to where they were before we got the veranda system.

 

I have been nicely busy with the calves, with most of the Holstein heifers doing really well and there has been a good trade for British Blue crosses and Holstein bulls.

 

One slight niggle, however, is our rate of failure with sexed semen. To be fair, we have had it pretty good in the past and have had very few bulls from sexed, so we are probably having all of our share this year.

 

I did feel frustrated, however, when one of my Jerseys calved an exceptionally healthy bull from sexed semen, followed by another calving to conventional semen a very weak heifer which did not survive. But that is farming for you.

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