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In your field: Thomas Carrick - 'The sheep industry should not be seen as dispensable'

Time rolls on and it is even wetter than a month ago. We had a decent week in the middle of tupping, but it has rained pretty much all the remaining days, making ground work tricky.

We are still busy fencing, but now it is on ground that is completely saturated, which makes it difficult for the post knocker to get about and make a tidy job.

 

There have been a couple of sketchy moments for our local digger driver on the mounted knocker as he descended a bankside, trying not to sledge all the way down over a waterfall a couple of hundred feet below. He loves to tell stories, so even though his knees were knocking, at least he will have a good tale to tell.

 

Having good fencing makes a lot of sense and will be encouraged more for environmental and biosecurity reasons, but actually doing the job isn’t as easy as writing it into a scheme prescription.

 

Although wet, it has not been too cold in Garrigill and sheep have done well. After checking a couple of batches of ewes’ feet, I decided they are definitely fit enough as I cannot remember them ever being harder to handle.

 

Fit as they are they have been a little slower to come into season than usual, with a lot coming in at around 20 days and, although they are still not late for lambing where we are, I just hope the boys had plenty left in the tank.


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The National Sheep Association continues to engage with the Government on the future of our industry, whether it’s Brexit, Environmental Land Management, Pathway or the newly proposed Livestock Information Service.

 

The latter will see sheep and cattle identification, recording and movement reporting all brought under one umbrella.

 

Getting better data needs to be as much about agencies using data smartly rather than farmers providing more.

 

Although, perhaps even more importantly than demanding 100 per cent accuracy at all times, we should end up with something workable that encourages cooperation between farmers and Defra, which would lead to a much more accurate, functional and effective traceability system.

 

Industry has been engaged with at historic levels, but it would be nice to think Defra was taking on board our feedback a little better than George Eustice when it comes to Brexit.

 

To shrug off suggestions that sheep farming would suffer in a badly negotiated Brexit and that we could all simply switch to beef farming at the drop of a hat is either extremely naive or part of hard ball negotiation. But time will tell and it does little to build trust and confidence.

 

However, after four and a half years of attempts by Defra to rebuild a knowledge and skill base within Whitehall (which was eroded by years of contracting out agri-policy to the EU), it would be reasonable to expect that the sheep industry was valued by those in power, and not simply considered as dispensable.

 

Change is ahead for all of us and although I think sheep are in a positive position, it would be nice to go forward thinking that when we are engaged with, we are not simply listened to and then ignored.

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