This month, Roger Evans tells us why he had to take his sheepdog to the vets, how he continues to get enquiries about the Milk Marque residual funds, and why he has come to the conclusion they breed ‘em tough in the Welsh borderlands.
When Milk Marque was wound up there was a considerable sum of money left over, and this could not be distributed to members because, as I understood it at the time, there was a large deficit in the pension pot, and that’s where the money would have had to go and dairy farmers would have received nothing.
It was therefore decided to invest the money on those dairy farmers’ behalf. The money was invested in an organic food company. Several times every year since then, people have contacted me about that investment, and even last week someone enquired. I have to say I had absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
Onto other matters, and I’m quite intrigued by the concept of buying coats for calves. Sometimes people think I’m having a go at something but I’m not, I’m just discussing things. It would seem to me the concept itself would have very clear advantages, so clear there would be a lot of logic to it.
A young calf will probably grow faster then than at any other time of its life. And if the calf is cold, because of the weather, it will divert calories from growth develop-ment to the section that keeps it warm, to the obvious detriment of growth.
It’s the very concept of a coat that is an issue here. About six months ago we decided on this farm we would be better off putting milk in to the beef cross calves we sell than putting that milk into the tank and selling it. What a terrible thing to have to say. It’s a sad indictment of where we are as an industry, but there you are.
So we’ve been letting these calves suckle cows until we sell them. And if you’ve had a five-week-old British Blue bull calf to sell lately, it would appear to be the right decision.
But I’ve noticed when I get to market, our calves have a lot more hair on their coats than other calves of the same age. My conclusion is that our calves are reared under colder, more robust conditions, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference to the price. In fact, if it’s a cold day at the market, our calves seem to make a bit more.
I can remember when we kept sheep we would put little plastic jackets on the lambs before we turned them out. And a couple of years ago I took my sheepdog to be castrated. He wasn’t best pleased about it, but come spring, when he had thoughts of a carnal nature, he would go wandering off, and I was worried he would get run over. So I was really trying to save his life but
I’m not sure he could see that. When we went into the waiting room at the vets it was full of dogs, but he was the only one that didn’t have a jacket on. Come to that, he didn’t have a collar on either.
When I first started going to agricultural shows, most Jersey cows would have coats on. These shows are invariably in summer but there they were with coats on.
Putting a coat on a Jersey cow in the summer did a huge disservice to the breed. I remember we used to smile indulgently at them and assume, probably correctly, these cows belonged to ’toffs’, who didn’t need to make any money out of them but that they were a bit of a hobby, a bit of an interest.
It was something that probably held the breed back for years and years because time has proved that the Jersey is a robust, feisty little cow that is well able to look after itself in all sorts of scenarios of cow keeping. It will survive and flourish in huge herds, it is probably the breed of first choice in crossbreeding, and if it is wintered outside it will grow a thick matted coat that will see it through the most adverse conditions.
Then there’s coats for humans. My son David sets the standards here, because he rarely wears one. Most days in winter he just wears overalls for milking, but if he has them on during the rest of the day, then you know it is really cold. When we had that very cold winter a couple or three years ago, he would spend the rest of the day on the yard trying to start the tractors when it was -12, just wearing his T-shirt.
I used to watch him completely bemused by it all. I used to wonder if his thermostat had got stuck.
Then there’s my eldest grandson Rhys, going about his jobs scraping and feeding, just wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Shorts!
I sometimes take my daughter’s children to school. It can be cold and wet, but the boy refuses to put a coat or pullover. When I take him in to school I point out the other children to him. "Look Dave, these other children have got their coats on."
"They aren’t farmers like me, farmers are hard." And he was only 7!
I admit I do wear a T-shirt in winter, but there’s a shirt and pullover on top of it. Sometimes there’s a coat on top of that too, but I have to be careful. Round here, apparently, coats are for wimps!