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Good Evans: Happily going along with harrow dangling mid air

This month Roger Evans tells us how he coped with a visit from his bank manager, and how the press button technology on his new tractor is somewhat getting the better of him.

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I spent the day at the South West Dairy Show signing books. Even sold a book to the editor of Dairy Farmer! I went to the Dairy Day at Telford as well. Both visitors and exhibitors seemed to like that event which was well supported.


Which makes me wonder what will happen to the Livestock Event at the NEC. Exhibitors will make choices about what they attend and what they will spend, so what will happen next? I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t help thinking there must have been a fall out somewhere.


People knew I would be at Shepton Mallet and I was taken aback by the number of people who came to say ‘hello’ and how much I had made them laugh over the years. I’ve always felt able to laugh at myself and to share the laughs with you. It’s all a part of my philosophy of not letting the buggers beat you, not letting what goes wrong grind you down.


There’s lots can go wrong each and every day. But to my mind, the ability to cope with setbacks is what makes dairy farmers so special and I’ve always been proud to be one of you.


But even I am stretched to find a funny side to the headlong plunge in milk prices. Twelve months ago I had a new bank manager, not met her, but spoken to her on the phone. She has always seemed preoccupied with something she calls ‘excess on your account’.


Anyway she calls last week for what they call their annual assessment. She brings her boss with her, never a good sign, but everything seems to be ok-ish, and he tells me to keep in touch with the lady bank manager should there be any problems. He tells me, with a smile, that she is much better looking than he is, but I’d already spotted that.


We’d done quite detailed budgets for the occasion, which is what they like, but later that day I get an email from my milk buyer saying there will be a further 1 pence per litre drop in my milk price. So the accuracy of my forecast to the bank didn’t last 24 hours. They take a lot of effort to explain to me what is happening to the world market for dairy produce which I already know, but they never explain why they are about 3ppl less than everyone else. There will be a day in the future when food will be too precious to allow this sort of volatility to jeopardise its production. I might not see it but I hope most of you will.


It’s the last week of that lovely spell of dry weather and we all seem to be busy putting the last of the winter corn in. Because of how the land rolls around here you can see most of your neighbours at work and what they are doing. I’m listening to a local radio station and their topic of the day is what to do with your vehicle tax disc holder now that you don’t need a tax disc. No big deal, I haven’t bothered to tax the tractor for years. What was the point of sending off for a disc that says you don’t need to tax a tractor when everyone knows tractors are exempt? It’s all unnecessary red tape. Come to think about it I never used to tax the tractors even when you had to pay, but that’s best kept quiet.


Anyway, in the pub on Thursday night, farmer’s night, there’s six of us around the table and it turns out we had all been on tractors that day listening to the same programme. In reality most had been on tractors all week while I’d only done a couple of hours that afternoon, but they don’t know that. It was a week I should have spent on the tractor, but I had a lot of other stuff on.


Stephen who works with me isn’t going to tell them what’s been happening as we have a sort of unwritten truce that we won’t relate tractor driving cock-ups about each other in the pub. We bought a new (to us) tractor last year and Stephen can set it up with the power harrow so that I press a button and it switches the PTO on and drops the harrow into the ground at a preset depth. When you get to the end of the field you press another button and it lifts up and switches the PTO off.


Last year I was harrowing and he was drilling next to me and I went the length of a long field, slowly and sedately, with the harrow in the air as I’d forgotten to push the button. Stephen doesn’t make cock-ups like that so I can’t really say it was him. Mind you, this automatic set up is not all it’s cracked up to be, as if I get off for a pee it all has to be reset anyhow.


But back to the pub. Turns out we’d all been tuned in to the redundant licence holder stuff, and one farmer says he is going to put a photo of his wife in his and then he can be sure no one will ever steal his car. He thinks this is very funny but I see his wife in the village the next day and I tell her what he said so he finds out the hard way that it’s not so funny after all.


It’s all a lot of fuss about nothing anyway as far as I can tell as most people around here haven’t bothered to tax their vehicles for years!

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