Sunday, 18 July 2010

Take the rope down and return the wobbly chair to its rightful position .......

I am an emotional man. I cry easily and laugh at anything. The problem with this is that - as (the legend that is) Ronan Keating once said - “Life is a Rollercoaster”. Having been exposed to the wonders of the dairy industry and the phenomenon of share milking - I was down - not “valium / noose and wobbly chair” down but down nonetheless. Share milking is a young man’s game. I felt like I’d seen it 20 years too late. I’m 41 and only have a hobby.

Friday was free - no meetings - which, given my Calvinism induced guilt complex, was really worrying me. I happened to get a name of a Wiltshire breeder from a man that helps run the breeding value recording programme (SIL) and managed to visit the breeder and his wife near Darfield (40km from Christchurch) to subdue my self flagellation. My expectations weren’t high but I am obsessed with Wiltshires (its so wrong, yet feels so right) and I needed out.

The visit turned out to be a revelation. Not only were their Wilthires actually really good sheep, they were first generation farmers. Not only were they first generation but Steven had started when he was 37 - that’s later than I did. Now in semi-retirement they had made something really significant from not a lot. A 750 acre farm, 2,300 ewes, 1,000 hoggets and 70 finishing bulls. Literally every square metre was improved and used to its full potential. They grazed goats in the gullys to clear gorse. Over winter they would move a half hectare electic fenced paddock every day to maximise grass usage, fertility transfer and regrowth. Their costs were very low, but they never skimped on fertiliser. They were a team and had obviously enjoyed their journey together immensely. They had bought their farm and bred good sheep. They were happy with what they had achieved but humble too. They may not have had equity of $15 to 20 million but they were as successful as the dairy guys I’d met a couple of days earlier - they had achieved their goals together in a far less profitable sector.

Its still possible to skin the farm cat, you just have to adjust your method when you get older (these analogies still aren’t cutting it are they?).

PS. Obscure sheep photo is of Landmark ewes - a synthetic (NB not a composite! - there is a difference) bred from the government's own flock. I will tell you more soon .... don't get too excited!

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