Monday, 20 June 2011

Messing About on Salisbury Plain ...


Its tricky writing about Tim White.  He is a follower of this blog, a great supporter and leaves rude comments whenever he feels aggrieved enough.  He is the closest thing to me I know on the farming ladder ... obsessed by sheep, has a love-hate relationship with Wiltshire Horns, seasonal lets only, started with little.  Just he’s a bit more professional and focused.  One of the driving forces behind Sheep Improved Genetics Ltd, he’s breeding wool shedding sheep in cooperation with other large sheep producers, recording everything, developing genetics, selling well.
I arrive just in time for music night in Maiden Bradley’s only pub.  People come from miles around to sing songs I’ve never heard.  Tim is on banjo and I’m on Guiness Extra Cold. Everyone is really good.  I once played the guitar and made people sing along on the understanding they had to pause for a while as I performed the tricky feet of changing chords. I don’t think I’d have fitted in playing the first verse of Leaving on a Jet Plane over a 15 minute period.
Over the next couple of days I see Tim’s sheep.  A lot of them are on Salisbury Plain.  Its poor stuff with no fences and a few tanks.  “Fields” all have to be electric fenced.  It strikes me the few first generation sheep farmers in this country might have good ideas and breed decent sheep but the system is such that we have to take the stuff no one else wants.  Tim has some good grass too but still has to be off it at short notice if the landlord needs use of it.  Enthusiasm and passion are his greatest tools.
Wool shedding hoggs with their lambs - I was jealous
There is an open day on wool shedding sheep that Tim is hosting.  EBLEX are involved and I am reminded that I wish they did Scotland too.  I talk to Liz Genever about grass.  She is behind the Grass Watch initiative and is developing really good information for sheep and beef producers, centering on rotational grazing.  I get so excited about it I start rubbing my thighs like Vic Reeves ... Liz retreats quite quickly at this point, but never turns her back.  I do manage to tell her about Cambodia ... everyone has to know - its compulsory.

"My lambs are this big at 8 weeks" Tim White converts more unbelievers

I leave Tim and his lovely family.  I wonder what the answer is.  A progressive shepherd with so much passion for his trade.  Where is the next rung for him?  I have seen a lot, observed a lot, written a lot ... but what advice can I offer Tim?  It comes as a shock to me that - after this long journey of discovery that with the report deadline just over a month away - I don’t have anything juicy to give him ... I don’t have the answer.  People like Tim deserve a break, an opportunity.  I squeeze into the camp hire car more sheepish than wolfish.  I still haven’t found what I’m looking for as I let go of the handbrake and head for Norfolk.

2 comments:

Westy said...

Did Tim White used to be in Jethro Tull perchance?

julesandtim said...

Jethro Tull?---Afraid not, however there were rumours he played with the Grateful Dead at some stage----