Subscribe and save

Farmers Weekly from £127
Saving £36
In print AND tablet

SUBSCRIBE NOW

sub_ad_img
ALERT!
The Farmers Weekly forums are now closed to new comments. You can share your views with us on Twitter, on Facebook or by emailing farmers.weekly@rbi.co.uk. You can also see and share pictures on our galleries.

Forums

My Profile

old mcdonald

Forum Role: Participant

Topics Started: 47

Replies Created: 2847

Total likes: 0

http://www.oldmcdonaldsolives.com

An old peasant enjoying life in Portugal and slowing down, but I still put some time in 7 days a week, and no intentions of retiring.

Forum Replies Created

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 2,847 total)

  • Sort posts:

    #907917

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    They do exist. We moved to Portugal in 2003 but prior to that operated a free range egg business near Culbokie on the Black Isle north of Inverness (and I do not believe in the Loch Ness Monster). The following is an extract from a book that I might eventually publish. It is a rather lengthy explanation of sightings of a cat in 2001, but it is of sufficient detail for anyone with a serious interest in these sightings. I have removed the names of the other people involved.

    Over the 2000-01 winter we lost a few ducks, which we thought were killed either by a wildcat (seen late in the evening on a night we lost seven) or a pine marten.  One of these seven was taken and six others left dead.  A bite to the neck was always the cause, not the messy killing of a fox.  We had also had another predator that I found extremely hard to accept existed.  On the odd occasion I had seen animal tracks in the snow about 4 inches across, possibly more, but difficult to tell in snow if the animal had passed a few hours earlier.  I never saw any when it was wet and muddy despite looking, so I was unable to get a positive measurement and layout.  At first I dismissed them as probably the way the snow had been blown after a wildcat or marten had passed, but later began to wonder if there was something else about, although I said nothing to anyone.  Nobody ever believes you were sober if you mention the possibility of animals that do not normally live in your country.   Then right at the beginning of May we had a glorious spring day.  I was finishing off collecting the eggs (a rare treat for my wife) when I saw something in the rushes behind the house, about 100 yards away.  My wife had noticed a roe doe and her very young twins acting rather strangely the previous day, at the same time catching a glimpse of an animal moving close to the boundary, and had mentioned it to me, but she did not see sufficient to know what it was.  No mistakes this time though.  Lying sunning itself was a big cat.  We had binoculars and a small astronomical telescope, so got them and my wife and I were able to view it very easily from the house. We knew what we were looking at, but were unsure what it was called.  The reason for this is that it is known in different places as a Cougar, Puma or Mountain Lion, all the same thing so take your pick of the name. Now these cats simply are not native to Britain so, despite my suspicions of the previous winter, we were slightly surprised at it lying there.  Gun law security being strict, I had my gun cabinet so that it could only be accessed by ladder, and I was unable to put my .243 together and load it without the need to leave the house, go across open ground in view of the animal and back again with the necessary ladder.  I hesitated about attempting this, and tried to work out how I could get around the problem, but it was solved for me because after a few minutes the cougar stretched, yawned and walked back across our boundary. Neither the neighbour G**** N***** nor we had any need of a fence between us, so there were only a few remnants of posts and no physical barrier.   G**** and his wife had a little son who was prone to wander about, so I informed them.  Their two teenage daughters had apparently reported seeing the cat a couple of weeks previously, but their notion of its size had been dismissed by the parents as due to them being startled by it and misjudging - the usual reaction of people who have not seen the animal.  The next day one of the other neighbours, G****s sister in fact, telephoned at lunchtime and said she had just seen it crossing a nearby field and it was heading our way.  I had had only a short delivery run that morning so luckily was back home for lunch.  I knew I had a few minutes to get ready, so got out the shotgun as it was unlikely I would get a safe rifle shot, and moved into the area with the hen shelters closest to the way it would come in, about 40yards from the house, and waited.  My wife watched through the kitchen window.  I never saw the cat, but she saw it come out of a ditch, pick up a hen within about fifteen yards of me, and then go back the way it had come.  You have to admire something that can be that good a hunter.  It appeared that no other hens had seen it either because there was no reaction from any of them.  A fox would have rushed in, the other hens would have set up a racket, and hopefully I would have shot the culprit. We never saw it again, but when I mentioned it to M*** P******, a gamekeeper from about 15 miles away, he asked what colour it was.  On describing it as greyish to sandy, he said, Oh, most of the big cats in our area are black.  I subsequently discovered there have been many sightings of big cats in the Highlands, although only one definite report of an animal that was shot - about ten years previous to our sightings.  The local opinion was that, apart from three which allegedly escaped from the home of someone who had them as pets, a change in the law in 1976 had made it difficult for people to retain them without a great deal of expense in security enclosures, so they were merely dumped in a remote area, and presumably some of them bred.  If not, there had been more escapees or dumping because the time lag from the introduction of this Act was too long for sightings at this time to be of animals dumped in 1976, or at least they would be very geriatric, because other information I obtained, an article written by a keeper at Glasgow Zoo, is that most of these big cats live to a maximum age of about 15 to 17 years.   I am well aware that many so called experts dismiss these sightings as being in the imagination of those who only think they have seen such a beast, but there appeared to be some sort of official policy to deny that they existed in the Highlands, and I believe other parts of the UK too.  I have even seen a TV documentary especially made to show that there were none in Britain.  A very wild statement to make because it is impossible to prove such a thing.  Whether this is supposed to reassure the general populace, or so as not to affect tourism I do not know. I do know what I, my wife, and neighbours saw.  I am familiar with foxes, pine martens, wildcats, domestic cats, dogs, possums, several species of kangaroos, dingoes, wombats, feral goats, roe deer, red deer, otters, mink (the last two occasionally being seen a long way from water) and all farm animals.  Looking at this cat through a telescope and binoculars at such close range, we had positive identification.  I also have a great deal of respect for the likes of M*** P****** who spend their lives ever vigilant and watchful, and who are very familiar with all the animals one could find in their part of the world. These people are not likely to mistake a wild cat, pine marten or whatever for an exotic animal.

                                                            ------------------------------------------------------------------------


    The Glasgow Zookeeper's name is Paul Paterson and the article was in the form of a letter in "The Scottish Farmer" of 19th June 2004 and his view was that whilst these cats do exist in the UK there are not large numbers of them.


     

    #907921

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    I cannot speak for anyone else, but in my case this animal was killing my livestock therefore my livelihood was being affected. I have killed foxes and domestic dogs too that attacked my stock. A cat, particularly of a species that is alien to the country, is in the same category as any other predator. Non-farmers should be aware that farmers have a legal duty to maintain certain standards of welfare for farm animals and one of these is to keep their stock free from fear. A predator induces fear therefore the farmer has a duty to protect his stock. Failure to do so is punishable at law.  And just for the record, many sectors of farming, including hens, receive no subsidies. Someday a small child, or possibly a bigger person, will be attacked by one of these cats which sees the human as a food source.

    #907932

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Bloc - You are wrong. I am an Accountant. In case you think you are still correct please tell me how someone who has a free range egg business, and no other farming enterprises, was able to claim subsidies.


    Pussy Cat - Why ask the same question twice when it has already been answered. I wonder what you would do if some alien being was affecting your livelihood, and I assume you were joking in the early post when you suggested Britain should import all its food. Can you imagine Britain's "friends" around the world giving you cheap food when they know you MUST buy it.  


    Jacobus - I do not think anyone is claiming they exist in big numbers. I also reckon that some have been shot, but not everyone would like the publicity this would bring, and some people even think it would be illegal so say nothing.

    #907934

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    OK Pussy Cat you try obtaining subsidies for keeping free range hens on1.7 acres of land and let me know how much you make. I can tell you now - nothing. If it was all as simple as you make out do you not think that all the investors and their advisers would have jumped on the bandwaggon long ago, in which case you would have had your dream of no farmers left.


    As for your comment that I was writing rubbish, there is no need to be abusive, and yes, the killing of my hens was affecting my living. I had only hens to provide income. One dead is a financial loss, and of course that increases with every single hen lost. As I asked, what would you do under similar circumstances?

    #907945

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Pussy Cat, A follow-up message for you. It is too wet today to pick olives - my priority job for the next month or so, and since I recalled seeing this nonsense about 1.7 acres some time ago I did a wee bit of Googling.


    From your posts I have formed the opinion that you appear to be an intelligent person and I am sure you would be an asset to us European peasants if you only had the correct information. If you are interested in growing and/or eating organic food I am sure too that you have heard of Lawrence Hills the founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association (now called Garden Organic because most people interested in the organisation are now urban dwellers). Lawrence warns in one of his books "Comfrey, Past Present and Future" about people taking references from the end of other people's papers. In other words merely repeating things. Your Google search with the word Subsidies and the phrase "1.7 acres" will show you that this myth was perpetuated by a few people in and around March 2007. Not sure who started it, but possibly The Times on-line.  The articles give a quote from George Paton of WebbPaton. Underneath The Times article are quotes from 23 people including one from George Paton himself who describes the article as fiction. Unfortunately not many people, including some who posted after Mr Paton, appear to have read what he said.


    I might not convince you that I believe in killing predators that attack my stock (apart from the legal duty of protecting them I also actually like my animals otherwise I would not keep them). But I do hope I have convinced you on the myth of the supposed millions to be made from renting 1.7 acres. I remembered the amount because it is rather an odd one - close to 0.69 ha and not a figure that some Brussels bureaucrat is likely to come up with. As I said, you appear to be intelligent, and I think you would benefit too from reading Lawrence Hills' works. BTW I do now receive some subsidy, approximately 11 per year for each of the breeding goats I have. 10 last year and 16 this. If you are a taxpayer, thank you for your small contribution towards their feed. I have a feeling that goat keepers in the UK do not receive any subsidy for their goats, but I could be wrong.

    #907938

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    I had hoped to avoid using figures Pussy Cat, and concentrate on the duties and desires of me properly caring for my livestock - and their right to live instead of being under threat from an alien species. However if you want to discuss the economics of predator losses I will do so. I feel I have hi-jacked this topic, but the economic consequences of predators apply equally to those who keep sheep, goats, camelids and even cattle when a predator is big enough to kill a young calf, so I hope that farmers with these livestock accept my principles of losses are the same for them and do not mind me explaining it.  I like your pun of putting all my eggs in one basket, but the first thing to learn about farming is that you cannot always do what you want to do. 4 or 500 hectares in Southern England gives you a lot of choices. The same amount in the Welsh hills, Lake District or Scottish Highlands and your choices are limited. My 22 acres of regrowth scrub birch, gorse and rushes on what had once been a pine plantation gave me even less scope, but I could not afford any better. It was not fit for grazing stock, although it could have carried maybe 10 Blackface ewes with some bought in feed. Note that this was NOT a hobby for me, but my grocery and other living expenses income, and I am sure your suggestion of a tourist business was very tongue in cheek. We did keep a few bees and grew some mushrooms, but hens were about 95% of the business. I assume you have a mis-type in your figures for costs and income. Fortunately your losses at 10% per month are also way too high. We are talking 2001 figures, which is when I had the problem. We paid around 3-50 for young pullets a few weeks before they were due to commence laying, feed costs adding about 1-50 to give 5 at point of lay. We sold them after 11 months laying for 50p to people who kept them for their own use and got perhaps another 2 years out of them. After about 45 weeks in lay the egg quality deteriorates and too many would be rejected because they failed to reach the standard we set for Old McDonalds Free Range Eggs.  I did keep extremely precise financial records and had to submit a monthly return of the numbers of birds on the property to the Ag Dept. Variable costs feed, marketing expenses, packaging etc. was about 1 per hen per month. Fixed costs were about the same per hen originally housed. We did not have fancy big sheds, but small mobile night shelters on cheap land so our fixed costs were low. Monthly income from egg sales averaged about 2-50 per hen, but we will allow 3 per month to keep the figures simple. We will also assume there is only one predator that eats at McDonalds about once a week, having four chicken dinners per month from the notional flock of 200 at the beginning. We will not confuse things by deciding exactly when in the month these dinners are taken.  On these (close to actual) figures the first month gives an income of 500 with costs of 400. A reasonable return for the capital invested and work involved. But, at the end of the month there are only 196 hens and 20 in free dinners to the predator. The second month egg returns are down to 490. Variable costs are also down by 2 reflecting the saving in feed costs on the 4 dead hens. Fixed costs remain the same. Surplus income over costs is then only 92 against the previous months 100. Another 20 goes in hen losses. You can see how this accumulates over the next few months, and by the 10th month 40 hens have been lost, albeit at a decreasing value, egg income is down to 400, fixed costs are still the same and the saving in feed is 20. This makes the surplus 20 for the month. The final month is even worse, of course, but with the benefit of 78 from the sale of the remaining 156 hens. I then have to fork out  700 to buy 200 replacement pullets and another 300 for feed before anything is returned. Without predation the profit from hens on our system was not too bad. Imagine the costs of a predator taking a breeding ewe or lamb even once a month, and the loss of a calf is much worse. The fixed costs of the business have to be spread over a reduced number of stock and this reduces any profit margin on individual animals sold. Stock losses have a big financial impact on any business, but with egg production it has the further problem that customers cannot be supplied. A drop of 20% in supplies means lost customers that are unlikely to return if you have failed them once. A hotel cannot tell its guests there are no eggs for breakfast because Old McDonald has lost hens to a predator. They buy from someone else, and who can blame them. I know you are not convinced that I needed to kill predators, and never will be, but I still wonder what you would do in the same circumstances. We conceded defeat the following year when we lost an average of more than one per day, and moved to Portugal. This predation was by foxes though, not big cats. Foxes leave evidence like feathers and headless corpses. Hunting with dogs (carried out more than you might think in areas without packs of foxhounds and people on horseback) had been banned in Scotland by then and there was a big increase in the number of foxes sighted but that is another story. 

     

    #905395

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Everything will never be OK no matter what happens, but England owes a lot more to Scotland than Scotland will ever owe to England. My mother was in Northumberland when I was born, but  obviously my ancestry is Scottish (and should anyone doubt it I have a family tree going a long way back) and I think I can view things dispassionately since I moved from the BLack Isle to Portugal nearly six years ago.


    Think of all the Scottish inventors and how they have made life so much easier for the rest of the world. Just imagine if Royalties were being paid for these. Exports - Glenmorangie probably brings home more than Westminster could ever offer, and add all the other distilleries to that. I remember maybe 40 years ago that some sort of official figures came up with numbers that showed store lambs sent south of the border exceeded the value of all Scotland's imports and assistance from England. Even the famous Man U needs a Scotsman at the helm. Don't argue, you needed Matt Busby to get you into the top flight long ago. I could go on, but think it is not necessary.

    #905414

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Of course I take it personally Jacobus. You ask me not to, then make several incorrect assumptions followed by totally unfounded accusations against me on a personal basis. My post is not what you perceive it to be, so I am not surprised it is beyond your comprehension, even if I was not as eloquent as I could have been the perils of typing quickly whilst thinking. Nowhere did I say that I favoured Independence. I think it would be detrimental to all countries in the UK if it did happen. I was opposed to the creation of a separate Scottish Parliament because I considered it an unnecessary expense. I am now not so sure that I was right. My passport states I am a British citizen and I have no argument about that. I always state my nationality as British and I am also a strong supporter of the British Monarchy. Better than the enormous cost of electing and maintaining a President. I made the point that despite my name (and I am proud of my Clan Donald ancestry on the male side) I am not Scottish born. I did this precisely so that I could not be accused of leaving my homeland and claiming to support Nationalism. I am well aware of the criticism levelled at Sir Sean and had him in mind when I did this. At the same time I see no reason why he cannot pass comment on Scottish matters. You do, yet you do not live there either, and at best your connection with the country must be very tenuous. Despite my specifically pointing this out you make snide remarks about me liking Scotland so much that I live elsewhere. Then you accuse me of obviously suffering pangs of guilt for not living in Scotland. I lived in Australia for longer than I lived in Scotland, and have no guilt about not living there either. I can still have views on what happens in both countries as I can about England where I also lived, and for much longer than I lived in Scotland. We moved to Scotland from Australia for our sons senior school education. Our enquiries about systems led us to believe Scotland would suit him better than any other country. I think we were right. He is now 25 years old and in the last days of a PhD (at Keele) having previously gained an Honours Masters in Astrophysics at St Andrews followed by a Post Graduate Masters in Radio Astronomy at Manchester/Jodrell Bank. Next you accuse me of wanting preferential treatment for Scottish inventors. I accept that my phraseology was not ideal, but I merely wanted to convey the idea, hence the use of the word imagine, of the notion that Royalties were continually paid on inventions. No request for preference for any country. The mention of whisky, Glenmorangie being the biggest single malt seller I believe, and store lambs (yes we all know that they are sold and not given free) was to indicate two areas of Scotlands export capacity because of the typical to use your word, English view that England, via the British government, financially supports Scotland through handouts to let it provide services and import goods that it otherwise could not afford. I gain this impression from similar debates I have seen, but not participated in, regarding Independence.  I do not know what the present situation is on stock sales or any other commodity, but I would be extremely surprised to learn that Scotland needs England to support it. I do not consider the use of the word sent to be odd. It is one I was brought up to use in reference to moving livestock off the farm, e.g. sent to the mart, sent to FMC, sent to anywhere. It is not supposed to indicate that I am reluctant to sell them to any particular buyer or that they are given away. Why should you think there would be riots if Rangers or Celtic appointed an English manager? Your suggestion that Scots people would actually begin rioting over such a thing is again typical of the sort of thing people in England say about Scotland. In fact I have heard equally disparaging remarks from people down South about fellow Englishmen who live in the more northerly counties. I do not follow football much either but Man U has been a high profile institution for about the last 50 years that I recall and held up as the pinnacle of Englishness. I am sure Scottish clubs also appoint the best man for the job. I do not know their nationalities, but if they all happen to be Scotsmen then so be it. Unlike me? You have wrongly assumed, as pointed out above, that I favoured Independence, despite never having even hinted at it. What I did was make a few suggestions that Scotland has in the past given, and will probably in the future give, more to England than England gives to Scotland. I had expected some banter back about inventions, exports and sportsmen, plus some extras, where England has helped Scotland. I did not expect false personal accusations. HATE?  Why do English people again typically use this word about relationships between the two countries, and I see someone else has already taken you to task about the use of the word.  There was absolutely nothing in my post that even remotely suggested I had any ill-feelings towards English people. How could you possibly read any hint of something as abhorrent as hatred of a whole countrys nationals in what I wrote?  That would be absurd given the birthplace of myself, all my close relatives and my wife and her family. Then you guess that I hold a grudge against people with the name Campbell. I know only one man of that name and I like him.  All in all you were quite insulting in assuming what I think, so of course I took it personally.

     

    #907823

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Rhino, What hard evidence do you want?  Some of us who have seen them (OK I have only seen one in the UK and it was not black - read my post on the sighting) are not "just another bloke in the street".  I heard last week from a lady about 40 years old and who has spent a lot of time in the countryside and saw an otter for the first time in her life. How many other people wandering around the countryside have never seen one. I bet you believe they exist. I did see two black ones when I farmed in Australia.


    Not Big Cats but to put things in perspective to show how things may remain hidden, there was a small aeroplane with 2 people on board took off from Inverness heading for; I think Stornoway, but somewhere in the Western Isles anyhow about 8 years ago. Air Traffic control lost it after about half an hour. Obviously there was an enormous search carried out but the plane was not found. Naturally it was somewhat larger than a BIg Cat and remained static after it crashed so should have been easy enough to find. I think it was somewhat over a year, possibly longer, before someone found it. How much easier for something that does not want to be found.


     

    #907956

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Jacobus, you really are an obnoxious sort of a person. Let me hazard what your legal mind might call an informed guess as to what you are - white, male, English, reasonably well educated, probaly a college or university qualification, and not too difficult a life given the times of the day when you post.


    You began the thread about Scottish Nationalism to indulge in one of your favoured pastimes of "Scotland bashing" and were very abusive and insulting to me on a personal level when you thought I was a Scottish Nationalist, but attempted to mollify what you had written when I pointed out your error. Now you call me a liar. Not just me, but my wife (an insult that in my book demands satisfaction or the most humble of apologies from you to her should we ever meet) a lovely neighbour since deceased, and all the other people who have seen big cats in the wild in Britain. None of us are saying that there are big numbers, and few claim even a breeding population, but they are there. You do not know of my travels, work, research, knowledge of animal species, interests or qualifications. I have seen only one wild "Big Cat" in the UK, and I posted details earlier in the thread. I would guess that it was shot not too long afterwards, because its visits to my hens ceased. I even have a suspicion who might have shot it, but that person would deny it.  Many people do not want the publicity that goes with killing these creatures, and some even think it would be illegal to do so. I do not think I would have boasted about it myself if I had shot it. Probably kept it quiet in fact. Not a lot of folks want Andy Warhol's "10 minutes of fame"? 

    How many of the following have you seen in the wild in the last 5 years? Goldcrest, Osprey, Capercaillie, Wild Cat, Red Stag, Wild Goat, Corncrake, Bee Eater, Grayling, Sturgeon, Pine Marten, Adder, Salamander.  They are all there and if you have seen them then there is still hope that someday you will be in the right place to also see a big cat. If not, then you are in no position to deny the existence of any creature in the wild in Britain bonnie lad.  

     

    #901864

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Matty, Not many gadgies on this fourm will knaa what a marra is!

    #901667

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    What sort of yield did you get with the hemp? I am curious as to why certified organic farmers are giving up the certified status. I looked at it prior to moving here but decided the restrictions were too severe - particularly relating to the ability to maintain good levels of trace elements in the soil, deworming and feeding minerals to stock, and wondered whether that was causing other people to give up certification. Certification costs were quite high too.


    We had a property between Bingara and Narrabri on the NW slopes of NSW.

    #901866

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    jimc, Matty has not come back so....... it is originally a Northumbrian mining area word for someone who works alongside you. I suppose Mate was the non-dialect English equivalent. The word has obviously spread 6 or 8 miles (guessing a wee bit) to where young Matty lives. Father was a pitman so I tend to use a few of his words. My birth certificate gives his occupation as Colliery Timber Drawer - after the coal had been taken out his job was to knock out the timber props supporting the roof so that it collapsed and did not allow a build up of flammable gasses in the old seams. He worked permanent night shift of course, 25 years, so that he could run the smallholding during the day. He died young. Hard work is not always good for you! 


    How young are all you blokes anyway? I still spread muck by hand, and so do all my neighbours, most of them using donkey carts to get it to their little plots, although I have a tractor and link box. The donkeys, occasionally mules, do most of the cultivation work and they have quite effective single furrow reversible ploughs. One mouldboard and it swings over to turn the furrow left or right. I tried one a while ago with a big donkey and was impressed.

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    Peregrine, I started another thread a few days ago about Miscanthus, Hemp, Soybeans and Organic Farming precisely because I keep reading exactly the sort of thing you have posted. If you have first hand knowledge of someone growing the crop - not what Honda or BICAL publish, perhaps you would be good enough to respond to my questions on that thread.

    #907990

    old mcdonald

    Participant

    That is just about the most elegant piece of writing I have seen come out of the USA, although your new President also speaks extremely well. Do you write the speeches for him?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 2,847 total)

Explore