If laughter is the best medicine then – on the face of it – farming looks set to experience a severe shortage of medicine this winter.
You could be forgiven for thinking there was not much to laugh about at the moment. When you consider that nearly every sector of farming is on its knees, it might not be too long before gallows humour is all that’s left for us. You will be relieved to learn that I won’t be making any feeble attempt at gallows humour… yet!
I was recently asked, along with many others, to submit stories, jokes and anecdotes about farming to be included in a book to raise money for the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI). There were no losers here, only winners. Everyone who buys the book gets some of the best medicine available and some genuinely in-need farming folk get a bit of help.
It did brighten up my day when received a copy of the book, Farming is a funny business – it lifted the gloom.
See also: EBVs are great, but buyers don’t care
Neale McQuistin is an upland beef and sheep farmer in south-west Scotland. He farms 365ha in partnership with his wife, Janet, much of which is under stewardship for wildlife.
It was only after dipping into the stories in the book and having a laugh that I recalled something that happened in our sheep pens a few years ago. Fate, some sheep and a lady vet with a quick wit all collided to create a situation with humour where you did not expect to find it.
I will warn you that the following contains adult content and should probably only be read after nine o’clock.
On this particular day we were due a periodic maedi visna blood test on our flock of Beltex ewes. This involves the vet drawing blood from a percentage of the flock to be sent off for analysis.
It’s a task that really needs three people to make the process run smoothly. On this occasion it was a lady vet that arrived to take the blood and her outdoors was also there to help.
We settled into a routine where I grabbed the next sheep coming up the race and held it while the vet took the blood sample from its neck. I then read the ewe’s tag and called the “year letter” and the ewe’s pedigree number to her outdoors, who wrote the age and the number of the ewe down on a sheet of paper.
As I was calling out numbers I mentioned to the vet that I had been asked to be the bingo caller at a fundraising night for our local secondary school. “Best get some practice in now with the nicknames for the numbers”, she said.
This was when fate took over, when you consider there were 140 ewes coming up the race at random.
I knew very few bingo number nicknames, but by chance the next ewe up the race was J-88. “Two fat ladies J-88” I called out; much to the girls’ amusement. “Maggie’s den L-10” was next, which raised another laugh. However, the giggles turned into an awkward snigger when the next ewe turned out to be K69.
Not knowing the correct bingo nickname for that particular number, I decided not to risk it – a double entendre seemed almost inevitable. I simply called out K69.
As fate would have it, the next ewe that appeared was L69. The vet gave a wry wee smile and said, “It looks like they’ve come together”.
I blushed and pretended I hadn’t heard her.
Let’s hope we continue to get plenty of medicine and farming begins to start feeling better in the new year.