21 December 2001

With a little care calamities wont spoil festivities

By Hannah Velten

WHY do things go wrong over the festive period when you should be opening your presents or are desperate to snuggle up with the Sound of Music?

We asked our Farmer Focus contributors to come up with their best – or worst – Christmas mishaps. We have also come up with a few pre-season checks which may help prevent late dinners and frayed tempers this year.

"At 4.15pm, just as the first set of milking units went on, we had a power cut. Father had only suggested the week before that we should try the generator.

"After unseizing the pto shaft, we managed to get the generator going only for it to cut out after about 10 minutes. I eventually phoned my brother as I knew his father-in-law, who conveniently is an electrician, was there for his Christmas lunch. We finally came in from milking at 8pm and the power came back at 8.15pm."

Chris Knowles

"One Christmas Eve at 4am, the chain in my automatic scraper broke. It was impossible to get parts, so we had to scrape passages by hand for three days. It was one way of working off the Xmas dinner.

"Another Christmas, we had a heavy fall of snow, followed by severe frosts for 4-5 days. The kids were delighted. But all the water pipes froze, so we had to draw water in barrels from the house for all the animals.

"Our cows arent due to calve until early February, but six years ago, one cow started springing over Christmas. She calved on Dec 28 and had a small, alive heifer calf. So we had to milk one cow and feed one calf for the whole month of January. I was not impressed."

Richard Hinchion

"One New Years morning, I arrived at the farm to find everything frozen solid. There was no water and the milking pipes had to be thawed out with a blow lamp and hair drier. Then, when I finally managed to get the scraper tractor started it did half a length of the cubicle shed before the diesel froze. Dad and I finished milking at lunchtime."

Mike Allwood

"Due to a mistake with sponging dates, we were inundated with lambs on Christmas and Boxing Day. There are other places I would rather be over the Christmas period than in the lambing shed.

"In a different year, on a crisp Christmas morning, a heifer in season went on an unscheduled search of a mate. Unfortunately, she got into a river and was neck high in water. The only way we could get the frightened animal to move was for me to go into the freezing water after her. I was ready for a wee warmer and my Christmas dinner after that little episode." &#42

Alan Montgomery

Late lunch… Mike Allwood now ensures he has winter grade diesel in the tank for the holiday period, after his tractor stopped one year.

&#8226 Check generator capacity can cope with all essential electrical equipment. Does it run, without fail, after 15 mins?

&#8226 Is vital machinery and equipment in good condition, does it need servicing or new parts?

&#8226 Do any water pipes need lagging to prevent freezing?

&#8226 Is there enough stock feed, bedding and medicines to last?

&#8226 Check fencing in paddocks to stop great escapes.

&#8226 Order winter grade diesel.

&#8226 Refuel tractors, load trailers with hay/silage/straw bales and measure out feed in advance to give more time for festivities.