Taking time to look back on the ups and downs of 2004


“Doing our own impression of sheep, we are going to be led by DEFRA into signing up to farm assurance. They appear to be taking part of next year’s sheep premium and reallocating it to farm-assured flocks.” Bill and Jonathan Metcalf Jan 9

“We turned our attention to the paperwork and it soon became clear that Quality Meat Scotland had installed a new red tape machine.” Wilbert Girvan Feb 6

“My New Year’s wish is for a scheme which focuses on the important points, culling the trivia, thus allowing more time to examine our businesses thouroughly, giving greater assurance and better returns – if only.” Alan Montgomery Jan 9

“Reaction to last month’s comments about our Farm Quality Assurance Scheme inspection came from an unexpected quarter. Concern from the mainland drew the attention of the scheme’s manager to my negative remarks; I received a phone call from him.” Alan Montgomery Feb 6

“I wonder whether it is safe to assume that, as there won’t be any SAPs to fill in next year, being farm assured may form part of cross-compliance.” Alistair Mackintosh Jan 23

“Tesco’s store manager appeared a little nervous, but he need not have worried. He was, however, a little embarrassed when listening to Tesco Northern Ireland pledge to stock only NI fresh meat. We discovered several packs in the chill room with a Scottish logo. Alan Montgomery Dec 10


“Over Christmas I took part in New Labour’s big conversation… I relayed all my worries about rural crime in our area… Unfortunately, I have to report that this has been a completely one-sided conversation.” Murray Garrett Jan 30

“It was good to see John Yeomans, a previous Farmer Focus contributor, again, with his suggestion of blood testing politicians and disposing of those that came back as unsatisfactory having definite appeal. “Again, rather like politicians, quite often a Swaledale can be well presented, but once the mouth is opened you know it will disappoint.” Bill and Jonathan Metcalf Oct 15

“A recent visit from the dairy hygiene inspector revealed an interesting take on the sector. In response to the falling number of producers, far from reducing the number of inspectors, it is suggested the number of visits to each farm be increased to maintain their employment.” William Slinger Nov 19

“A special mention must go to Margaret and Tony who have given so much material over the years, unfortunately mainly negative.” John Yeomans Mar 19

“Ahoy there. If the 2004 Eurostat Yearbook is to be believed, this comes to you from the middle of the Irish Sea. Just like Tony Blair, the technocrats in Brussels are finding it difficult to apologise for the cock up that resulted in Wales being airbrushed off the EU map.” Neville and Margaret Stacey Oct 29

“I feel sorry for my friends south of the border who have been shafted by Margaret Beckett’s version of fair play. It is strange that a small nation like ours still manages to be called the UK with so many solutions to a single problem.” Wibert Girvan Apr 2

“Trawling through the national papers, I am pleased to see parliament has finally legitimised the part we livestock producers play in the country’s economy. I was always worried that my gambling on earning a living from suckler cows was at best ill advised and at worst worthy of a custodial sentence.” Murray Garrett Nov 5

“BCMS does seem to have improved and appears to run fairly smoothly. No doubt a new system or computer will soon be introduced to change all that.” Bill and Jonathan Metcalf Dec 10


“We have left straw bales at field edges to be rolled in for cows. Thankfully, they are mostly 1.2m bales and fairly dry. I did try to roll a 1.5m bale over and couldn’t understand why I was getting nowhere. It was probably because I couldn’t see the cow pushing on the other side of the bale.” Clyde Jones Jan 9

“Margaret announced she’s bought me a goat for Christmas. My jaw dropped and I was in the process of saying What do I want a goat for?” when she stopped me by saying it’s going to Africa where a farmer will be pleased to receive it. We just hope it milks and breeds well.” Neville and Margaret Stacey Nov 26

“For us, most cows will be back in calf and the drudgery of winter yard work will be replaced by the sight of a herd in full milk. Grazing with the same enthusiasm that my wife shows for the January sales.” Michael Scully Feb 13

“Regular readers may have begun to doubt my credentials, with talk of wallpapering and having been spotted on the school run. But rest easy, my wife has successfully redecorated the kitchen. My only contribution was a little wiring and technical advice, which was sharply declined.” Richard Thomas Feb 13

“…I have now added my daughter Jessica to the list of morning mouths to feed. “My reconstituting of formula milk has been thoroughly scrutinised in preparation for this delegation. Unfortunately, my usual level of hygiene, quite adequate in the lambing shed, has met with a fair degree of criticism – and I thought the dairy inspector was meticulous.” Murray Garrett Mar 26

“We have just lambed our second bunch of Charollais ewes, which I ran with a Suffolk and a Charollais. But I can only assume the French one found a secret supply of Viagra, as out of 120 ewes we have no more than 20 Suffolk lambs.” Toby Ansdell Apr 23

“The annual ovine orgy is now under way and lambing should start on Apr 1. Who is the April fool, yet again?” Wilbert Girvan Nov 12

“I see from the TV programme Jimmy’s Farm, that I am getting it all wrong. The way to keep pigs now is not to source specially-bred outdoor lines from a single supplier, but to assemble a herd of rare breeds from anywhere. Then get a disease breakdown.” Chris Fogden July 2

“We left the showground in the middle of a downpour to the sound of Tom Jones belting out Delilah ably assisted by many young people who were also doing their best to support the malting barley growers.” Neville and Margaret Stacey Aug 6

“Our delinquent terrier has taken to exploring the flesh pots of Southwell with the floozy mut from next door, so he has been to the vet. He came home walking like John Wayne with a squeekly voice but, hopefully, now has less inclination to wander.” Sue and Andy Guy Aug 13


“After crawling out from under all the sharp little hooves, cursing all the way and narrowly avoiding being head butted, I felt like I”d survived a few rounds with Henry Cooper.” Neville and Margaret Stacey May 14

“My kids assure me my Sunday afternoons are better spent honing my surfing skills, not milking cows.” Toby Ansdell July 16


“After good farmers weekly reviews and reputation of a good local back-up service, we”ve gone for a New Holland TS100A. We’re pleased with it so far, although the mini-bar, plasma TV screen and hi-fi are a little distracting when hauling muck.” John Yeomans Feb 20

“This armour plating now gives adequate protection from high velocity stones and prevents the straw blower from becoming a weapon of mass destruction.” Peter Delbridge Jan 30

“This year’s slug warning prodded us into early action, saving several acres. We were a little mean with the pellets, but it is difficult to see slugs from the tractor cab.” Tim Gue June 11

“Simon is learning the art of topiary with some of our hedges. We hope to have the best clipped swans in Shropshire, as he comes to terms with our hedge cutter’s idiosyncrasies.” Tim and Louise Downes Sept 10

“It was worth remembering that this is the time of year to lubricate your plonker.” Clyde Jones Nov 12