Brute force not necessary to move a sow – but it helps

Only 14 more sleeps until holiday time. We nearly had to leave one child behind though as the current husband hadn’t realised that, in addition to retaking AS-levels’ the youngest daughter was also taking an A-level.

When he looked at the exam timetables he worked out the ideal day to go and certainly more by luck than judgement, chose the day after the final exam as our departure date.

We still haven’t managed to shake off the offspring. Last year we did say that we were going to offer them the holiday of the lifetime, in the Lakes, in a tent, in rainy season (is it ever not?!) and see which of our children were hardy, or daft, enough to accept.

We must be mellowing though as, with two children away at Uni, we rarely see them for longer than the time it takes to put three washes on, eat until the fridge is bare and empty our wallets.

So I rather relish the idea of spending two weeks with them in a relaxed environment whilst sorting out their employment possibilities. Infinitely preferable to the kitchen table.

As a mum of girls, I was fascinated to read the recent Farmers Weekly survey regarding women in agriculture and the results were really interesting. I also listened to Baroness Trumpington on Radio 4 and she was saying that being a female had never held her back. I rather agree.

My mother taught us all that we could do whatever we wanted to do, and we all have. Whilst working as a surveyor in London in the 1980s, the era of real men not eating lunch, let alone quiche, it never stopped all the girls on my course getting jobs and progressing in a very male-orientated environment.

Agriculture could be considered a harder nut to crack in that the physicality of it can be daunting but humans are infinitely resourceful and brute force is not always the way forward.

Hence the bucolic picture of my husband Andrew, the assistant stockman, myself, an interviewee (with us for a trial day) and my son (in flip-flops) on a beautiful sunny day, trying to persuade three fat sows to exit the livestock trailer onto lush green grass.

See: Opinion: War on snails is a race against time

Earlier, Andrew had come into the yard swearing loudly and shouting that he was going to ‘tip the buggers out’. He revved up the forklift whilst I quickly alerted the troops and we jogged towards the field. By the time we got there the sows had caused the trailer to tilt and the interviewee and assistant stockman had them penned almost on the ramp.

It took another half hour of gentle persuasion and bribery to get them out. At one point our son, who luckily is very nimble, almost vaulted one sow to avoid her weighty trotter landing on his toes.

The interviewee, a lovely lass from Lincoln, would have been able to get the sows to leave without the brute force, but it just would have required careful thinking and a bit more time.

Andrew had been telling the last sow that if she didn’t move he could guarantee that she would become sausages in the fridge of the shop within the week. We have just hosted our first Great British Tapas Night in the restaurant featuring the best of our local and homegrown produce.

It has been a real hit, serving the likes of fresh locally baked bread with rapeseed oil dips, homemade scotch eggs with ‘Pigalilli’ made by Jenny’s Jams in Lincoln plus cheeses from Cote Hill and Lincolnshire Poacher. Taking the prime spot on the menu were slow roast pig cheeks in a red wine gravy. That sow had a very narrow escape.

As our thoughts turn away from sow movements and back to holidays, I recently overheard a lady in a coffee shop talking about the tragic plane crash in the South China sea. She said “Brian’s been trying to get me to go abroad for the past 10 years, this plane crash has done it for me now. I’ve told him ‘It’s just too dangerous to fly now’”. Thank heavens farmers don’t think like that – we’d never get anything done.

Gallery: Lambing 2021

One of the highlights of the farming year, lambing season is a challenging but joy-filled time for Britain’s farmers. View our gallery and share your lambing photos!
See photos
See more