Farmer Focus Livestock: Bill Metcalf reviews his year

As we near the end of our tenure on these pages and our last few articles are penned, forgive me for one or two looks back as well as forward. The blackest days of our writing came in the first year with foot-and-mouth appearing and creeping towards us at the same time as personal loss.

However, there is possibly a bigger threat to the farming population and sheep flocks on the hills from the vast numbers being removed by agri-environmental schemes, as well as the threat to the upland environment. Once the way of life is lost it will not return, however much money may be thrown to reverse it.

We are also coming into the last year of a 10-year stewardship scheme, but find uncertainty as to whether we will be able to access a Higher Level scheme, the many miles of walling rebuilt and hedging planted are a real blessing, although there is still some in need of attention which could not be done within present agreement. These types of improvements to the environment providing employment would appear better value for money than the previously mentioned proposals.

Once more we head to the Bluefaced Leicester sale at Hawes, a constant throughout the farming calendar, marvelling at the optimism of the purchasers of so many rams hoping to improve or maintain the quality of their flocks.

Having waited since July 2008 for a reply from the policy department on a mapping change following a HFA inspection, you can imagine our sheer joy to receive a new set of maps with multiple changes – oh, happy days.

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